24 October 2011

Royal Splendor 101: On Jewel Ownership

For our next chunk of Royal Splendor 101 posts, I thought we'd take a stab at a bit of the background information behind some of the questions pondered in the comments on nearly every Tiara Thursday post: Why are some jewel collections bigger than others, and why are some countries happy to share while others aren't?

Because when you follow a royal family for any amount of time, the size of their jewel stash becomes evident pretty quickly. And when you follow multiple families and you start trying to make comparisons, things can start to get confusing. Why does Queen Paola have only two proper tiaras to pick from, but Queen Elizabeth has tiaras sitting in boxes that she’s never even worn? Why is it that Crown Princess Mary has only worn three tiaras while her counterpart Princess Máxima is sitting at thirteen and counting?

Sometimes the answers are simple and obvious: some families have more money to spend on jewels than others, and some people are more generous while others prefer to keep their toys to themselves. But sometimes, there's more to the story.

Before you can answer questions like these, I think you have to back up a step and answer a more basic question: Who owns the royal jewels?

Why does this matter? Some of the largest tiara collections are the ones that have grown over generations. The longevity, if you will, of a collection can a bigger determinant of overall size than the relative wealth of a royal family. If you want to know why some countries are more tiara-poor than others, I’d say you first need to know how easy or hard it is for tiaras to leave the family (via gift, sale, or inheritance) - and for that, you need to know who legally owns the gems.

The same goes for the question of sharing; generosity plays a role here to be sure, but understanding how jewels are owned will give you an insight into whether something can or can't be loaned, and whether or not it really is just up to any one particular person to decide if things should or shouldn't be shared.

I like to break it down into four basic categories of ownership:
  1. Crown jewels
  2. Family foundations
  3. Personal property
  4. Loans
We’ll tackle these in separate installments (completed entries are linked above), and along the way we'll deal with the tricky business of adding new stuff to a royal collection.