We Are ‘Tickled’: The Making of Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond-Wearing Hologram

How the folks at Asprey Jewelers in London paired a holographic Queen with a 1,100-diamond crown.

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Chris Levine/Asprey

The Diamond Queen, Asprey, by Chris Levine and Jeff Robb

A new holographic image of Queen Elizabeth II paired with a real diamond diadem was unveiled last week at Asprey Jewelers in London. The portrait was created in honor of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, a celebration of the monarch’s 60 years on the throne culminating on June 5th with parties around the capital city and an appearance by the Royal family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.

The hologram, dubbed ‘The Diamond Queen’ will appear on new banknotes and stamps in the United Kingdom. The shimmering portrait is the seminal work of Chris Levine, a 42-year-old artist who initially got Palace approval to create the first ever hologram of the Queen in 2004, when Her Majesty professed that she was “tickled” by the idea.

(PHOTOS: Celebrating 60 Years of Queen Elizabeth II)

Levine and his producer, Jeff Robb, 46, who designed the equipment specially for the shoot, spent two 90 minute sittings with the Queen, meticulously gathering “literally thousands and thousands” of photographs, and this year have worked with Asprey jewelers to create a special Jubilee piece by adding a real diamond diadem to the hologram–or “lenticular,” which is the technical name for this work.

The diadem, which jewelers have been preparing for a year, contains 1,100 diamonds, including an extremely rare yellow diamond in the middle. The hologram is made up of 40 different photographs of the Queen, layered using a complex arrangement of lenses to give it a three-dimensional effect.  The diamonds of the diadem are then suspended above the image, creating a glittering likeness of the Queen.

Creating such an unusual piece with an incredibly famous subject, might have been unnerving, but Robb remembers feeling at ease among the Royals during the project.  “She was like a little old lady,” he says of the Queen.  “She was absolutely charming, and very easy-going, very normal. I drove a Transit van through the gates of Buckingham Palace with the equipment, and not once was I searched – they made it clear it was a private house, and we were treated like guests.

(MORE: Complete Coverage of Queen Elizabeth’s  Diamond Jubilee)

“Prince Philip came and had a look and was very interested in the technology, and had a chat with us all to see what we were doing, so it was slightly surreal, I suppose.

“I asked the Queen if she had ever seen the hologram on the British passport. She said she hadn’t because she doesn’t own one!” says Robb.

Levine adds: “She was very accommodating, she got into it, but literally after the first sitting, when she walked out of the room, I sank to the floor, relieved. And I was on the floor when one of her aides came in, and I was literally brushing myself off, and he said: ‘well, Her Majesty enjoyed that, she’d like a second sitting.’ She had taken an interest in it!”

This unique portrait including the diadem will be auctioned by sealed bids throughout June, with proceeds going to The Woodland Trust and the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust – two of the Queen’s charities.

(A version of the image appeared on the June 4, 2012 cover of TIME International.   You can read more about Queen Elizabeth II and the royal family here.)