This week marks 40 years since Princess Diana and Prince Charles announced their engagement. On Feb. 24, 1981, the Prince of Wales and Lady Diana revealed they were set to marry later that year in a storybook announcement at Buckingham Palace that captured the hearts and minds of royal watchers worldwide.
Much fascination remains about their engagement, and one of the most popular subjects remains the late princess's ring. Diana revealed the blue sapphire and diamond piece to the world while pairing it with a matching blue Cojana skirt suit with a pussy-bow blouse. Duchess Kate now owns the spectacular piece, which Prince William used to propose to her when the two announced their own engagement decades later.
The incredible piece of jewelry features heavily in the most recent season of The Crown and continues to be of interest to royal watchers everywhere. Here's everything you need to know about the iconic piece.
How did Charles propose?
Charles reportedly popped the question to Diana on Feb. 3, 1981 at Windsor Castle, in the nursery. The "People's Princess" would later reveal she initially thought the proposal was a joke, but accepted. After that, Charles and Diana told the Queen the happy news, and then announced it to the world.
What stones are in the ring?
The 12-carat engagement piece set many engagement ring trends. The ring was special because it featured a coloured central stone. In fact, it boasted a blue sapphire – specifically an oval Ceylon sapphire. The brilliant blue central stone was surrounded by 14 solitaire diamonds set in 18-karat white gold. It was designed by Garrard.
Why was it a sapphire ring?
A sapphire engagement ring might seem like a surprising choice, but the Royal Family has a history of using the brilliant gemstone in royal jewels.
The design of Diana's engagement ring was inspired by Queen Victoria's sapphire and diamond cluster brooch, which is now owned by the Queen, and you can see below.
Garrard reports the brooch's design traces back to 1840, when Prince Albert commissioned the British jewelers to make a brooch as a wedding gift for his bride. The young monarch sported it on her wedding day as her "something blue."
The current Queen continues to it wear to this day, and it is said Charles had this specific piece in mind when he was designing Diana's engagement ring with Garrard. It is a lovely tribute to both his mother and his ancestor.
How much was the ring worth?
It has been thought that Charles paid £28,000 (approximately $49,447) for the blue sapphire engagement ring in 1981. Of course, with inflation, the now-vintage style is worth much more. The Bank of Canada estimates it would now be worth nearly $146,000, but some experts have reported it could now be valued at nearly $500,000.
How did Diana wear her engagement ring?
Diana, who wore the ring on her left hand as is tradition, often accentuated the central stone with other blue sapphire jewelry, including the Saudi Sapphire Suite, the jewels given to her from Crown Prince Fahd of Saudi Arabia on her wedding day. The Asprey-designed suite included earrings with attachable drops, a necklace, watch and ring.
What happened to Diana's engagement ring after her death?
After Diana's untimely death on Aug. 31, 1997, it is believed William and Prince Harry were given the choice to each pick something from their mother's possessions as personal keepsakes. In the documentary The Diana Story, the late Princess of Wales's former butler, Paul Burrell, revealed William wanted her Cartier watch, while Harry chose the engagement ring.
Years later, when William and Kate had been dating and Harry realized how serious they were, it is rumoured Harry offered Diana's blue sapphire and diamond engagement ring to his brother so he could give it to his then-girlfriend.
When did William and Kate get engaged?
William popped the question to Kate in Kenya in October 2010 after about eight years of dating. The long-term lovebirds officially announced their engagement on Nov. 16 of that year with a photocall at St. James's Palace.
The future Duchess of Cambridge stepped out in Diana's engagement ring, accented by an Issa wrap dress. It was appropriately blue in a sweet nod to William's late mother.
When William proposed with Diana's engagement ring, it resulted in another spike in coloured stone and more unique engagement rings.
Like Diana, Kate wears the ring frequently, and she enhances its beautiful blue stone with other pieces of sapphire jewelry, including pieces from the Saudi Sapphire Suite.
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