When Prince William and Kate Middleton announced their engagement on October 20, 2010, the only thing more heartwarming than the impending royal marriage was the fact that the proposal involved Princess Diana's own ring.
The future monarch took the 12-carat sapphire-and-diamond sparkler to Africa to pop the question, carrying a piece of his mom's memory in his backpack for three weeks until the right moment came.
While the frenzied storm of press trumpeted the sweet gesture, the lengthier history behind the famous jewel went unnoticed. In fact, a cluster of sapphires and diamonds actually appeared in a royal wedding all the way back in 1840 — way before the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's 2011 ceremony and almost a century and a half before Princess Diana's nuptials to Prince Charles.
The first royal beau to woo his fiancée with a dazzling blue stone was in fact Prince Albert. He commissioned an enormous brooch for his fiancee Queen Victoria, and gave it to her the day before the ceremony.
“She loved it so much that she decided to wear it on her wedding day as her something blue on the front of her dress,” Sara Prentice, current creative director of Gerrard, told .
While Prentice says the Gerrard, a former crown jeweler, created the piece, the is slightly more unsure about its provenance, naming Kitching & Abud or Mortimer & Hunt as potential makers as well.
Either way, royal experts are in agreement that Queen Victoria loved the design, wearing it not only for her wedding but throughout the early years of her marriage. Prince Albert would later commission another sapphire brooch for his wife's 26th birthday. Clearly, the royal family loves their sapphires.
When it came time for Prince Charles to propose to Lady Diana Spencer, the heir apparently selected a few Gerrard designs for his potential bride to choose from. One was the Marguerite ring, a (you guessed it) sapphire-and-diamond cluster.
“It was said to be a strong influence on Prince Charles," Prentice says of the stunningly similar brooch.
The rest is history. The 19-year-old picked the sapphire sparkler out of an array of engagement rings, and held onto it until her death in 1997. When it came time for her oldest son to propose years later, Prince William knew what he wanted to do.
"It's my mother's engagement ring and it's very special to me, as Kate is very special to me now as well. It was only right the two were put together," he told the press . "It was my way of making sure mother didn't miss out on today and the excitement and the fact that we're going to spend the rest of our lives together."
As for the brooch, the official Crown heirloom belongs the reigning monarch, a.k.a. Queen Elizabeth II. The Queen's also known to favor the jewel, pinning it for her gown for her meeting with John F. Kennedy and more recently donning it for last year's Royal Ascot.
While all of that royal history might weigh heavy on other commoners, Kate's taken the responsibilities of all that bling — — in stride. As her husband said , "There's no pressure ... It's about making your own future and your own destiny, and Kate will do a very good job of that."