The Sovereign’s Scepter with Cross was created in 1661 as part of the coronation ritual for England’s kings and queen. It represents the temporal power of the sovereign head of state and is carried in the right hand during the crowning ceremony. But what really makes this piece of the Crown Royal Jewels so intriguing? It is the variety of gemstones that adorn it.
What Jewels Make up the Sovereign’s Scepter with Cross?
Weighing 3lbs, the scepter is laden with some of the most beautiful diamonds and other gemstones as well as gold that could be found in the world at that time. These include:
- 333 diamonds, including the Great Star of Africa, which was added in 1910 and is the largest clear cut diamond in the world.
- Gold encompasses the scepter’s rod.
- 31 rubies
- 15 emeralds
- 7 sapphires
- 6 spinels
- 1 composite amethyst
- The scepter’s cross is elaborately besotted with small diamonds.
The Great Star of Africa
Named after the person responsible for its discovery, Thomas Cullinan, this large diamond was discovered in 1905 in South Africa. Also known as the Cullinan I, the diamond was cut into nine large stones by three men. It took eight months to complete the cutting. Aside from the large stones, the diamond also produced many smaller stones. The Great Star of Africa, however, is the largest of all the stones cut form the original diamond.
The Great Star of Africa, which weighs 3,025 carats, was presented as a gift to Edward VII in 1907 on his birthday. The gift was meant to create healing between England and South Africa as a result of the Boer War.
Another interesting feature of the Sovereign’s Scepter with Cross is that the Great Star of Africa can be removed and worn as a pendant. There are gold clasps that allow the diamond to be taken out and placed in a pendant setting that hangs from the Cullinan II, the Imperial State Crown, to create a brooch. The sovereign who use to wear the diamond like this was Queen Mary, wife of George V of England.
It is housed with the other 140 ceremonial jewels of the royal court – the largest set of regalia found anywhere in the world. In fact, England is the only monarchy who still performs traditional coronations ceremonies. The rest of Europe’s monarchy now performs inauguration or enthronement ceremonies instead.
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