Of all the famous gems and beaded jewelry in history, the Black Prince's Ruby is one of the most exciting and intriguing. In fact, this "ruby" isn't even a ruby - it's actually a red spinel! The red and blue forms of spinel have been misidentified as rubies and sapphires for at least a millennia. It's very similar in color, found it similar places and is even rarer than its counterpoints. Like the Black Prince's ruby, many of the rubies and sapphires in the crown jewels of Europe are actually spinel!
This incredible stone began its journey to the British crown jewels in the middle of the 14th century when Don Pedro the Cruel of Castile acquired it, probably through the murder of its previous owner. In 1366, Don Pedro was forced to ask help from the Black Prince, son of Edward III of England, to put down a revolt. In exchange for his help, the Prince demanded the spinel and Don Pedro was in no position to refuse. That's the last that is known of the jewel until it resurfaces in 1415.
At the battle of Agincourt in that year, Henry V of England was struck on his jewel-encrusted helmet with a battle-ax. The king, along with his helmet and the Black Prince's ruby, survived and went on to win the battle. The jewel had another close call in 1649 or 1650 when Oliver Cromwell had most of the crown jewels disassembled; the stones were sold and the metal melted down for coins. Fortunately, a jeweler had the foresight to buy the gem and keep it safe until he could sell it back to the restored monarchy in 1660.
When Victoria was crowned Queen in 1838, her new, specially designed Imperial State Crown featured 3,093 gems, with the famous 170 carats, egg-sized ruby front, and center. In 1937, Victoria's crown was remade into the smaller, lighter crown which is still in use today and which can be seen here.
Contact us if you would like your own "crowning jewels" - we can design something very special just for you!