A sapphire and diamond coronet symbolising one of the UK’s “most famous love stories” is still in danger of departing the country after it was subject to a temporary export bar by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

Considered one of the most important jewels of Queen Victoria’s reign, the coronet was designed by her beloved husband Prince Albert in their wedding year in 1840. Following the Queen’s death in 1901 it passed on to her grandson, the future King George V, who gave it to his daughter Princess Mary in 1922 on the occasion of her marriage to Viscount Lascelles. Subsequently sold to a dealer in London the coronet was then purchased by the current owner who applied for an export licence. The application prompted Arts Council England’s Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA) to recommend a temporary ban in order to find a UK buyer to match the coronet’s £5 million (plus £1 million VAT) price tag.

The RCEWA recommendation was made on the grounds of the coronet’s important historical associations and its significance for the study of Queen Victoria. Crafted for £415 by goldsmith Joseph Kitching with 11 gold-mounted sapphires among silver-mounted diamonds the crown reflected the young Queen’s love of coloured gemstones. It also matched a brooch given to the Queen by Prince Albert the day before their nuptials. Both the coronet and brooch are immortalised in Franz Xaver Winterhalter’s 1842 portrait of the young Queen, which is considered one of the most famous of her official portraits and an image which came to define her throughout the world.

RCEWA member Philippa Glanville suggested the coronet’s “combination of personal meaning and formality” may explain why the Queen chose to wear it when she finally emerged from mourning Prince Albert’s death to attend the State Opening of Parliament in 1866. “Its departure would be a great loss, given its beauty, its associations and its history” she said. Granting the deferral of the export licence, Culture Minister Matt Hancock said the coronet was “one of the most iconic jewels from a pivotal period in our history… I hope that we are able to keep the coronet in the UK and on display for the public to enjoy for years to come.”

With the decision on the export licence application deferred until 29 December 2016 the race is on to find a British buyer and save the coronet for the nation.