When news of Kate Middleton's royal engagement broke in 2010, the 12-carat sapphire ring that Prince William whipped out of his backpack at the base of Mt. Kenya brought the world into .
Of course, Kate's bling isn't just any sapphire. Hers—an oval Ceylon surrounded by 14 solitaire diamonds, created by British jeweler —had previously belonged to Princess Diana. But what makes it most special is how the ring reportedly came into Prince William's possession.
For centuries, sapphires have held a cherished place among the hearts of British royals. It all started in 1840, when Prince Albert gifted his wife-to-be a blue sapphire brooch, surrounded by diamonds and set in gold. The creative director of Garrard, the royal jeweler, recently told that Queen Victoria "loved [the gift] so much that she decided to wear it on her wedding day as her something blue on the front of her dress."
Although Queen Victoria gathered many precious jewels over her 63-year-long reign, she continued to hold the "splendid brooch" close to her heart until Albert's death. In her will, she designated it a Crown heirloom, which ensured that the brooch would always belong to the reigning monarch.
Queen Elizabeth II inherited the brooch once she became monarch—and is presumably just as infatuated with the bauble as her mother was, as she frequently dons the jewel. It was this brooch that is said to have inspired Prince Charles' engagement ring choice for Diana.
, "Prince Charles had always seen this beautiful sapphire brooch of his mother's" and "when he went to House of Garrard he saw that ring, and thought it was perfect." Enamored by the blue stone, and with his mother's brooch in mind, he presented the ring to Lady Di who immediately accepted.
Upon Princess Diana's untimely death, an suggests Prince William and Harry were each able to pick two of their mother's possessions as keepsakes. William reportedly chose his mother's gold Cartier watch; Harry picked her sapphire engagement ring. However, as the story goes, once Harry saw his William's love for Kate, he selflessly gave the heirloom to his brother in exchange for the watch.
With so much family history embedded in the two sapphire heirlooms, it's tempting to imagine a grown Princess Charlotte wearing the brooch, or Prince George's future fiancé wearing the family ring. One can only wait and see.