The Hanoverian rulers of Great Britain amassed a large collection of personal jewelry and Queen Charlotte, the consort of King George III, was surely no excpetion. She received many jewels, the most notable being the diamonds she was given by the Nawab of Arcot. These included five brilliants, the larest of which was a 38.6-carat oval-shaped stone and was later set in a necklace with the two smallest stones.
Arcot, a town near Madras, became famous for its capture and defense by Clive in 1751 during the war between the rival claimants to the throne of the Carnatic. In 1801 it passed into British hands following the resignation of the government of Nawab Azim-Ud-Daula, who had given the diamonds to Queen Charlotte in 1777.
The Queen died in 1818 and under the terms of her will the Arcots were ordered to be sold to Rundell & Bridge who in 1804 had been appointed jewelers and silversmiths to the Crown by King George III. The claus about her "Personals" read:
"...of chief value being the jewels. First those which the King bought for £50,000 and gave to me. Secondly those presented to me by the Nawab of Arcot to my four remaining daughters, or to the survivors or survivor in case they or any of them should die before me, and I direct that these jewels should be sold and that the produce...shall be divided among them, my said remaining daughters or their survivors, share and share alike."
However, a delay resulted in the implementing of the Queen's will. This was the result of the attitude taken by her eldest son, George IV, who upon the death of his father George III in 1820, decided that the whole of his father's property should pass to himself, not upon the Crown. Consequently he appropriated the money and the jewels and acted in a similar manner with reguard to his mother's jewelry. The Arcots were set in a crown for George IV and later in the crown of Queen Adelaide, the consort of his successor, William IV.
The terms of Queen Charlotte's will concerning the pieces of jewelry were thus not executed until many years after she died. King George IV died on June 26, 1830. John Bridge of Rundell & Bridge died in 1834; the firm was sold and the executors ordered the sale of the Arcots together with the round brilliant with may have been the Hastings Diamond and which had also been set in the crown made for George IV. The historic sale took place in London at Willis's Room in St. James on July 20th, 1837. The first Marquess of Westminster bought the Arcots for £10,000 as part of a birthday present for his wife. He also bought the round brilliant and the Nassak Diamond.
The Arcots and the other diamonds remained in the possession of the Grosvenor family for many years. In 1930 the Parisian jeweler Lacloche mounted the Arcots in the Westminster Tiara, a bandeau style piece, together with the round brilliant and no less than 1421 smaller smaller diamonds. The tiara was pieced to form a design of pavè-set scrolls with arcading, and with clusters of marquise-shaped diamonds between the sections, tapering slightly at the sides, with baguette diamond banding framing the large center stone and with diamond baguettes dispersed singly throughout the tiara. In her memoirs, Loelia, Duchess of Westminster, third wife of the second Duke of Westminster, wrote about the Arcots, "fixed by themselves on the safety-pin they looked extremely bogus, so that a friend who saw me that evening remarked, 'What on earth does Loelia think she's doing, pinning those two lumps of glass on herself?'"
In June of 1959 the third Duke of Westminster sold the Westminster Tiara to help meet the cost of heavy death-duties. Harry Winston paid £110,000 for it at auction - then a world record price for a piece of jewelry. Mr. Winston had the two Arcots recut in order to obtain greater clarity and brilliance, the larger to 30.99 metric carats and the smaller to 18.85 metric carats. Each was remounted in a ring and sold to American clients in 1959 and 1960 respectively. The larger of the two, Arcot I, was then set as the pendant to a necklace by Van Cleef & Arpels and was later sold at auction at Christie's in Geneva in November of 1993 when it was bought by Sheik Ahmed Hassan Fitaihi, the Saudi Arabian dealer.