It was 18 years ago this past August 31st that Princess Diana died at the young age of 37. I remember the day vividly, how shocked and saddened everyone felt. She was so beautiful, so deserving of happiness. Her tragic death was felt around the world.
I’d always been interested in Princess Diana because 1) I was the same age; and 2) I was in London the summer of 1981, when she married Prince Charles. I actually watched her carriage drive past on the way to her wedding. It was an exciting time to be a study abroad student in London. Everywhere you turned, pictures of Lady Di and Prince Charles were plastered on stamps, plates, and posters. My fellow students and I stayed up all night to guarantee a good spot from which to view the procession. It seemed like all of London showed up for the celebration.
Princess Diana’s engagement ring started a trend of having a colored center gemstone. The oval, approximately 12 carat sapphire from Ceylon, was surrounded by 14 colorless diamonds and set in 18 karat white gold. She chose the ring from a collection made by Garrard. In existence since 1735, when it received its first royal commission, Garrards is the jeweler of the royals. It has made crowns, brooches, and many other royal pieces. What’s interesting is that Lady Diana didn’t choose to have her ring custom-made. Her ring could have been purchased by anyone who had the approximately $50,000 purchase price.
Almost thirty years later, Princess Diana’s son, Prince William, presented the ring to his fiancé, Kate Middleton. She modified it slightly, adding two platinum studs to the shank, effectively increasing the size of the ring from an H(size 4) to an I(size 4.5). Kate’s ring has brought renewed interest in colored gemstones for the engagement ring. Sapphire is perhaps the most commonly used gemstone in engagement rings. Its hardness, 9 on the Mohs scale, makes it a good choice for a ring that is worn everyday. Rubies, fancy-colored sapphires, and colored diamonds are also durable colored stones.
Kate’s ring is valued today at approximately $500,000 (10 times its original purchase price). Hopefully, she will wear it a very, very long time before it is passed down. Maybe her daughter, little Princes Charlotte of Cambridge, will wear it someday.