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Every year, a reported 3 million visitors traipse into the Tower of London, where they get to gawk at the Crown Jewels inside the heavily armed Jewel House.
But the May 6 coronation of King Charles III will see some of those treasures having their first public airing for the first time in more than 70 years — and they are still just a fraction of the collection which has been gathered by monarchs for a thousand years.
Over that time, the jewels have survived attempted theft, fire, being melted down by Oliver Cromwell’s republicans and even a visit from the Muppets.
These are the the actual crowns of the Crown Jewels:
St. Edward’s Crown
The most important piece in the Crown Jewels and a sacred symbol of the coronation, some version of St. Edward’s Crown has been used to crown English monarchs since Edward the Confessor in 1065.
Today’s iteration of the $57 million crown was made for Charles II’s coronation in 1661 after the restoration of the monarchy. Made of solid gold, with alternating crosses and fleur de lis and two arches, it weighs nearly five pounds.
It’s so heavy that Queen Elizabeth II once said of St. Edward’s Crown: “You can’t look down to read the speech, you have to take the speech up. Because if you did [look down] your neck would break — it would fall off.”
The purple velvet capped crown — which has an ermine band and 444 jewels including rubies, amethysts and sapphires — will be placed on King Charles’s head when he is officially crowned, but then swapped out the lighter Imperial State Crown.
The Imperial State Crown
The most used royal crown, Queen Elizabeth II wore this every year for the state opening of Parliament.
Charles is expected to walk out of his coronation with it on his head.
Modeled on one worn by Henry V (who reigned from 1413 to 1422), this version of the Imperial State Crown was made in 1937 and was remodeled for Elizabeth’s II’s coronation to make it shorter and more feminine.
For Saturday’s coronation, it’s been sent to royal jewelers Garrard & Co., who will ensure it is perfect.
The crown carries so many precious jewels — 2,688 diamonds, 273 pearls, 17 sapphires, 11
emeralds and 5 rubies — that is it the most expensive item in the Crown Jewels and is said to be worth $6.2 billion.
The Imperial State Crown’s historic gems include a rose-cut sapphire, which sits in a diamond cross at the top of the crown, known as St Edward’s Sapphire.
According to legend, King Edward the Confessor was asked by a beggar for alms and as he had no money with him, gave the beggar his sapphire ring. The beggar revealed himself to be St. John the Evangelist.
It also features the 317.4-carat Cullinan II diamond, also known as the Second Star of Africa, and the 170-carat Black Prince ruby, which has been part of the royal collection since it was won in battle against the Spanish by the Black Prince, Edward of Woodstock in 1367.
The Queen Mary Crown
For the last 300 years, Queen Consorts have received new crowns for their coronations — but Camilla will be reusing the Queen Mary Crown for her husband’s “slimmed down” affair.
Created for King George V’s wife, Queen Mary, in 1911, this stunning headpiece, like many of the female crowns, is crafted so that part of it can be separated and worn as a simpler circlet.
It is mounted with more than 2,200 diamonds and originally housed the controversial Koh-I-Noor diamond. That’s been replaced by the 94.4-carat pear-shaped Cullinan III and 63.6-carat Cullinan IV diamonds, which were referred to as “Granny’s chips” by Elizabeth II and are also worn as broaches.
The crown was last worn by Queen Mary in 1952 shortly before she died.
The George IV State Crown
This flamboyant crown, which will remain in storage during King Charles III’s coronation, was used for George IV’s coronation in 1821.
The monarch was desperate to have a coronation even more spectacular than his French
rival, the emperor Napoleon, and this gold and silver crown contained an incredible 12,314
Most of them were rented, however, and the frame was left empty for 180 years before De Beers loaned the Royal Collection some diamonds to allow the magnificent crown to be displayed in the Jewel House at the Tower of London.
The George IV State Diadem
Also made for George IV’s Coronation, the diadem is one of the most recognizable pieces in the Crown Jewels and it was a favorite of Elizabeth II, who preferred it to the much heavier crowns in the collection.
She wore it while traveling to her own 1953 coronation. It can be seen on pictures of the queen that have adorned British and Commonwealth banknotes, coins and postal stamps.
Although made for a man, the $1 million diadem (another word for a crown) has long been beloved by royal women including Queen Victoria.
It’s likely to be seen at some point on the head of Queen Camilla and, one day, the Princess of Wales — Kate Middleton — as it is reserved for sovereigns and Queen Consorts.
With a silver base and patterns containing crosses, a diamond rose (denoting England), a thistle (Scotland) and two shamrocks (Ireland), it contains 1,332 brilliant cut diamonds and a four-carat rare yellow diamond set in the diadem’s front cross.
Queen Victoria’s Small Diamond Crown
After being reluctantly coerced out of her long mourning period for her beloved husband Prince Albert, Queen Victoria had this small crown — just 10 centimeters in diameter — made in 1870 as she could wear it above her lace mourning veil.
Forged of silver and gold, it features 1,187 mixed cut diamonds.
The Imperial Crown of India
This $6 million dollar crown, which is made of silver and gold and boasts 6,1000 diamonds along with hundreds of emeralds and sapphires, was worn just once — in 1911 when King George V decided to meet Indian princes and rulers soon after his coronation.
As he was not allowed to take the Crown Jewels from England, this was created for the occasion.
The King later wrote in his diary that the two-pound crown had “hurt my head as it is pretty heavy.”
The other queen consort crowns in the Crown Jewels are:
Mary of Modena’s Crown
Created for the second wife of King James II, in 1685, this has a gold frame and once contained 550 diamonds.
It was used by several queen consorts but fell out of use in the 1720s and the diamonds have been replaced by rock crystals.
Queen Adelaide’s Crown
The consort of King William IV had a new crown made for her coronation in 1831 because she deemed Mary of Modena’s “too theatrical.”
The ornate silver frame housed diamonds from her private collection which were removed after the coronation.
The crown was later sold but bought by the Prince of Brunei, who gifted it back to the British royal family.
Queen Alexandra’s Crown
The Danish-born Alexandra was the first queen consort following Queen Victoria’s long reign and decided she also wanted her own crown for the 1902 coronation.
Hers was distinctly foreign, being flatter than the usual British crown and with an unprecedented eight half arches.
It featured her own diamonds, which were later removed, and the center piece was the famous 105-carat Koh-i-Noor diamond.
Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother’s Crown
Queen Elizabeth — Charles III’s grandmother and the wife of King George VI — chose platinum for her 1937 coronation crown. It was set with 2,800 diamonds including three very large ones: the infamous Koh-i-Noor, set in a detachable platinum mount in the front cross; the 22.48-carat Lahore Diamond, which given to Queen Victoria by the Treasury of Lahore; and a 17-carat diamond from the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire.
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