Eagle-eyed royal enthusiasts noticed a very particular piece of jewellery missing as Kate Middleton went about her days following the pandemic.
The Duchess, 40, and Sophie, Countess of Wessex, 57, both opted to ditch their engagement rings following the various lockdowns – and Kate was even pictured missing hers at last week's Commonwealth Games.
It's very uncommon for royal women to be pictured without their engagement rings, with only a handful of major events prompting them to remove the bands.
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Diamond expert Maxwell Stone told Express.co.uk : "With the exception of Queen Letizia, who hasn’t been seen with her sophisticated engagement ring since 2012, it’s incredibly rare to see one of the royal ladies without their precious gem."
But engagement ring specialists at Steven Stone have a simple explanation for the missing rings.
The busy royals found their schedules packed as lockdown in 2020 came to an end, with both Kate and the Countess of Wessex returning to royal engagements.
The decision to remove the rings was likely down to public health advice at the time, which warned Brits to wash hands regularly and thoroughly – and so the royal women may have chosen to remove their rings to make this process simpler.
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As for Kate's decision to leave her symbol of eternal love at home during the Commonwealth Games, Stone has a simple explanation for this too.
"A keen sportswoman, Kate Middleton has an active lifestyle," he said.
"Though sapphires are an extremely durable gemstone, Kate's boasts both sentimental and monetary value, so she wouldn't want to risk damaging it.
"Mike Tindall actually considered this when he designed Zara Tindall’s engagement ring.
"He ensured that it had a low profile setting, so she wouldn’t have to remove it when she competed in sporting events."
There have been a handful of other times the royals have chosen to remove their engagement rings over the course of history.
Queen Letizia of Spain, for example, has not worn her sophisticated £25,000 ring in public since 2012.
Kate, Meghan Markle and Princess Diana also ditched the bands in the final stages of their pregnancies.
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