31 October 2011

Royal Splendor 101: Family Jewel Foundations

This is Part 2 of our series on jewel ownership.

Swedish foundation jewels
Second to a piece of jewelry being included as a part of a set of crown jewels, I'd say the most secure way to keep a gem in the royal family is to include as part of a family foundation. Only a few countries use this strategy and if you call yourself a magpie, you should prepare yourself now to applaud those families that have one and use it to its greatest advantage.

What is a family foundation? For our purposes, a family foundation is an entity which is created to manage and maintain precious objects. This can include jewels, of course, but can also extend to furniture, art, and other valuables. The benefit here is that once objects are donated to the foundation, they cease to be personal property and are thus exempt from things like inheritance laws and taxes. Family foundations have less state involvement to them and have fewer restrictions on wearers and wearing occasions and locations than crown jewels do, generally speaking.

How does this affect the size of a jewel collection? If you recall, I posited that one of the things that determines the size of a royal jewel collection is the ability of the family to keep hold of their gems over time. Enter the family foundation: not only are these items safe from ugly inheritance issues, they are not to be sold or given away by other means, meaning that important historical collections are kept intact and preserved for generations to come.

Take Sweden, for example. Not only do they have one of the largest jewel collections, they have one of the most historical: a number of their pieces date all the way back to the Napoleonic era. This size and level of historical importance is directly due to the fact that they have a family foundation (well, more than one) to hold the jewels and other sorts of goodies as mentioned previously too.
Some of the tiaras belonging to the Bernadotte Family Foundation
How does this affect the sharing of a jewel collection? It’s no mistake that the best examples of family foundation usage are Sweden and the Netherlands, and both of those countries share their jewels more than others.

The family foundation that holds the Dutch jewels is relatively new. King William III (reign: 1849-1890) had only one child and heir, Queen Wilhelmina. Wilhelmina also had only one child, Queen Juliana, which meant that the royal collection grew as personal property of the sovereign for decades without being divided up by inheritance. But Juliana had four daughters (including the current monarch, Queen Beatrix), and the laws of the land would require that they split the inheritance between them. Juliana knew that not only would historically important items leave the family line, her daughters would face massively high taxes on anything they inherited. And so she created a foundation and donated her gems. The jewels stayed a part of the family for future generations to use, her daughters were free of that sparkly tax burden, and they still get to use the jewels. All in all, a very smart move.
Some of the tiaras included in the Dutch family foundation
So now we have the answer to one of our original questions: how can Princess Máxima wear so many different tiaras? Because she’s not borrowing them from Queen Beatrix personally; she gets them from the foundation. Certainly one gets the sense that Beatrix doesn’t mind her digging through the vaults, but it’s quite different from asking for a personal jewel loan every time a state banquet nears.

Danish foundation jewels
Does this mean all foundation jewels are shared? No, certainly not. Even in the Netherlands, some of the biggest pieces are only worn by Beatrix (including the first two tiaras above). In Sweden, Queen Silvia tends to keep the largest ones to herself most of the time, and she is the only one that wears the Braganza Tiara.

Denmark has a family foundation as well – formed by King Frederik VIII and Queen Louise in 1910; one of Queen Margrethe’s favorite pieces, the Pearl Poiré Tiara (shown at right), belongs to it – but there’s still no sharing happening in that country.

Are foundations all-inclusive? Nope, foundations don’t cover all the jewels in a country. Denmark has their crown jewels, of course, and all countries – even those with foundations – have jewels that are personal property belonging to individual family members. And personal property is just where we will pick up when we continue next time.

Photos: PPE/Daylife/Svenskdam