In most pictures of Princess Diana, she’s wearing her gorgeous sapphire engagement ring. That’s even after she’d fallen out of love with Prince Charles, the man with whom the ring was meant to symbolize a lifelong union. But what’s the story behind it — and why did it initially annoy the Queen so much?
Diana’s ring is unsurprisingly a piece fit for a queen: it’s a 12-carat Ceylon sapphire — they’re still called that, even though the country they’re from is known as Sri Lanka these days. The stone sits in the center of 14 smaller diamonds all set in 18-karat white gold, and it’s worth a small fortune.
When Diana first received it, the value was thought to be around $60,000. But now that price has shot up, and its current value has been conservatively estimated at well in excess of $500,000.
Predictably, everyone wanted their own versions of Diana’s beautiful ring. In the ’80s it was one of the most desirable pieces of jewelry around, and many engaged women wore a replica of the sapphire before and after they got married.
Yet to the irritation of some royals, it was actually entirely possible for people to wear the ring rather than an imitation.
You see, Diana broke royal tradition when she received her ring because it was a catalog piece that anyone could buy if they had the money.
Sure, not that many people would have had $60,000 spare, but the fact remained that a princess-to-be was walking around with a ring that any “commoner” could have bought.
Apparently, some people in royal circles were downright mean about the ring, and dubbed it the “Commoner’s Sapphire.” Still, it did actually have a royal connection right from the beginning.
The ring-maker was Garrard, jeweler to the Crown, and it had based the piece’s design on Prince Albert’s wedding present to Queen Victoria.
A representative from Garrard told Marie Claire magazine in 2017, “Queen Victoria absolutely loved sapphires, so Prince Albert always used to buy her sapphires. There’s a very famous sapphire brooch which Queen Elizabeth wears regularly, passed down from Queen Victoria.”
That became the inspiration for the ring.
The spokesman went on, “A couple of days before Prince Albert and Queen Victoria got married, he presented her with [the brooch] as a wedding present. Queen Victoria loved it so much that she actually ended up wearing it on her wedding day as the ‘something blue’ option.”
And Queen Elizabeth still wears it.
But now the ring is much more famous than the brooch. With every new portrayal of Princess Diana on TV and in movies, fans will always complain if that iconic ring isn’t up to scratch.
When Kristen Stewart portrayed the Princess of Wales in the film Spencer, people noticed right away that the ring was different.
Diamond expert Max Stone spoke to the Daily Express newspaper when the film came out in 2021 and said, “It’s most likely a blue topaz or aquamarine…"
"Whilst both rings are halo designs with oval stones and a cut-down setting, the replica also appears to have diamonds on the side of halo, whereas the original does not.”
Diana’s engagement ring in The Crown, where she was portrayed by Emma Corrin, was more accurate physically. But in the TV show, there was a whole scene where the princess picked out the ring from the catalog and stated her reasoning for doing so.
We have no way of knowing if that was true to life, though.
In The Crown Diana picks out her ring in front of the Queen, who asks her why she has chosen that one. Diana answers, “Because it reminds me of my mother’s engagement ring, and it’s the same color as my eyes.”
In real life, it was indeed very similar to the engagement ring of Diana’s mother, Francis.
Annie Sulzberger, head of research for The Crown, spoke to Vogue magazine about the ring-choosing scene in November 2020. She said, “Elizabeth is said to have raised her eyebrows at the choice.”
Certainly in the scene filmed, the Queen doesn’t seem overly impressed with her soon-to-be daughter-in-law’s selection, especially since she passes over a royal ruby ring for the sapphire alternative.
Jewelry historian Vivienne Becker also spoke to Vogue about Diana’s ring for its piece. She said, “It was totally in tune with her style, she was the ultimate Sloane Ranger at the time… It’s funny that such a traditional, conventional ring has been so… [laden] with significance.”
And of course, that significance increased all the more when the item of jewelry was passed down to Kate Middleton.
It was Prince William who gave Diana’s ring to Kate Middleton when the two got engaged in 2010. During the engagement interview, he told the British press, “It’s my mother’s engagement ring.
So I thought it was quite nice because obviously, she’s not going to be around to share any of the fun and excitement of it all — this was my way of keeping her sort of close to it all.”
Prince William said of the ring itself, “I’m not an expert on it at all. I’ve been reliably informed it’s a sapphire with some diamonds.
I’m sure everyone recognizes it from previous times.” Kate spoke up too, saying, “It’s beautiful… I just hope I look after it. It’s very, very special.”
As soon as the engagement ring was back in the public eye, it had a huge impact on jewelers.
Forbes magazine announced in February 2011, “Nearly three months after the announcement of Middleton’s engagement to Prince William, the flood of commoners wanting in on the fairytale still has purveyors of the cornflower-blue sparklers scrambling to keep up.”
Michael Arnstein, president of the Natural Sapphire Company and supplier to Tiffany & Co., talked to the magazine about it.
He said, “November was a record month by far, December was a record month by far, January, still a record month by far… [Kate’s] a walking, talking fashion advertisement for the gemstone.”
There could be no argument about the impact that the engagement had. But the ring wasn’t actually supposed to have been William’s to give to his bride.
By all accounts, it was meant to have been Harry’s. Both of Diana’s sons had been allowed to choose one piece of Diana’s jewelry after she died.
Diana had always wanted her jewelry to end up with William and Harry so that they could give it to their wives. She wrote in a will before she died, “I would like you to allocate all my jewelry to the share to be held by my sons, so that their wives may, in due course, have it or use it.
I leave the exact division of the jewelry to your discretion.”
A source close to the royal family told the Daily Star newspaper in 2017, “William picked his mum’s Cartier watch, and Harry picked her sapphire-and-diamond engagement ring.
They had an agreement that whoever got engaged first would have Diana’s ring — and of course, that was William and Kate.”
Diana’s former butler Paul Burrell has also confirmed this was the case. In a 2021 Amazon Prime documentary, The Diana Story, he said, “Harry said to [William]: ‘Wouldn’t it be fitting if [Kate] had mummy’s ring?
Then one day that ring will be sat on the throne of England.’ Harry gave up his precious treasure.”
And it was indeed very precious to him.
In the documentary, Burrell said that when the young Harry was asked which of Diana’s keepsakes he would like, he replied saying, “I remember when I held mummy’s hand when I was a small boy, and that ring always hurt me because it was so big.”
William’s proposal to Kate was much more romantic than the one Charles made to Diana. William described it himself in the 2010 post-engagement interview, telling news agency the Press Association, “We had been talking about marriage for a while so it wasn't a massively big surprise.
I took her up somewhere nice in Kenya, and I proposed.”
Asked whether he had given the ring to Kate “there and then,” William answered, “I did, yes.
I had been carrying it around with me in my rucksack for about three weeks before that, and I literally would not let it go… You hear a lot of horror stories about proposing and things going horribly wrong.”
And unfortunately, Charles’ proposal to Diana sounds a bit like one of those horror stories. As related in Andrew Morton’s 1992 book Diana: Her True Story she painted the following scene, “[Charles] said, ‘Will you marry me?’ and I laughed.
I remember thinking, ‘This is a joke,’ and I said, ‘Yeah, okay,’ and laughed. He was deadly serious.”
Diana’s story continued, “He said, ‘You do realize that one day you will be Queen?’ And a voice said to me inside, ‘You won’t be Queen, but you will have a tough role.’ ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘I love you so much, I love you so much.’ He said, ‘Whatever love means.’ And so he ran upstairs and rang his mother.”
After that quite excruciating experience came the selection of the ring. And according to the Garrard representative who spoke to Marie Claire in 2017, “Prince Charles had always seen this beautiful sapphire brooch of his mother’s...
he saw that ring, and thought it was perfect.”
But Diana chose the ring, too. Why?
Sulzberger said during her Vogue interview, “There are a few different theories as to why Diana selected the ring: the color matched her eyes, the Queen may have actually selected it, or as Diana was later quoted as saying, ‘It was the biggest.’”
Yet it seems unlikely that the Queen was the one who selected it, and that’s purely because Diana continued to wear it long after it was required, suggesting it was a possession that held sentimental value for her.
After she and Charles split up she didn’t return the ring — instead wearing it for years afterward.
It’s also worth wondering if Diana knew about the ring’s connection to Queen Victoria and her wedding jewelry because Victoria and Albert had a famously happy and loving marriage.
Perhaps Diana was hoping for a similar relationship in her own life — but of course, we know how things turned out in the end.
Eventually, once her divorce from Prince Charles was finalized, Diana did take off the sapphire ring. But then she got another one, just as spectacular, to put in its place.
In the year before her death, she was spotted a couple of times wearing an enormous aquamarine ring where the engagement one had been.
The aquamarine was apparently a present to Diana from Lucia Flecha de Lima, the wife of the Brazilian ambassador to the U.K. She was one of Diana’s best friends and had stood by her throughout the difficult separation and divorce from Prince Charles.
Some observers have suggested that in some respects, she became something of a quasi-maternal figure to the princess.
In 1996 Diana had the aquamarine placed into a ring by the jewelry company Asprey, the gem being the central stone in a 24-carat gold band along with a series of smaller diamonds. It’s a downright spectacular piece, and is, of course, extremely expensive.
Oh, and it has a matching bracelet as well.
In August 2018 gemologist Grant Mobley told the Daily Express, “The princess was very fond of a pearl-and-diamond bracelet featuring a large emerald-cut aquamarine that she was given in her early years as a princess, and after her divorce, she commissioned this matching ring to be made.”
It’s worth noting that at the time Diana had the ring commissioned, she would have just lost access to the spectacular collection of jewelry she was allowed to wear as Princess of Wales.
Perhaps she chose that tremendous aquamarine to wear in order to remind herself — and maybe others — that she was wealthy in her own right?
And these days — in accordance with Diana’s wishes that her jewelry should eventually end up with her future daughters-in-law — Meghan Markle has the aquamarine ring.
It was seen on her finger on the day of her wedding to Prince Harry, as she left with her new husband for their evening wedding reception.
Meghan seems to favor wearing the ring with white clothes. She wore it again in 2018 in Tonga while sitting down for a dinner with King Tupou VI and Queen Nanasipau’u.
She happened to be expecting her first child at that point, so it was a great time to pay tribute to her late mother-in-law.
Gem expert Stone spoke to the Daily Express about the ring in 2021. “Aquamarine is one of the most visually beautiful gemstones,” he said.
“With an enchanting pale blue color, the ring complemented Diana's skin tone perfectly. Now having been passed down to Meghan Markle from Harry, it’s interesting to know that the aquamarine’s light-blue color symbolizes feelings of sympathy, trust, and friendship.”
Both of Diana’s rings — the famous engagement ring and the lesser-known aquamarine ring — have countless imitations today.
There are a lot of cheaper alternatives out there for people who aren’t princesses, and even four decades on, it’s thought the “Diana Effect” influences engagement-ring choices.
None of Diana’s jewels are likely to leave the royal family anytime soon. They’re too sentimental, even if they were associated with some difficult times in Diana’s life.
And who knows, perhaps in a few more decades we might see Princess Charlotte or Meghan’s daughter Lilibet wearing the “Commoner’s Sapphire?” That’s if we ever get to see Lilibet, of course. Ever since she was born in June 2021, she’s been kept largely out of the public gaze.
Usually, royal parents show off their baby at one big event, the royal christening ceremony — a day packed with protocol, tradition, and cameras of course. But there hasn’t been one for Lilibet, and apparently some royals are dead set against it being held over in the U.K.
Christenings are a massive deal in the royal family. Aside from anything else, the royals take religion very seriously, and technically, a child isn’t a legitimate heir to the throne unless they’re baptized into the Church of England.
This has been a rule for a long time, and it probably won’t change anytime soon.
As for the christening ceremony itself — well, as with just about everything the royals do, there are certain rules that are expected to be followed on the day. Everything from the gowns to the type of holy water has centuries of tradition behind it.
You can see how Harry and Meghan, who don’t always play by the rulebook, might balk at a few of these requirements.
For a start, all royal babies — including Harry and Meghan’s first child, Archie — have been baptized in the same Honiton lace gown. Well, sort of the same gown.
The original was commissioned by Queen Victoria in 1841, but obviously, almost 200 years of intermittent use had left the garment a little worse for wear. So since 2008 an exact reproduction has been used instead.
And tradition dictates that royal newborns are also supposed to be baptized in the same font as their forebears, which is the flower-shaped Lily Font which is kept in the Tower of London.
This is another tradition passed down from Queen Victoria: she and her husband Prince Albert had the font made after the birth of their first child.
For royal christenings, the font is supposed to be filled with water from the River Jordan, where Jesus was said to have been baptized. This doesn’t always work in practice, though.
When Prince William was baptized in 1983 regular tap water was used, for example, because the Palace had no ready supply of Jordanian fluid to hand.
The other important function of the royal christening is to name the godparents. Usually, royals don’t stop at just one godparent and give the honor to at least five people, and these people are named in the media.
Harry and Meghan did things differently for Archie’s christening, though, and never revealed the identity of his godparents to the press.
Their reason for keeping schtum was simple: they wanted their son to enjoy as much privacy as possible. Yet despite their best efforts, some names did eventually make it to the media.
The Sunday Times newspaper reported in 2020 that Archie’s godparents included Harry’s old nanny Tiggy Pettifer, his childhood father-figure Mark Dyer, and his best friend Charlie van Straubenzee.
But who are Lilibet’s godparents? No one knows, because the world knows pretty much absolutely nothing about her at all beyond the basics.
She was born on June 4, 2021, in her mother’s home country of America. And she’s eighth in line to the throne, behind her brother Archie and her Cambridge cousins — or at least she will be once she’s baptized.
If you’re wondering why Lilibet has such an unusual name, it’s because she was actually named after the Queen in a roundabout way.
When Queen Elizabeth was a child, she couldn’t pronounce the name “Elizabeth” so called herself “Lilibet,” and her family members began using it as a nickname.
Lilibet’s parents will call her “Lili” rather than her full name, though, it seems. And Lilibet’s middle name is Diana, and that’s obviously a tribute to Harry’s mother Princess Diana.
The couple even said in their public statement confirming the birth that the name was picked “to honor her beloved late grandmother, The Princess of Wales.”
But apart from that statement, Meghan and Harry have released absolutely no details about their second child.
She was born after the two of them had stepped down from the royal family in a cloud of controversy, so they did have more options about what they could and couldn’t reveal to the press.
With other royals, keeping a baby’s birth mostly private just isn’t feasible. For two generations now it’s been traditional for the new royal parents to pose outside the Lindo Wing of St.
Mary’s Hospital, London, with their baby. Princess Diana and Prince Charles did it with William, who in turn did it with his own wife and child.
Royals who aren’t direct heirs have given birth at the Lindo Wing, too. Princess Anne had her children Peter and Zara there, and of course, the other two Cambridge children were born there in the years following Prince George’s birth.
Kate’s sister Pippa — not a royal but pretty close — also had her child at the hospital.
Yet apparently Meghan never even considered having her first child at the Lindo Wing where the cameras were.
According to an insider in 2019 who spoke to The Post newspaper, Meghan in fact “felt sorry” for Kate having to present her baby to the world’s media on the same day she had given birth.
Instead, Archie was born at The Portland hospital in London — but no one knew until the little boy’s birth certificate was made public. Some had thought Meghan would want a home birth at Frogmore Cottage, but it turned out she went to hospital in the end.
She definitely didn’t pose outside it, though.
The media weren’t allowed a photo of baby Archie until Meghan had been home with him for a couple of days.
And when the photoshoot at Windsor Castle was done, it was deliberately a very small affair, with only one reporter, two snappers, and three video cameras allowed through the doors.
After that was the matter of Archie’s title. The first reports about Prince Harry’s new son said that he wouldn’t have a royal title and would be referred to as “Master Archie Mountbatten-Windsor.”
The media indicated that Harry and Meghan had deliberately opted not to title him, wanting him to be “normal” instead.
But later, after they had left the royal family and sat down for a tell-all TV interview with Oprah in 2021, Harry and Meghan said giving Archie a title or not “was not our decision to make.” And what’s more, they weren’t happy at all with the way things had turned out.
It was one of several grievances they had with the wider royal family.
Despite all of the feuding with Harry and Meghan’s camp, the royals did offer public congratulations when Lilibet was born.
A Buckingham Palace spokesman told the media, “The Queen, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have been informed and are delighted with the news of the birth of a daughter for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.”
But all the same, the very public feud between Harry and his family hints at problematic times ahead.
On June 11, a week after Lilibet had been born, Kate told reporters that she hadn’t met the baby yet, despite wanting to see him — and she added she hadn’t even talked to Meghan face to face via digital media.
And unfortunately, there may be a new bone of contention soon. According to Neil Sean, the royal correspondent for the news channel NBC, Meghan and Harry actually wanted to have Lilibet christened the same way her brother and cousins had been.
But allegedly none other than Prince William had scuppered those plans.
Sean told British newspaper the Daily Express in September 2021, “One of the bigger problems that Meghan really encountered of late is that she wanted her daughter, Lilibet Diana, to be christened in the place she was married alongside her husband Prince Harry. And then the christening of her firstborn, Archie.
But that came to a grinding halt.”
The report went on, “Both Harry and Meghan were very keen to make that return and make sure that christening happened, particularly in front of Her Majesty the Queen.”
The couple weren’t put off by all the specific requirements of a royal christening.
Sean told the Daily Express, “Some people may say they’re just capitalizing on their royal connection, and why not? It's how they make money now.
But moving forward there was one person who basically decided there wasn’t an appetite for this, and the person that seemingly is, so far, not willing to kiss and make up with his younger brother.”
Not good news, then, for people who were hoping the brothers might repair their relationship soon.
Sean said, “According to a very good source, Prince William was the one who basically said, ‘No, we don't think this is going to work.’” Kensington Palace offered no comment as to whether that was indeed the case.
But previous news reports had indicated that yes, Harry and Meghan really did want Lilibet to be christened at Windsor.
In July 2021 a “royal source” told Richard Eden of British newspaper the Daily Mail, “Harry told several people that they want to have Lili christened at Windsor, just like her brother.”
The Covid-19 pandemic has of course made things more difficult in that regard, since Harry and Meghan live in America now and there have been lots of travel restrictions between the USA and the U.K.
Still, the source told the Daily Mail that the couple “are happy to wait until circumstances allow.”
But other people think Harry and Meghan may have already had Lilibet quietly baptized in America after giving up on plans to go back to Windsor.
In October 2021 royal expert Russell Myers said on the podcast Pod Save the Queen, “I just think they will probably drop an announcement that it’s already happened and that will be all you know about it.”
Myers went on, “It’ll be very interesting to see if it is in the States, whether there are pictures that emerge over in the States, whether you get to know who her godparents are, because hark back to the time when it became such an issue that Harry and Meghan decided not to release the names of [Archie’s] godparents.”
That same month British tabloid newspaper The Sun threw out some speculation from insiders about what an American royal christening might entail. Royal expert Ingrid Seward said, “If Lilibet is christened in America, maybe Harry’s friends would fly out. I don’t think any members of the immediate royal family would have time [to fly over].
Their schedules are organized six months in advance.”
She also thought a ceremony in America might be more private than one in Britain. Seward said, “If it happens in the U.K.
obviously people will find out, but if it happens [in California], I don’t know that there will be any official announcement. They’ll have their own Vogue cameraman there, there will definitely be photos, but they may not release any.”
Still, Seward said she was personally sure the ceremony would be held in Harry’s home country, and she would be “very surprised” if it wasn’t.
She said, “Harry has seen such a long tradition of royal christenings, and there’s nothing nicer than a royal christening and the beautiful long Honiton robe.”
Seward went on, “Harry’s great-grandmother is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England — and Meghan was inducted into the Church of England. If they wanted, Harry and Meghan could have [the christening] privately in the chapel at Windsor Castle.”
But could they really do that even if Prince William didn’t like the idea?
Well, yes, they could, because Prince William’s authority doesn’t override that of the Queen. She’s the monarch, after all.
And according to Seward, “The Queen is not going to say no, she may not be able to be there herself but she’s not going to say they can’t have it there.”
But of course, all this christening controversy is symptomatic of a bigger problem: the supposed rifts in the royal family, particularly the one between William and Harry. Towards the end of the year, Britain’s Channel 5 TV network released a documentary called 2021: The Queen’s Terrible Year, in which royal commentators speculated on the current state of the brothers’ relationship.
Expert Camilla Tominey said, “The Queen is a conflict-avoider by nature. The idea of Harry and William not being close, I think would really trouble her.”
And royal photographer Arthur Edwards said, “It must be upsetting to the Queen to see that in her family, that two boys… [who] grew up together... played soldiers together, they had their treehouse at Highgrove together and learned to fly together.
They flew helicopters together, and now they’re not even talking to each other.”
Could the Queen give Harry the go-ahead for a Windsor christening for that very reason, in an attempt to bring her grandsons back together?
Another royal expert, Emily Nash, pointed out on the show, “The Queen made it clear in her statement in response to the Oprah interview that Harry and Meghan remained much-loved members of the family.”
Royal family fans are very keen indeed for the brothers to make up, and even more so now that there’s a new baby in the picture. They can only hope that Lilibet will meet her uncle soon, regardless of where the christening takes place, and that he continues to be in her life as she grows up.
Fans looked on in hope when the princes came together in July 2021 to unveil a statue of their mother. People were so intent on seeing how the brothers interacted, in fact, that they missed a key detail about the outfit they’d chosen for the memorial.