The Personal Meaning Behind Princess Margaret's Engagement Ring

Princess Margaret's ruby ring was a sweet nod to her name.
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 Feb 28, 2022

Princess Margaret was never one to follow tradition. Queen Elizabeth's younger sister is well known throughout history as the royal family's black sheep, an outspoken woman who did things her own way, even when it might have ruffled a few royal feathers. For instance, she bought the Poltimore tiara with her own money at an auction months before her love, Welsh photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones, had even proposed. Then she chose to wear it out in public a few times before their royal wedding—none of which was typical royal behavior. (Traditionally, royal brides like Kate Middleton, Meghan Markle, Princess Eugenie, Princess Beatrice, and even Princess Diana have borrowed tiaras from the Royal Collection or from the Queen Mother herself for their big day.)

What was traditional about Princess Margaret's engagement ring, however, was its sentimental value. When her future husband, Armstrong-Jones, proposed in 1960, he made sure to design a ring that would honor Margaret's independent streak, not to smother it.

In this article:

The Design

As far as royal engagement rings go, Princess Margaret's was pretty unique. Antony Armstrong-Jones (later better known as Lord Snowdon) designed the ruby and diamond engagement ring, which featured a ruby center stone surrounded by a ring of cut diamonds made to look like flower petals. The overall appearance of the ring resembled a rosebud, a sweet nod to Princess Margaret's middle name, Rose.

A jewelry expert from The Vintage Ring Company has said there are even more particularities of the ring than might meet the eye. "What makes this vintage style of halo different to contemporary designs is the size of the diamonds," the expert told the UK outlet. "Similar in proportion to flower petals, these old-cut stones are much larger than those commonly chosen for halos by jewelers today." It was further noted that the color of Princess Margaret's engagement ring was also worth commenting on, as it was a "sumptuous pink-red," a "subtle but incredibly romantic nod" to her middle name.

By contrast, the highest grade Burmese ruby features a deep, dark red color and would be considered rarer than the center stone in Princess Margaret's ring, but it would, notably, not be as sentimental due to its darker hue. The engagement ring was set in platinum on a yellow gold band, further cementing it as a classic design. According to Snowdon's biographer Anne de Courcy, Margaret's husband-to-be had her ring made by English jeweler S.J. Philips, also a deviation from the typical royal engagement ring, which was made by either Garrard or Cartier.

The Estimated Worth

Beyond the ring's meaningful origins, though, not much is known about the details of Princess Margaret's engagement ring, making it hard to gauge how much it cost at the time, and how much it might be worth today. The carat weight of the center stone, for instance, has never been revealed, though it is believed to have been modest. (Likewise, it's unclear how many carats the surrounding cut diamonds might have been individually and added together.) Snowdon's biographer Anne de Courcy estimated that the ring could have cost as little as £250 (or $333) to make in 1960; the expert from the Vintage Ring Company told Express.co.uk that they would likely "value a ring like this one just below the £8,000 mark [today], but it's tricky to be certain without an idea of the quality of that central stone and the exact size of the halo diamonds."

In present day, rubies are a popular gemstone for engagement rings, with the likes of Jessica Simpson, Eva Longoria, and Katy Perry rocking ruby engagement rings. They are often more budget-friendly than diamond rings, though the price would obviously depend upon the size and quality of the ruby. The Knot previously reported that the average ruby you might find in an engagement ring sells between $2,500 to $10,000 per carat, whereas a diamond can cost between $10,000 to $15,000 for the same number of carats. Rubies aren't to be confused with Princess Eugenie's Padparadscha sapphire ring from Jack Brooksbank.

The History and Meaning

Princess Margaret's engagement ring held sentimental value for the late royal, though it was rarely photographed up close. One exception was when she and Lord Snowdon announced their engagement in 1960, an event during which they posed for photographs outside the grounds of Royal Lodge, the Windsor residence where she and her older sister, then-Princess Elizabeth, had lived growing up. (It's now the residence of Prince Edward.) In the photographs, her ruby engagement ring is just barely visible on her finger.

She and Lord Snowdon would go on to get married at Westminster Abbey on May 6, 1960, the first televised royal wedding in history. Years later, Prince Charles would wed Princess Diana on TV in 1981; Prince William and Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, exchanged vows on TV in 2011; and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle had a total of 11.5 million people tuning in to their 2018 nuptials. Princess Margaret famously wore the "simplest royal wedding gown in history" for her nuptials, according to Life magazine, a sharp contrast to the more elaborate gown that her older sister, Queen Elizabeth II, wore for her 1947 nuptials to Prince Philip.

The couple had two children together, David Armstrong-Jones and Lady Sarah Chatto, together, but ultimately separated 16 years later, in 1976. Two years after that, they made history once again as the first royals to divorce since King Henry VIII in 1540, and the trend-setting royal died on Feb. 9, 2002, following her third stroke. Princess Margaret's ruby and diamond engagement ring is currently believed to be in the hands of one of her two children; the rest of her possessions were sold along with her estate at a Christie's auction on June 13, 2006.

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