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

Week in Review: Princess Máxima, 23-29 October

Here's what Máxima wore from 23-29 October:

1. Opening an exhibition at Dutch Design Week, 24 October.
2. a) Two events on 25 October with an accessory swap (b and c) in between, starting with creepy spider brooches and ending with a gorgeous pair of earrings. This isn't the first time she's done this dress with gray tights and brown shoes. It baffles me.
3. Attending the "Development of Business" conference, 26 October. I told you I love capes and I won't be swayed, even if this is a bow-tie mess.
4. Arriving in Aruba for a 10 day official visit to the Dutch Caribbean with Queen Beatrix and Prince Willem-Alexander, 27 October. Mustard! Now there's a statement color.
5. a) Official arrival ceremony on day 1, 28 October.  Okay. Let's talk about this. At first glance, my reaction was: "FABULOUS!" She looked so glam. And then I sussed out what was really happening with the hat (b). And then I thought: "Is she making a pit stop poolside in Boca Raton later?" So...there you go. At least I still think her shoes are fabulous, even if I do fear for her toe circulation.
6. a) Visiting a music festival on day 1, 28 October in a hat fit for Mango from Saturday Night Live (b).
7. a) Official welcome reception, day 1, 28 October, repeating a dress worn at Nikolaos and Tatiana's pre-wedding reception. At least there's a brooch (b)!
8. a) Visiting a national park and a residence on day 2, 29 October, with hat (b) and some serious earrings (c). Oh, you don't pull out your bling for a trip to the national park? How sad for you.
9. a and b) At a women's shelter on day 2, 29 October. And this is exactly why our Máxima is particularly well suited for a Caribbean tour. Well, that and this too:
Right at home, no?

Photos: Daylife/Getty Images/Purepeople/Abaca/24ora.com/DutchPhotoPress/PPE/Nieboer

29 October 2011

Royal Fashion Awards: The Queen in Australia

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip have just wrapped a much-publicized trip to Australia which some have been billing as her "last" trip Down Under. I doubt it myself, but that doesn't mean we won't give her the applause she deserves in the form of a single person edition of the Royal Fashion Awards. It's QEII vs. QEII, head-to-head-to-head-to...let's just get on with it:

Best Outfit
Perfectly Pink in Melbourne
Click to enlarge
Tip o' the hat to outfit #7 - a repeat of sunshine from the royal wedding - and the divine white and silver #5, but the pink of #10 wins the trip. Perfectly vibrant color, perfect hat shape, perfect all over. Plus, it resulted in this bit of cuteness:

Best Brooch
The Australian Wattle Brooch
Click to enlarge
First, the brooch lineup:
  1. The Australian Wattle Brooch
  2. A sapphire, diamond and ruby brooch that was a gift from her parents in 1945
  3. A diamond and pearl brooch from the Queen Mother's collection
  4. One of her diamond bow brooches, looks like one of the three Queen Victoria had made in 1858
  5. Flowers in precious and semi-precious stones, a gift from a Sri Lankan state visit in 1981
  6. A diamond and gold rose brooch
  7. A diamond paisley brooch from the Queen Mother's collection
  8. The Jardine Star, a gift from Lady Jardine and one of HM's faves
  9. A diamond lily brooch, a gift from the City of London in 1947
  10. Rubies, diamonds and gold in a modern design
  11. Repeat! See #3.
  12. A sapphire flower, again from the Queen Mum's stash
  13. The Rhodesian flame lily brooch, a gift from the children of Rhodesia for her 21st birthday
And now, the undisputed best of the trip: the Australian Wattle. It's not just one she brings out of duty to the Australian people, who gave it to her in 1954, it's actually one of the gifts she wears on the regular. And who wouldn't? It's just lousy with white and yellow diamonds (in the form of a spray of wattle, the national flower).

Biggest Omission
The Andamooka Opal
Hey, Your Majesty, speaking of Australian gifts: why have you left the Andamooka opal in the vaults for so long? The people of south Australia gave this massive 203 carat opal to you in 1954, you wore it once, and you've neglected it ever since. I know opals are an acquired taste (they're not my favorites either), but I think Angela Kelly could come up with a gown to make this baby work. Or maybe that's just my absurd fondness for a statement necklace shining through.

Worst Hat
Teal in Perth
Brim's all kinds of stumpy, ornamentation is just too much...giant no to this one.

Best Picture
Meeting Elizabeth Cambage

Ha! Extra props to Ms. Cambage because she had heels on. I mean, when you're 6'8", what's the point in playing around?

Best Only Tiara
The Brazilian Aquamarine Tiara
This parure stems from a set of aquamarines QEII received as gifts from Brazil. It's gone through a lot of changes through the years (a story for some future Thursday), and the redesign merry-go-round stopped on this clunky thing. Can you tell it's not my favorite? I want to like it, I really do - who am I to argue with stones that size? - but it just fails me in the execution department. And you know how irrational I get when faced with sparkle let-down.

What were the trip highlights for you?

Photos: Daylife/Zimbio/Getty Images/Reuters/AP Photo/Royal Collection

28 October 2011

A Very Special Tiara Friday: The Golden Poppies

Halloween is upon us, lovelies. Do you celebrate in your nook of the world? (You should, you know. Socially acceptable occasions to wear tiaras whilst walking down the street are few and far between.) In honor of this most ghoulish and costume-filled holiday, I thought we’d forgo our usual Friday flashback and instead take a look at one of the creepiest tiaras out there (if you ask me, at least).
BOO! Heh. Yes, that's right, we're celebrating with our most costume-prone queen and her most costumeish tiara. Well, actually, you know what: “tiara” is debatable. What should we call it? How about “unidentifiable skull ornament”?
Popularly named the Golden Poppies, this is an example of modern design and experimentation with materials that features excellent craftsmanship and yet results in a dubious final execution. Queen Margrethe commissioned this from Danish artist Arje Griegst in 1976, and with her creative streak I think there can be no doubt she had a hand in the appearance.
The flowers themselves are made from thinly hammered plates of 21 carat gold. Each flower has baroque pearls inside and 4 diamond-tipped stamens. The design is a very literal translation of a garden flower, including moonstones and aquamarines on the leaves to represent dewdrops and insects depicted in pearls, crystals, opals, moonstones, and diamonds crawling about. It is often said that there are also tiny lights involved, to illuminate the flowers. Oh, yeah, and it’s a parure to boot: earrings and necklace included, because you can never get enough garishly bright gold.
Queen Margrethe wearing only a few of the poppies
The thing is, the flowers themselves aren’t so bad. (Except for the insects. You lost me with the insects. Ew.) They can be detached from their headdress and worn on their own, just a few at a time. It’s when they all get together that things get creepy.
Margrethe in the full flowered headdress
See now, they no longer look like flowers to me. I see a cluster of dish television receptors, a set of toy teacups, crawling insects (hey, the designer started it), or some sort of knowledge-sucking device straight from the alien warlords. Creepy, I tell you. Maybe this would have been a better fit for an April Fools’ Day celebration, since ol’ Daisy obviously has a sense of humor. And this little practical jewelry joke is her personal property, by the way, so she can leave it to whomever she pleases. What do you think, kids: Mary in the poppies someday? Oh, giggles.

What say you: creepy or no? Do you have a different pick for the Creepiest Tiara title?

Photos: BilledBladet/Rex/Bodilbinner

Week in Review: Crown Princess Mette-Marit, 16-22 October

Here's what Mette-Marit wore from 16-22 October:

  1. Visiting Hedmark, 18 October, in boots (a) and then jeans for a bike ride (b). And then tripling up on outerwear (c) - the things a girl's got to do to get the cute guy's coat, I tell ya.
  2. Attending a seminar on psychic wellness in the aftermath of the recent terrorist attack, 19 October. Couldn't really tell from other photos if she was attending this in her "royal" capacity or her "perpetual student" capacity. Hot outfit for a student, not so much for the royal bit though.
Last night (27 October), Mette-Marit was supposed to attend the annual gala for the Stortinget (Parliament), and I got myself all excited for a new tiara appearance. But she didn't show - BOOHOO - something about a sick kid or multiple sick kids. And so we were left with lone Sonja and her strange gowns:
Really, in the spectrum of all Sonja fashion, this is pretty harmless, even if I don't understand the need for two skirts. Most of us make do with one, Your Maj. Anyways, she did bust out Queen Maud's Pearl Tiara in its largest setting, so that will have to serve as my consolation.

Photos: Ostlendingen/Siste/Svenskdam/Lehtikuva/API

Week in Review: Princess Mathilde, 16-22 October

Here's what Mathilde wore from 16-22 October:

  1. Day 1 of the couple's economic mission in China, 21 October. Saucy little jacket, no? Looks fab.
  2. Day 2, first outfit, 22 October.
  3. Day 2, second outfit with (a) and without (b) the cape, 22 October. I am currently obsessed with capes, just so you know. Anything fun and swoopy with maybe just a dash of Severus Snape works for me.
An excellent start to the China visit - more next week. Mathilde's looking fantastic, these are all super flattering outfits. And hey, you know who else was in China for an economic mission recently?
That would be Guillaume, also known as the Hereditary Grand Duke of Luxembourg, also known as the only unmarried European heir of decent legal age left, ladies.

And in other Mathilde news, new pics were released to celebrate Princess Elisabeth's 10th birthday.
The family that coordinates together stays together. Go team purple!

Photos: Nieuwsblad/HLN/SIP/Charles Caratini/Cour gr ducale

27 October 2011

Tiara Thursday: The Danish Emerald Parure Tiara

As promised, today we look at one of the more wearable crown jewel sets: the Danish emerald parure.
The Danish Emerald Parure Tiara
And just what are we looking at? In total: 67 emeralds and 2,650 diamonds composing a parure of a tiara, necklace, earrings, and brooch. The brooch itself can disassemble into three smaller brooches, and can also serve as a pendant for the necklace. As you would well expect with anything falling under the “crown jewel” category, this history here is rich: the largest 26 emeralds date from 1723, when they were a gift from King Christian VI to Queen Sophie Magdalene for giving birth to the future Frederik V. The rest of the emeralds belonged to Princess Charlotte of Denmark, and the diamonds used also previously belonged to the royal family. The whole thing was put together by C.M. Weisshaupt in time for Queen Caroline Amalie to wear while celebrating her silver wedding anniversary with King Christian VIII in 1840.
The rest of the emerald parure
As I said, this set is a part of Denmark's crown jewels. Queen Sophie Magdalene was actually the one that started the crown jewel tradition when she left some of her jewelry for use by future Queens in her will. Until 1914, the current queen had possession of the crown jewel sets; Queen Alexandrine sent them to Rosenborg Castle for keeping and they were eventually put on public display. They’ve stayed there ever since, though of course they are made available on demand for whichever queen has the authority.
Queen Ingrid
And that’s part of the trick of these crown jewels: only the queen has the authority to use them. Queen Alexandrine didn’t feel the need, hence sending them away, but her successor Queen Ingrid certainly made good use of them. And Ingrid’s daughter Margrethe has done the same.
Queen Margrethe
The emeralds certainly aren’t among the most used jewels in Margrethe’s repertoire, but that’s understandable. It’s probably easier to use the ones that you have in your possession rather than sending out for the crown jewels; plus, you have the whole concept of saving them for important occasions. Another catch comes into play here as well: these gems can’t be taken outside of Denmark, so wearing them at foreign royal events is out of the question.
Margrethe wearing the parure during her 70th birthday celebrations
I love this tiara, even though it has less of a "wow" factor than, say, Norway’s green headliner. But I've never been a fan of the necklace, and I'm always too distracted by that to pay much attention to the tiara. The emeralds are just so, I don't know, overwhelmingly rectangular, I suppose.

Is this “crown jewel” worthy for you?

Photos:  TRF/Rosenborg Castle/Polfoto/BilledBladet

Week in Review: Princess Charlene, 16-22 October

Here's what Charlene wore from 16-22 October:

  1. At the Rugby World Cup, 17 October. Whoa, so much to talk about this week...ha.
Photo: Lehtikuva

Week in Review: Grand Duchess Maria Teresa, 16-22 October

Here's what Maria Teresa wore from 16-22 October:

  1. At the episcopal consecration of the new Archbishop of Luxembourg, 16 October, repeating the suit from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's wedding. Hey, better than last week, no complaints!
Photo: Église Catholique à Luxembourg

26 October 2011

Wedding Wednesday: Queen Soraya's Gown

 HIM The Shah of Iran and Soraya Esfandiary-Bakhtiari
February 12, 1951
Tehran, Iran

A reader request today, for one of the most fairy tale royal wedding gowns of all time, worn by a royal bride that ended up living a fairy tale gone wrong.
The beginning was certainly straight out of a storybook: the recently divorced (from Princess Fawzia of Egypt) Mohammed Reza Pahlavi fell in love immediately with a picture of the young half-Persian, half-German Soraya. He asked for her hand in marriage after just one meeting, and sealed the deal with a massive 22.37 carat diamond engagement ring.
The fantasy continued at the couple's grand wedding at Golestan Palace. Soraya's Christian Dior gown is quite possibly the most couture couture gown ever seen at a royal wedding; it's just utterly, unabashedly over the top. Made of 37 yards of silver lamé studded with pearls, 6,000 diamond pieces, and 20,000 marabou feathers, the creation weighed a whopping 44 pounds (20 kilograms).
The strapless dress came with a matching jacket and veil for the ceremony itself as well as a full-length white mink cape to keep the bride warm. In the evening, both jacket and veil were discarded and an emerald and diamond parure from the crown jewels was added.
But as we all know, things are rarely what they seem, and not even the wedding was as much a fairy tale as it appeared. The ceremony, originally scheduled for December 27th, had to be postponed when Soraya came down with a serious case of typhoid fever. She still wasn't entirely well in February but further postponement wasn't possible, so she had to soldier on. The bride could barely move in her heavy gown, as you can see in this video:
Seeing her stagger, the Shah ordered a lady-in-waiting to take a pair of scissors to the priceless gown and cut the petticoats and train until she could walk again. She also had to deal with the chill in the non-heated palace; there were wool socks underneath that voluminous skirt.

Seven years later, the Shah and his Queen found themselves in a predicament: Soraya had not been able to have children, and the Shah needed a son to continue the dynasty (he had one daughter with his first wife, but a boy was required). In 1958, the Shah tearfully announced their divorce. It was "a sacrifice of my own happiness," Soraya said. Given the title HIH Princess Soraya of Iran and generous funding, she lived the rest of her life as a jet-setting socialite in Europe, but she never managed to find real happiness. Even a romance with director Franco Indovina ended tragically with his death in a plane crash. Soraya became known as the "princess with the sad eyes" and titled her memoir Le Palais des Solitudes, or The Palace of Solitude. She died on October 26, 2001; her belongings were auctioned off and that famous wedding gown sold for $1.2 million.

The Shah married again, to Farah Diba, and had four children including two boys. The Shah was exiled in 1979 and the heir he fought to have has never had the opportunity to rule Iran.

What did you think of Soraya's gown?
Photos: Life/Corbis

Week in Review: Crown Princess Mary, 16-22 October

Here's what Mary wore from 16-22 October:

1. Visiting the United Nations Fund for Population Activities and a school in Harlem on day 1 of the crown princely couple's visit to New York City, 20 October. Look familiar? (Malene Birger dress, this time paired with an Isabel Marant jacket.) Yeah, sometimes I get lazy and don't want to dig very far back in my closet either.
2. Opening an art exhibit alongside other Scandinavian royals, 20 October. This is a beautiful dress. Some felt she was overdressed, given that Queen Sonja and Queen Silvia wore more basic skirt suit sorts of things, but I thought it was a perfect young take on the occasion.
3. Visiting the 9/11 memorial site on day 2 of the visit, 21 October in a black coat over a Heartmade dress.
4. At the opening of the BIG architectural studios, 21 October. Same dress, with a different Heartmade jacket on top.
5. a) Attending the Scandinavian-American Foundation Centennial Ball, 21 October, in a gown from Ole Yde (b).
6. a) At the "New Nordic Cookout: A Taste of Denmark" event at Union Square Greenmarket on day 3 and then squeezing in some shopping in flats at Saks (b), 22 October. Should've stuck with the flats for the whole day, I'm thinking. Odd gray shoes there.

I'm going to dub this NYC trip (which will continue in next week's review post) the trip of Excellent Separates and Curious Pairings. I do not get, at all, the pairing of that bright and happy floral dress in 3 and 4 with either of those somber jackets or those gray and black Prada shoes. Most curious.

Photos: Purepeople/Abaca/Billed-Bladet/Zimbio/Bauer Griffin/Daylife/Reuters/AP Photo

25 October 2011

Week in Review: Princess Letizia, 16-22 October

Here's what Letizia wore from 16-22 October:

  1. Inaugurating the Miguel Delibes Foundation, 17 October. Wee stars on the top there. Bordering on kitschy, but she pulls it off.
  2. a and b) Audiences at the Reconquista Hotel in Oviedo, 20 October. All very elegant, and the snakeskin shoes are back!
  3. At a concert in Oviedo, 20 October. Ah, the lady tux. Kudos for bringing the hairdresser along for the trip, even if she does look a bit like she's late for a set with Frank and the boys at the Excelsior.
  4. Audiences for the Prince of Asturias Awards laureates, 21 October. Dubious shoe selection, I must say.
  5. The Prince of Asturias Awards, 21 October. I should LOVE this one - I mean, look, she did her hair and everything! Fellow royals, take note! - but somehow I find it aging. I blame the non-color color of it.
  6. Visiting San Tirso de Abres, 22 October. A low key end to the week, but yet again I am impressed overall. Me thinks Leti is stepping up her game, and I like it.
Photos: Zimbio/Getty Images/Bekia/Daylife

Week in Review: Crown Princess Victoria, 16-22 October

Here's what Victoria wore from 16-22 October:

  1. International Council for the Exploration of the Sea in Copenhagen, 17 October.
  2. At the Kunskapspriset award ceremony, 17 October. A sequined friend for the tent dress. Very Vegas.
  3. Meeting with the Deputy President of South Africa, 20 October. 
  4. Attending a UN seminar, 21 October. At this point, this is probably one of the best dresses she has. Shame about those shooties.
  5. At the Elvis theater show, 21 October. I'm not sure what this dress was supposed to look like, but every picture seems to catch it alternately bunching too loosely or squishing too tightly around various parts of her. I feel like the dress is being mean to our Victoria. 
Photos: Purepeople/Abaca/Svenskdam/Lehtikuva

24 October 2011

Royal Fashion Awards: The American-Scandinavian Foundation's Centennial Ball

America's just riddled with royals at the moment! Prince Harry's been making his way through southern California's selection of cocktail waitresses on his way to Arizona for military training, while Princess Beatrice acted as boyfriend Dave's plus one in New Mexico and Las Vegas. But the main royal gathering happened over the weekend in New York City as a whole slew of Scandinavian royals on separate visits to the U.S. collided to celebrate with the American-Scandinavian Foundation and give us something sartorial to talk about (the real purpose of their trips, I'm quite sure...).

Best...uh...Assets? I don't know.
Crown Princess Mary
I am in love with the idea of this: the interesting neckline, the sort of va-va-voom quality of this shimmery fabric, the usage on the whole of a shimmery fabric for a non-tiara event. But I am in, well, not hate, per se, but dislike with a single raised eyebrow at the execution. That's one clingy dress, m'lady! In some pictures it's perfectly lovely, but in others...whoa. Kudos for the after-babies bod and all, but I'm just not sure we needed to see all of that.

Best Bling
Queen Silvia
Who you gonna call when the dress code says no to tiaras? Queen Silvia! (She's like the Ghostbusters, only prettier.) There's a brooch in the hair and a tiara (her modern fringe tiara) around the neck. A+. Oh, and PURPLE! Yay.

Best in Typical
Princess Madeleine
She's got a taste for strapless dresses that just make you want to give them a wee tug north, doesn't she? That said: she does look awfully pretty here. I love the styling.

Worst in Typical
Queen Sonja
Oh, man. I do not get her taste sometimes. She looks like she's being strangled to death by lace and pearls. Which, I suppose, if you've got to go, that might be the way to bow out, but still. She did put a brooch in her hair too, to be fair, but it takes a lot more than that to make up for the gown.

Best in Scandinavian...wait, huh?
Princess Tatiana
Just me that wondered why Nikolaos and Tatiana of Greece took their globe trotting party machine to the American-Scandinavian bash until suddenly remembering that they are princes of Greece and Denmark? Fine, whatever. Smartypants. Anyway: it's always hard to see what she's wearing, on account of the posing (argh), but I'm sold enough on what I can spy here to give the evening's prize to her. Lovely red, little bit of interest, and easier to move in than some of these other gowns.

Who was your best-dressed for the night?

Photos: Zimbio/Daylife/Getty Images/CTK/Bekia