Historic Royal Palaces – the independent charity that cares for the Tower of London – embarked on a journey to explore the history of the Crown Jewels in an enhanced and elegant exhibition in its Jewel House. Ralph Appelbaum Associates played a pivotal role as the lead designer and appointed Michael Grubb Studio to create the lighting design for this prestigious project. The brief was to provide lighting to the new exhibition in the form of upgraded and new architectural lighting, in-case lighting and specifying an innovative new lighting control system to the Jewel House.

The exhibition opened on 26 May 2023, during the historic Coronation year, and explores the origins of some of the most precious objects for the first time, showcasing how historic jewels have passed through different hands. The re-presentation was prepared over the last four years by Historic Royal Palaces, , and was the first major change to the display at the Tower of London in over a decade.

The Jewel House is separated into two distinct areas – the western half of the Jewel House hosts the new exhibition, while the eastern half, known as the Treasury, is where most of the Crown Jewels are kept. This transformative re-presentation aims to create an impactful entry experience at the western half, highlighting significant objects to build anticipation for the Treasury.
The architectural lighting was carefully aimed to highlight key displays in the exhibition, and the light levels were dimmed down to establish a hierarchy in the lighting of the displays.
The new showcases contain various jewels and artefacts, making it critical that the lighting was arranged in a way that grants the client flexibility to appropriately illuminate any items that are placed inside. To meet this requirement, Michael Grubb Studio focused on the key design principles of flexibility, sustainability, and enhancing the visitor experience.

Flexibility was achieved by providing fittings inside the showcases in the Western half of the exhibition, each with a variable beam. These fitting are controlled by three channels per showcase, offering maximum versatility within the cases.

The layout of the fittings within the showcases was coordinated with the location of the artefact labels, but not tailored too closely to the contents, again to provide flexibility, optimise the lighting for the best visual experience and ensure the new showcases are future proofed to ensure sustainability.

Several items on display require illumination of no higher than 50lux to preserve the materials of the artefact. This was achieved through careful focussing, capping off fittings and dimming via the new lighting control system.

The thoughtful and carefully curated lighting design by Michael Grubb Studio has enhanced the experience for the millions of visitors who come to the Tower of London every year to see the Crown Jewels. It was an honour for the Michael Grubb Studio team to work on such a culturally significant project and bring the rich display to light.

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