The Difference Between the British Crown Jewels and the Coronation Regalia
3 Minute Read
This spring, King Charles III will be coronated wearing some of the most precious jewels owned by any royal family in the world. But, there's a common misconception about what those jewels are called.
Many outside the United Kingdom and its commonwealth might mistakenly call these the 'Crown Jewels,' but there's actually an entirely separate, sacred collection of golden and jeweled objects used exclusively for the coronation ceremony.
"The Crown Jewels are the most famous of the nation's treasures," the Royal Collection Trust explains."They include over 100 extraordinary items including orbs, scepters, and crowns…all closely connected with the status and role of the monarch." This dazzling collection of objects, consisting of 23-thousand gemstones, is used for select formal occasions like royal weddings, baptisms and events like the State Opening of Parliament.
During her reign, Queen Elizabeth II dipped into the ever-popular Crown Jewels often, wearing the jewelry and gems to many public and royal occasions over the years, even giving her family permission to wear the jewels as well.
However, a smaller selection of just five items from the Crown Jewels collection, known as the Coronation Regalia, haven't been worn together in public in over 70 years, and can only be worn together by the monarch. Used solely for the coronation of British kings and queens, these sanctified objects are used in the royal ceremony to represent the powers and responsibilities of the monarch.
The Coronation Regalia as a Separate Collection
So while the Coronation Regalia is part of the larger Crown Jewels collection, as well as managed by the Royal Collection Trust, they are also their own separate, sacred entity. What makes them special are two key elements: the first is their unique collection of five sacred and historical items, the Imperial State Crown, the Sovereign's Sceptre with Cross, the Sovereign's Orb and the Coronation Spoon; and the second is their unique purpose of only being used together during the coronation ceremony and only being used by the monarch.
But more than just their own set of objects, the Coronation Regalia also have their own history that's separate from the British Crown Jewels.
Originally dating back to the days of Edward the Confessor in 1066, these five items have actually been replaced over time thanks to a set of rare, historical events. In 1649, the British monarchy was abolished, and all of the original coronation regalia was melted down and sold off by the government. But not long after in 1661 when the monarchy was re-established, the items were re-created for the next coronation ceremony. The only piece that didn't have to be re-created was the Coronation Spoon, which miraculously survived the purge, and is one of the most cherished items of the entire Coronation Regalia collection.
Finally, there are always exceptions to the rules that are noteworthy. Unlike the rest of the Coronation Regalia, the Imperial State Crown can, and has, been worn for other royal occasions and ceremonies outside of the coronation. First designed for King George VI's coronation in 1937 — the father of Queen Elizabeth II — the Imperial State Crown is worn by the monarch as they leave Westminster Abbey. However, the 2.3 lb crown, adorned with 2,868 diamonds, 273 pearls, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, and five rubies, is also worn at events like the State Opening of Parliament.
Additionally, while the Coronation Spoon will be used for the ceremony, it is considered so sacred that it probably won't be televised, so it won't technically be seen in public. Queen Elizabeth II asked this of her public coronation and we can assume her heir will do the same.
Nonetheless, the rare display of the Coronation Regalia is not to be missed by jewelry and gem enthusiasts. Be sure to tune in on May 6, 2023, for the occasion.
Cate Misczuk is a jewelry and watch writer who covers everything from the latest jewelry trends and the heritage of watchmaking to 24k gold, gems, sustainability, unisex timepieces and more. Get in touch at catemisczuk.com.
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