From 11 April 2019, Queen Victoria’s stunning sapphire and diamond coronet will go on permanent public display at the V&A for the first time as the centrepiece of the William and Judith Bollinger Gallery. The gallery – home to our world-class jewellery collection – is currently closed for a three-month refurbishment, with the coronet among 80 new pieces joining the display when it reopens.
Queen Victoria’s sapphire and diamond coronet was acquired by the V&A in 2017, purchased through the generosity of William & Judith, and Douglas and James Bollinger as a gift to the Nation and the Commonwealth. One of Queen Victoria’s most important jewels, it was designed for her by Prince Albert in 1840 – the royal couple’s wedding year – and made by Joseph Kitching, partner at Kitching and Abud.
In 1842, Victoria wore the newly completed coronet in a famous portrait by Franz Xaver Winterhalter. Over twenty years later, Victoria wore the coronet instead of her crown in 1866 when she felt able to open Parliament for the first time since Albert’s death in 1861, with her crown carried on a cushion.
Together with the coronet, a superb collection of 49 Art Deco vanity cases will be joining the gallery as a loan and promised gift from Kashmira Bulsara in memory of her brother, Freddie Mercury. Taking inspiration from Modernism as well as Persia, Ancient Egypt, China and Japan, the cases in richly coloured hardstones, enamel and lacquer were made by, or for, Cartier, Lacloche, Van Cleef & Arpels, Charlton and other leading jewellers in Paris and New York.
The display will also include 30 new pieces ranging from the late 19th century to the present, including works by contemporary makers Ute Decker and Charlotte de Syllas working in Britain, Flóra Vági in Hungary, and Annamaria Zanella in Italy, among others.
Over 4.2 million people have visited the William and Judith Bollinger Gallery at the V&A since it opened in 2008, and it’s one of our most popular galleries, telling the story of European and Western jewellery from Ancient Greece and Rome to the present.
The arrival of Queen Victoria’s sapphire and diamond coronet on permanent public display in 2019 will mark the 200th anniversary of the births of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. The coronet will be a highlight of the V&A’s bicentenary celebrations, alongside events, displays and new publications.