The piece will be on display at London's Victoria & Albert Museum starting this month.

By Perri Ormont Blumberg
April 02, 2019
Credit: Ian Cuming/Getty Images

To commemorate the 200th anniversary of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert's births, London's Victoria and Albert Museum has created a special bicentenary filled with events and exhibits galore thorugh September 1st.

Next Thursday, a very special piece will make its debut in the museum's jewelry collection: Queen Victoria's sapphire-and-diamond tiara. Amazingly, this iconic coronet is the exhibit that almost never was. As Town & Country's Stellene Volandesreports, "In 2016, the coronet was sold to a foreign buyer for $6.5 million. When the buyer applied for an export license, uproar ensued, and an export ban was imposed. A search began for a UK buyer that could match the asking price. It took a year for an Irish American hedge [fund] billionaire to appear. His name was William Bollinger. The new V&A jewelry gallery is named in his honor."

According to Town & Country, there's good reason England was so devoted to ensuring this piece stayed within its borders. Beyond the gorgeous sapphires, diamonds and gold and silver settings, Queen Victoria wore this coronet in the unique position of surrounding her chignon updo in a portrait of her by Franz Xaver Winterhalter. Her husband Prince Albert also designed this piece for her in 1840, the year they wed. "...[The tiara is] the one she chose to wear on top of her widow's cap for the State Opening of Parliament after Albert's death. It was her first appearance after he died, and one of the few times she wore colored stones as a widow," as Volandes explains.

Below, the renowned coronet graces the head of Princess Mary's daughter-in-law the Countess of Harewood (on the right) at an event with Queen Elizabeth II in 1977.

Queen Elizabeth II meets her cousin The Earl of Harewood and the Countess of Harewood
Credit: PA Images/Getty Images

Love all things royal and diamonds? Learn more about Queen Victoria & Prince Albert's Bicentenary.

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