True north, beautiful & rare. Aptly named ‘Beluga’ sapphires are the natural royal blue gems featured in a gift given by Canada to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth to honour her 65 year reign.
Queen Elizabeth II became the longest-reigning British Monarch on September 9, 2015.
This week at a Canada 150 ceremony at Canada House in London, Governor General David Johnston presented Her Majesty The Queen with the Sapphire Jubilee Snowflake Brooch.
Unlike many blue sapphires which need heat to enhance their colour, the royal blue of these Beluga sapphires is naturally occurring.
This brooch celebrates the historic and profound relationship between Her Majesty and Canada. — HRH, Governor General of Canada, David Johnston
A rare find
The 48 royal blue Beluga sapphires were a rare find in Canada’s far north in 2002. On Baffin Island, Nunavut, two brothers, Seemeega and Nowdluk Aqpik discovered the gems on a hilltop. The design of the brooch — appropriately a snowflake — features an ombré effect created by the different shades of blue. The darkest blue sapphires are at the centre, with lighter blue stones at the edge and surrounded by diamonds.
Symbolic gifts and royal visits to Canada
The new Sapphire Snowflake Jubilee Brooch is meant to be a companion to other symbolic gifts. At the Canada 150 ceremony, the Queen wore platinum and diamond Maple Leaf brooch, also a gift from Canada. It was given to Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother by her husband King George VI, to mark the first tour of Canada by a reigning monarch in 1939.
That same pin was loaned to then Princess Elizabeth for her first royal visit to Canada in the summer of 1951, just three months before her coronation.
Her Majesty inherited Maple Leaf brooch in 2002. She has worn and shared it often. Camilla wore it on her inaugural trip to the Canada in 2009. The Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton borrowed it for her official visit to Canada in July 2011 with Prince William.
Protecting The Queen’s collection of royal blue jewels
We don’t know if royal blue is the Queen’s favourite colour, but seems possible since a number of famous jewels include royal blue sapphires.
Perhaps most spectacular is the Imperial State Crown,which makes up part of the royal regalia. It features 17 sapphires, the largest oval shaped one is known as the ‘Stuart Sapphire’. A plate behind it is engraved to mark the history of the Crown.
This crown is exchanged at the end of the coronation ceremony, and also used at the annual State Opening of Parliament. When not in use, Yeoman Warders guard the crown and other royal assets on public view at the Jewel House at the Tower of London. You might notice the same crown is a prominent part on the front of their scarlet uniform insignia, originating from the 15th century. The outfit causes the guards to be commonly misnamed as ‘Beefeaters’, possibly because of their presence on the label of the popular Beefeater, a brand of London Dry Gin.
Canadians can see the Royal Crown Jewels, or view an equally impressive collection of contemporary Canadian art and design at the newly renovated Canada House in Trafalgar Square.