After the death of Prince Albert in 1861, Queen Victoria rarely wore coloured jewellery and she needed a smaller crown she could wear comfortably with her widow’s cap. The small diamond crown was commissioned from R S Garrard & Co and was comprised of a silver frame set with 1,187 brilliant-cut and rose-cut diamonds in open-backed collet mounts. The band is formed with lozenges and ovals in oval apertures set between two rows of single diamonds forming the support for four crosses-pattée and four fleurs-de-lis, as well as four half-arches surmounted by a monde and a further cross-pattée.
According to the Royal Trust Collection, the design is thought to be based on Queen Charlotte’s nuptial crown which had been returned to Hanover.
The small crown was first worn by Victoria to the opening of Parliament on 9 February 1871 and she wore it thereafter to state occasions and formal receptions. The crown became so synonymous with the widowed queen, it was placed on her coffin after her death at Osborne House in 1901. The crown remained within the royal family and was sometimes worn by Queen Alexandra and Queen Mary but it is now part of the collection of royal jewels on display at the Tower.