Facts You Didn't Know About Kate Middleton's Engagement Ring

The ring was inspired by Queen Elizabeth's favorite sapphire and diamond brooch.
joyce chen wedding news expert the knot
by
Joyce Chen
joyce chen wedding news expert the knot
Joyce Chen
Wedding News Contributor
  • Joyce writes articles for The Knot Worldwide, specializing in celebrity wedding features and pieces on wedding trends and etiquette
  • Joyce conducts interviews with real couples about how they’ve adapted to the challenges of wedding planning during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic
  • In addition to The Knot Worldwide, Joyce also regularly contributes writing to Architectural Digest, Paste magazine, Refinery29, and TODAY.com
Updated Jan 21, 2022

Kate Middleton's engagement ring is an heirloom that carries plenty of British Royal Family history. The sapphire engagement ring, which Prince William gave the Duchess in the fall of 2010, originally belonged to William's late mother, Diana, Princess of Wales. Beyond the stunning bauble being William's mother's engagement ring, it also connects the Duchess of Cambridge to generations of royal matriarchs.

Before Diana, and before Queen Elizabeth, there was Queen Victoria, who reportedly adored the sapphire-and-diamond brooch that influenced the engagement ring's composition and design. (Prince Albert had it commissioned via British jeweler Gerrard in 1840.) "[Queen Victoria] found 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," Garrard's current creative director, Sara Prentice, told Vogue. Kate Middleton might not have worn her engagement ring as her "something blue" on her own wedding day (that would be a discreet piece of blue fabric sewn into her iconic Alexander McQueen dress). No doubt, however, her love for the impressive ring will be just as long-lasting.

The Design

Simply put: there is nothing minimal about Kate Middleton's engagement ring. Designed by first crown jeweler Garrard, the engagement ring is comprised of a 12-carat oval blue sapphire surrounded by 14 solitaire diamonds, set in 18K white gold. Prince Charles, who first presented the ring to Princess Diana, was said to have been inspired by his mother, Queen Elizabeth, and her own jewelry collection—which included the aforementioned sapphire-and-diamond brooch—when he was picking out a ring for his bride-to-be.

"It was said to be a strong influence on Prince Charles when he came to Garrard to purchase a ring for Lady Diana," current Garrard creative director Sara Prentice told Vogue. "He actually ended up setting a sapphire cluster ring for her, which was later given by Prince William to the Duchess of Cambridge on their engagement. I would imagine growing up being surrounded by your mother and your grandmother [with] such beautiful, incredible jewelry...it would stick with you."

Prince Charles presented then-Lady Diana with several choices of Garrard rings—a controversial moment fans of The Crown are familiar with—and she was immediately enamored by the impressive sapphire engagement ring. Princess Diana so loved the ring, in fact, that she wore it even after she and Prince Charles separated. One alteration that she made to the ring over time was adding more prongs around the sapphire stone, no doubt to further secure it to the ring itself. A small adjustment Middleton made to the ring when she inherited it was to ask new crown jeweler G. Collins to resize the ring from Princess Diana's size H to her own I; the jewelers reportedly did so by adding platinum beads to the interior of the ring.

The Cost

Though it is arguably accurate to state that Princess Diana's engagement ring is, in fact, priceless, the royal family heirloom does actually come with a price tag. In the 1980s, the sapphire-and-diamond bauble was reportedly worth between £28,000 to £47,000 (around $37,000 to $62,000 in today's terms). Greg Kwiat, CEO and owner of Kwiat Diamonds and Fred Leighton, previously told The Knot that a big part of the high cost was due to the sapphire's "royal blue color of Ceylon (now known as Sri Lanka)." The Ceylon sapphire ring is today worth an estimated £300,000, or nearly $400,000.

The History and Meaning

The story behind how Princess Diana's engagement ring came to rest on Kate Middleton's finger is a particularly touching one. In her will, Diana, Princess of Wales left all of her personal jewelry to her two sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, in hope that "their wives may, in due course, have it or use it. I leave the exact division of the jewelry to your discretion."

When she passed away suddenly in 1997, the two brothers were entrusted with their late mother's possessions—including the ring among other jewels. According to Diana's former butler, Paul Burrell, it was Prince Harry who initially chose the iconic ring, while Prince William chose her gold Cartier watch. In the 2017 documentary The Diana Story, Burrell explained that Harry wanted the ring because, as he put it, "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."

When Prince William was poised to propose to Kate Middleton in 2010, however, the younger prince generously offered William the ring to present to his love. "Wouldn't it be fitting if she had mummy's ring?" Burrell remembered Harry saying. "Then one day that ring will be sat on the throne of England." And so, the sapphire engagement ring was given to Prince William, who would use it to propose to his future wife, continuing the ring's legacy within the royal family. Prince Harry, instead, proposed to his future wife, Meghan Markle, with a three-stone ring comprised of diamonds that once belonged to his late mother.

Prince William was reportedly nervous to be in possession of the 12-carat sapphire, especially given his elaborate plan to propose while the pair was abroad. He carried it with him in a rucksack during the couple's travels through Kenya in late 2010, he confirmed in a joint interview in 2010. "I'd been carrying it around with me in my rucksack for about three weeks before [the proposal]," Prince William said of his understandable nerves. "I literally would not let it go, wherever I went I was keeping a hold of it because I knew if this thing disappeared I'd be in a lot of trouble... It's my mother's engagement ring. Obviously, she's not going to be around to share any of the fun and excitement in all of this, so this is my way of keeping her close to it all."

On their royal wedding day, Middleton donned a number of gorgeous jewelry pieces, but most notably, her wedding ring, made of Welsh gold, was comparatively understated, likely so that it wouldn't outshine the sapphire engagement ring.

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