What comes to mind when you think of royalty? A jewel-encrusted crown spectacular enough for a king or queen? A delicate, sparkling tiara fit for a princess? The royals have no shortage of exquisite jewels, but they’re not just beautiful to look at; they have some truly fascinating stories behind them, too. And as the coronation of King Charles approaches, these stories are all the more interesting to tell.
1. The Cartier Halo
Cast your mind back to 2011, and you may remember the splendid Cartier Halo tiara perched on Kate Middleton’s head as she tied the knot with Prince William. The soon-to-be Duchess of Cambridge had gotten the nod to wear the headgear by none other than Queen Elizabeth — the owner of the piece at that time.
And, originally, the Cartier Halo had belonged to Elizabeth’s mother. We certainly wouldn’t mind that kind of hand-me-down...
2. Imperial State Crown
Another crown that’s been added to the collection over the last century or so is the Imperial State Crown, which is meant to be on a new monarch’s head as they leave their coronation. It’s also worn during other formal events.
It was created for George VI in 1937 but remains in use today. It was actually placed on Elizabeth’s coffin in 2022 as a mark of respect following her death.
The biggest diamond
A remarkable number of gems cover this crown, some of which hold very special significance. There are 2,868 diamonds attached to the crown, with one being especially noteworthy.
This is known as Cullinan II, which was cut from the larger Cullinan Diamond. This is the biggest example of the precious stone that’s ever been found.
3. The Cambridge Lover’s Knot
The Cambridge Lover’s Knot is thought to be Kate Middleton’s most beloved tiara, but it’s actually been a prized possession of other royal women before her. The majestic piece was originally created for Queen Mary back in 1913, then handed down to Elizabeth II — who gave it to the late Princess Diana upon her own marriage.
The tiara was reportedly one of Diana’s faves, too, creating a sweet link between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law. Awww!
4. The Strathmore Rose
Us normal folk keep family names alive by giving them to our kids. When you’ve got blue blood, though, you commemorate your nearest and dearest with a tiara.
Well, that’s what happened with the 19th century Strathmore Rose, which took its moniker from The Queen Mother’s aristocratic father, the Earl of Strathmore. But, alas, this bombastic piece hasn’t been seen in a while. Perhaps it’s just too old-fashioned for today’s modern royals.
5. St. Edward’s Crown
This is the St. Edward’s Crown, which was made to be worn during Charles II’s coronation in 1661.
It was created to replace the original coronation crown, which likely dated back to the 11th century and the royal saint, Edward the Confessor, who was the last Anglo-Saxon king of England, after whom it is named. The St. Edward’s Crown was used for the coronation of every subsequent English (and later British) monarch. As per tradition, it will also feature at Charles III’s coronation.
A neck-breaking weight
St. Edward’s Crown, which is estimated to be worth about $57 million, was used in Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, which took place back in 1953.
It’s said that she only wore it on her head for a very brief moment, given how heavy it was. She actually once spoke about it to the Smithsonian Channel, noting, “You can’t look down to read the speech — you have to take the speech up. Because if you did, your neck would break and [the crown] would fall off.”
Based on the original
Vyner’s design of the St. Edward’s Crown harked back to the original.
It wasn’t exactly the same, but the two crowns shared several features, including its arches and certain shapes and patterns. The new one was fashioned from solid gold and adorned with gemstones including rubies and sapphires.
6. Queen Mary’s Diamond Bandeau
As the name of this tiara suggests, it was gifted to Queen Mary for her wedding in 1893. Today, though, you’re more likely to associate it with Meghan Markle, as it’s the headpiece she was wearing when she married Prince Harry.
There have long been reports that it wasn’t Meghan’s first choice and that this caused tensions with Queen Elizabeth… but there’s been no cast-iron confirmation as of yet.
7. The Burmese Ruby
Proving that even royals recycle, this magnificent headpiece was once part of Queen Elizabeth II’s vast collection. But what people may not know, is that it was actually fashioned from another tiara: the Nizam of Hyderabad.
And as its name suggests, the stunning headwear features a whole lot of rubies — 96 of them, in fact. These were presented to Elizabeth by the people of Burma, along with the belief about the protective properties of the stones.
8. The Aquamarine Bandeau
Princess Madeleine of Sweden owns this unusual bandeau tiara. It’s a piece that dates back to at least the ’60s, although it could be even older.
Either way, Madeleine was given it for her 18th birthday and frequently wears it in public. But, sadly, not everyone’s a fan. It’s said, in fact, that some royal followers have nicknamed the tiara “the Cyclops” — and one look at the shining jewel in the center tells you why.
9. The Kokoshnik
Back in 1888, a bunch of well-to-do women decided to put their cash together and buy Princess Alexandra a tiara for her wedding anniversary. Alexandra wanted a piece similar to one belonging to her sister Dagmar — the Empress Maria Feodorovna of Russia – so hopefully the group had enough money to spare...
Anyway, the actual gift-giving turned out to be a complete disaster. Not only did the ladies quarrel over who actually got to pass on the present, but everyone at the royal residence was also in mourning. Emperor Wilhelm I had just passed away, you see. Still, the tiara’s pretty beautiful, right?
10. The Delhi Durbar
This huge tiara was made for Queen Mary so that she’d have something suitably ostentatious to show off at a party in Delhi. It also looks as though it would break the average person’s neck if they actually tried it on.
Perhaps that’s why Queen Elizabeth II has never been seen with the headpiece. Camilla, Queen Consort has worn it, though, with barely a wince on her face.
11. The Greville Emerald Kokoshnik
There was a little extra thrill to Princess Eugenie’s wedding, as for the occasion she wore a tiara that hadn’t been seen for almost a hundred years. As royal watchers know, this was the Greville Emerald Kokoshnik that had once belonged to socialite Margaret Greville.
She left the late Queen's mother all her jewels upon her death, with these being eventually passed down to Queen Elizabeth herself. And the monarch lent the glamorous tiara — a very nice example of “something borrowed” — to her granddaughter for her big day.
12. The Girls of Great Britain and Ireland
This spectacular if somewhat clunkily named tiara is a piece that belonged to Queen Elizabeth II. Handed to Queen Mary by the titular Girls of Great Britain and Ireland, the headgear was then passed on to then Princess Elizabeth in celebration of her wedding to Philip Mountbatten.
And, interestingly, this is the tiara the Queen’s likeness sometimes appears in on British currency.
13. The Poltimore
Princess Margaret’s trademark headpiece was the magnificent Poltimore tiara. She bought the piece at a 1959 auction for £5,500, which equates to the fairly reasonable sum of $170,000 today.
The princess even wore the eye-catching headgear when tying the knot with Antony Armstrong-Jones. After Margaret’s death, though, the tiara went up for sale yet again. And this time around, it went for a whopping $1.7 million — which probably made a fair dent in the estate tax bill.
14. The Vladimir
The Vladimir tiara can’t be separated from the tragic tale of the Romanovs. Grand Duchess Vladimir originally owned the piece — hence the name — but had to leave it behind when fleeing Russia in the wake of the assassination of Tsar Nicholas II.
Luckily for the royal, though, a lot of her jewelry soon followed. And after the duchess herself passed away, Queen Mary ultimately snapped up the beautiful tiara.
15. The Diamond Diadem
Believe it or not, given its association with various queens over the centuries, this headpiece was actually created for a king. It was made for King George IV’s coronation in 1821, although the monarch use to wear it under his hat.
Since then, the opulent piece has been passed down through the female rulers of Britain — from Victoria, Alexandra, and Mary, to the Queen Mother and Queen Elizabeth. During her reign, Elizabeth II was most frequently seen in the tiara during the traditional State Opening of Parliament.
16. The Lotus Flower
The Lotus Flower tiara was created for the late Queen's mother after she decided that a necklace from her husband would look better as a headpiece. History hasn’t recorded how well George VI took that news, but, in any case, the tiara came out beautifully.
The magnificent item was then passed down to Princess Margaret, with some assuming that ownership would continue along the Linley line. But that doesn’t appear to be the case, as Kate Middleton gave the world a delightful surprise when she appeared in the Lotus Flower at a reception in 2013.
17. The York Diamond
Before Sarah Ferguson married into the British royal family in 1986, her future mother- and father-in-law took the unusual step of getting her a brand-new tiara rather than lending her an heirloom. Make of that what you will, but at least Fergie got to keep the piece — now known as the York Diamond tiara — after splitting from Prince Andrew..
18. The Boucheron Loop
Holiday souvenirs are usually pretty tacky, but Queen Mary got herself a humdinger after traveling to South Africa in 1901. There, she was handed hundreds of diamonds — which, let’s face it, is a whole lot better than a cheap T-shirt.
With that bounty, the queen subsequently turned to the company Boucheron for a bespoke tiara. And the result? A flashy piece made of diamond loops, with more diamonds — natch — in between. But Mary seemed to get bored of her jewels quickly, and she eventually had the striking headgear dismantled to create the Delhi Durbar tiara.
19. The Cubitt
Camilla Parker Bowles wasn’t a proper member of royalty before she married then Prince Charles, but she still had ties to the monarchy. You see, the Queen Consort’s great-grandmother Alice was among the mistresses of King Edward VII.
Scandalous! Anyway, Alice’s daughter Sonia married into nobility, meaning it was only natural that she had a tiara among her jewels. Then, years later, the splendid piece was finally on the head of a royal in the form of Camilla herself.
20. The Brazilian Aquamarine
The beautiful blue Brazilian Aquamarine tiara is one of the few pieces from the late Queen Elizabeth’s collection that wasn’t an heirloom. Back in 1953, the monarch was gifted an aquamarine-and-diamond necklace and earring set from the president of Brazil.
She then decided a few years later to have a tiara made to complement this jewelry. And, apparently, more and more fabulous gems have been added to the piece as Elizabeth received them.
21. The Fringe
The Fringe tiara was originally Queen Mary’s, although it may come as no surprise that its jewels started off life in a necklace. Yes, the monarch famously loved to dismantle her collection — even this gift from Queen Victoria.
Looking at the tiara now, though, it was definitely worth it. And if the headwear looks familiar, you may just have seen it in the Queen and Prince Philip’s wedding photos.
22. The Hanoverian Floral
Princess Alessandra de Osma had quite a life before marrying Prince Christian of Hanover. She’s worked as an attorney and a model, as well as the co-founder of a fashion label.
In 2018, though, she got her hands on an exclusive accessory only available to a few. We’re talking about the magnificent Hanoverian Floral tiara that Alessandra sported at her wedding ceremony — and pulled off with true flair.
23. The Meander
The Greek-style Meander tiara was originally given to Princess Elizabeth by Prince Philip’s mother. Maybe Elizabeth didn’t like it, though, because she was never actually seen wearing it.
Hopefully that didn’t cause too many arguments with the in-laws... In any case, the Meander was handed down to Princess Anne, who has taken it out for a spin from time to time. Anne’s daughter, Zara, also borrowed the piece for her 2011 wedding.
24. The Cartier Indian
You may not believe it, but the eye-catching Cartier Indian tiara is now in the hands of a secretary. Well, almost — Birgitte van Deurs may have once been an office worker just like us, but nowadays she’s better known as the Duchess of Gloucester.
And, yes, that name does contain a reference to the famous French jewelry makers. Cartier crafted the tiara especially for Queen Victoria’s granddaughter Princess Marie Louise, who sported the item at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
25. The Chaumet Emerald
The Art Deco-style Chaumet Emerald tiara is a pretty stunning piece of work. In fact, that huge stone at the center is so bewitching that you may fail to notice the equally beautiful diamonds.
But the super-sized emerald isn’t the only cool thing about this tiara. You see, the piece was once owned by Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxembourg, who famously resisted the Nazis during World War II. No wonder, then, that her tiara inspired the one later worn by Wonder Woman. Spot any similarities?
26. The Oriental Circlet
Say what you like about Prince Albert, but he was a pretty good jewelry designer. Yes, Queen Victoria’s husband put his own stamp on the sparkling Oriental Circlet, which contained his favorite gem: opal.
But when the tiara was passed down to Queen Alexandra, she had very different ideas to her late father-in-law. Thinking that opals augured bad fortune, she swapped them out for rubies instead. So, while the tiara looks very different from how it used to, you could still see it as a stand-out in the many tiaras that Queen Elizabeth II wore through the years.
27. The Norwegian Emerald Parure
Historians aren’t completely sure about the origin of the jewels in this tiara, but the headwear itself is at least thought to be pretty old. Chances are that at one point it was in the hands of Empress Joséphine — who, as you may remember, was married to Napoleon Bonaparte.
The tiara even made it through the turbulence of World War II, which is no mean feat considering the Norwegian royal family were prepared to sell it off. Nowadays, it’s frequently seen on the head of King Harald’s wife, Queen Sonja.
28. The Northumberland Strawberry Leaf
Weirdly enough, the Northumberland Strawberry Leaf tiara has its origins not in another piece of jewelry, but a sword. Yep, that’s right.
The ceremonial weapon was once handed to the third Duke of Northumberland by none other than King George IV, and the duke’s relatives later repaid the favor by repurposing its diamonds. Unfortunately, though, this extremely cool piece is no longer around. In 1963 it was stolen from the car of Dowager Duchess Helen Percy and has never been recovered.
29. The Modern Sapphire
The Modern Sapphire tiara once belonged to Princess Louise of Belgium, who was a remarkably disobedient woman by 19th century standards. Having married at just 17, she ultimately threw off the shackles of royal life by leaving her husband — and not without having an affair or two first.
This break from the norm would also leave Louise having to sell off her jewelry collection to survive. But the princess’ rebelliousness marks her out as being ahead of her time, so the name “Modern Sapphire” seems very appropriate for the tiara she once sported.
30. The Ruby Olive Wreath
This gorgeous tiara has been through many royal hands. First, it was given as an extravagant gift to Queen Olga of Greece – who, as history buffs may know, was the grandmother of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh.
Then the tiara was passed on to her granddaughter — also named Olga — in 1938. After World War II began, however, the piece had to be sold on. Where did it end up? Well, fittingly, it’s now in the possession of Anne-Marie — the last Queen of Greece before the nation got rid of the monarchy.
31. The Iveagh
When Princess Mary wed the man who would be King George V back in 1893, she was gifted a spectacular tiara from a rich Irish couple named Lord and Lady Iveagh. The Iveaghs were rewarded handsomely for their generosity, too, by being granted the loftier titles of earl and countess a little later.
And the piece has remained in the family ever since. Lady Rose Windsor — George and Mary’s great-granddaughter — notably wore it for her 2008 wedding.
32. The Ruby Peacock
For a while, no-one was sure what had happened to the Ruby Peacock tiara. It first saw life back in 1897, after Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands put in a special request to Johann Eduard Schürmann & Co.
Then the piece was passed down to the controversial Princess Irene and seemed to vanish off the face of the Earth. So — shock horror! — had Irene sold the priceless treasure? Well, fear not, as in 2009 it eventually showed up on the head of Princess Máxima.
33. The Fabergé Diamond
You know that anything with the name “Fabergé” has got to be worth a pretty penny. And that’s the case for the Fabergé Diamond tiara, which once belonged to Princess Cecilie of Prussia.
The stunning piece was bestowed upon her as a wedding present — one of many extravagant items Cecilie was given upon her marriage to Crown Prince Wilhelm. More recently, though, it was sold at auction for almost $480,000.
34. The Pearl Tiara Replica
This tiara may look beautiful and historic, but don’t let appearances fool you. Why? Well, it’s actually a very clever replica of an earlier piece.
That precursor was stolen in 1995, you see, and nothing has been seen of it since. But unwilling to let go of the joy brought by a good tiara, the Norwegian royal family simply had an identical one made. And should you somehow stumble across the original, there’ll probably be a hefty reward in it for you.
35. The Danish Ruby Parure
Before Napoleon Bonaparte officially became emperor, he generously decided to pay for new jewels for some of the most high-profile attendees at his coronation. One of these VIPs was Désirée Clary — Napoleon’s own ex-fiancée.
And the fabulous ruby tiara that Clary wore to the prestigious event was passed down through her own family until 1869, when it was handed as a wedding gift to Lovisa, the future Queen of Denmark. The Danish royal family show the item off to this day.
36. The Mellerio Ruby Parure
The Dutch royals sure do love their rubies. The Mellerio Ruby Parure was specially handcrafted by Mellerio dits Meller — hence the name — and has passed through the family since its creation in 1889.
It seems to be a particular favorite of Máxima of the Netherlands, who’s sported the flashy piece at many grand events. Not only that, but she can be seen in this very tiara in her inaugural portrait as queen.
37. The Persian Turquoise
The beautiful Persian Turquoise tiara once belonged to Queen Mary before being passed down to Princess Margaret. But experts have virtually no idea where the piece is now — much to their dismay.
After Margaret died, you see, her jewels were practically scattered to the wind. Mind you, we suspect that the British royal family have at least an inkling of the tiara’s location...
38. The Swedish Four Button
The Swedish Four Button is probably one of the oddest tiaras to belong to any royal family anywhere — although we certainly wouldn’t pass up a chance to wear it. And while historians aren’t completely sure of the provenance of those eye-catching jewels, they could very well have once belonged to King Carl XIV Johan.
As the story goes, the sparklers were once part of the monarch’s uniform — hence the “button” bit of the tiara’s name. In defiance of the haters, the Swedish royals bring the piece out a lot, too.
39. The Kent Festoon
The Kent Festoon tiara has had quite the glow-up since its time in the collection of Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent. And that’s saying something, as the piece was already a stunner.
In recent years, you may have seen the tiara on the head of Princess Michael of Kent. She cannily had more pearls added to the luxurious piece — giving it that extra wow factor.
40. The Modern Gold
For her 60th birthday, Queen Sonja of Norway received a downright Star Wars-esque tiara as a gift from her husband. And while the huge gold piece has attracted ire from some royal fashion fans, it certainly beats getting a pair of socks on your special day.
Plus, who doesn’t want to look like a sci-fi heroine?
41. The Napoleonic Cut-Steel
The Napoleonic Cut-Steel Tiara is a rarity among royal tiaras. Why? Well, it contains no diamonds whatsoever.
In fact, there’s nary a sparkler to be seen here — but then again, the piece doesn’t really need them. The level of craftsmanship is incredible, as is the steel-and-gold tiara’s longevity. It was most likely created for Hortense de Beauharnais, the daughter of Empress Joséphine, and is still worn by Swedish royal family members today.
42. Princess Christina’s Diamond and Pearl Tiara
Sadly, this particular tiara is another one that’s been lost. It had a grand history, too, as it originally belonged to Queen Sophia of Nassau.
Then, after Sophia’s death in 1913, the breathtaking piece found its way to her granddaughter Elsa, who in turn gave it to her goddaughter Princess Christina. The stage seemed set, then, for the heirloom to be in the family for years to come. But in 2012 disaster struck. Shockingly, the tiara was stolen and apparently cast into a river — possibly because it was too hot to handle. And to date, it still hasn’t been found. Not yet, anyway.