In 1954 Queen Elizabeth made her Coronation Tour of Australia. To celebrate the visit it was decided to present her with a very special gift; something uniquely Australian. And what better choice could there be than the country’s native flora represented in a spray of precious gems?
The prestigious commission went to the Melbourne jeweller William Drummond & Co. Ltd.
In view of how multicultural Australia would become, it seems fitting that Hungarian born Paul Charles Schneller designed the platinum and diamond wattle brooch. Schneller had arrived in Australia in 1950, after having worked for Cartier in Paris.
It was a large piece, 9 centimetres long and 4.5 wide, and could be worn either way up. Let’s not forget that besides golden wattle there were two, stunning tea-tree flowers as well. In all it was comprised of 150 diamonds; golden for the wattle, and 5 carat blue-white for the tea-tree flowers. Baguette diamonds formed the foliage.
The intrinsic value of the piece was estimated at £25,000, but of course in reality it is absolutely priceless.
A SECRET HIDING SPOT FOR THE WATTLE BROOCH
Several months after the Queen’s visit an intriguing piece was published in the Brisbane Telegraph. It revealed how the brooch made its way from the Melbourne jewellers to the Prime Minister in Canberra. Two days before the presentation at a state banquet, a trusted courier was ushered into Mr Menzies’ suite. He removed his coat, cut the lining out, and withdrew the carefully hidden treasure.
Here, Queen Elizabeth leaves the banquet escorted by Prime Minister Menzies. I’m guessing she is carrying the red leather case that contained the brooch.
Her Majesty graciously wore her gift almost immediately; at the races in Melbourne, and at the Victorian State Banquet.
AN ADORMENT FOR ALL OCCASIONS
It is not only on occasions relating to Australia that the Queen wears her wattle brooch. For example, she wore it to Prince Charles’ wedding to Camilla Parker-Bowles at Windsor, and also while giving one of her Christmas Day Speeches. It has appeared at Royal Maundy Services, and on several occasions at the Chelsea Flower Show.
Below is one of its most recent appearances, in March 2021. The brooch set off the Queen’s outfit at the Centenary of the R.A.A.F at the Air Force memorial, Runnymede. Due to Covid19 this was Her Majesty’s first in-person function after five months in lock-down
When Elizabeth married Prince Philip in 1947, one of Australia’s gifts was 500 tins of golden pineapple (yes Queenslanders, it was from you! 😎 I suspect the golden wattle brooch was a much bigger hit with the recipient.
For more on the 1954 Royal Tour