Diamond Gifts for the Royal Family | 21 Diamonds - The Birthday Present of the People of South Africa
The Queen calls them her "best diamonds".
The diamonds given to the Princess on her visit in 1947 as a twenty-first birthday present by the people of South Africa took the form of a diamond necklace, totalling 71.31 carats.
In its original design, it was a long diamond chain with the 21 large graduated brilliants (one for each year of her life) set in openwork platinum claw settings, each linked by a baguette-cut diamond and two small brilliant-cut diamonds totalling 87 stones.
The largest stone of 10 carats was at the centre of the necklace.
The Princess was presented with the unset diamonds for the necklace in its original format, by Field Marshall Smuts at the birthday ball held at Government House, Cape Town on 21 April 1947.
The Royal Family visited the Big Hole Mine in Kimberley on 18 April 1947. There the Princess received the gift of a 6-carat blue-white diamond, valued at £1500, from Sir Ernest Oppenheimer, the chairman of De Beers. It was presented by his granddaughter, three-year-old Mary Oppenheimer. The detachable snap-piece of the necklace was added later, using the 6-carat stone.
"The necklace in its original form was exhibited with the display of Princess Elizabeth's Wedding Gifts at St. James's Palace in November 1947, and was worn by the Princess on her visit to Paris in May 1948.
Five years later it was shortened to 15 large stones, and a bracelet was made from the six stones that were removed and the detachable snap piece."
Garrard & Co. was responsible for the original necklace in 1947 and its transformation to necklace and bracelet in 1952. The necklace is 40.5 cm long while the bracelet is 17 cm.
In addition, the South African Railways and Harbour Administration presented a gift to Princess Elizabeth>>
One of the Queen's 21st birthday gifts were the diamond earrings from the Diplomatic Corps. The Princess wore them for the first time at the birthday ball held in her honour in Cape Town.
Not only did the future Queen Elizabeth II receive rich gifts of diamonds but the other members of the Royal Family were presented with diamonds by the people of South Africa as a memento of their visit.
The pictures show the royal presents. Princess Margaret received 35 unset diamonds to be set in a bracelet, of 17 brilliants and 18 square-cut diamonds, with a total weight of 41.57 carats. She also received a diamond from Sir Ernest Oppenheimer after the Blue Hole tour. It was a blue-white four-and-a-half carat stone valued at £1000, which is not pictured.
Source: Roberts, The Queen's Diamonds; Royal Collection; Tribune; Canberra Times; Western Morning News; Nottingham Evening Post; Reuters;*Leslie Field;
Unset diamonds mounted in wax in the form of a springbok, the symbol of South Africa, galloping under the African sun were presented to King George VI. The 399 stones, totalling 32.97 carats, were presented in a solid gold case engraved with the coat of arms of the Union of South Africa. The intended use was for the creation of a Garter Star.
A magnificent unset 8.55ct solitaire marquise diamond was presented to Queen Elizabeth, the late Queen Mother, in a gold casket engraved with the Union of South Africa's coat of arms. The Queen Mother had set her marquis-cut diamond later in a ring*.