Crown jewels

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Crown Jewels are various artifacts used during coronations and other royal ceremonies.

Types

The most common types of crown jewels are:

Other crown jewels can include spurs, bracers, collars of chivalry, rings, and coronation robes.

Regalia holds a similar function within the SCA.

Historical Background

While some elements of crown jewels, such as coronets, date back to pre-Christian times, their use as sacred objects associated with royalty are generally believed to have begun with the Holy Roman Empire. By the end of the Middle Ages most of the European kingdoms had assembled their own collections of crown jewels.

Crown jewels were also used in non-Christian cultures, especially in the Islamic kingdoms. During the Crusades, many jewels from Islamic kingdoms ended up as prized possessions in European courts.

Symbols of Divine Order

In addition to being decorative objects, crown jewels were used to represent God's authority on earth. Most objects were made of gold or silver, and precious gemstones—especially emeralds, carbuncles (rubies), sapphires, and pearls. Other gems could include garnets and varieties of quartz, such as amethysts. One should also note that in the early Middle Ages the use of glass gems was an accepted practice. Crown jewels could also be decorated in enamel, depicting scenes from the Bible, and portraits of apostles and saints.

Due to their extreme hardness and difficulty in cutting, diamonds were generally lacking prior to the Renaissance. European jewel smiths did not discover how to cut and polish them until about 1380. In 1475 the Duke of Burgundy commissioned Louis de Berquem to cut three diamonds, one of them being the Sancy diamond. De Berquem developed a 32-facet cut, the ancestor of the modern brilliant cut. So impressive were his diamonds that they were included in the French crown jewels, thus creating a new fashion rage for the courts of Europe.

References:

  • Prince Michael of Greece, Crown Jewels of Europe, New York, 1983
  • Eduard Gubelin & Franz-Xaver Erni, GEMSTONES: Symbols of Beauty & Power, Tucson AZ, 2000
  • Henri-Jean Schnubel, Gems & Jewels, New York, 1972
  • Crown Jewels Timeline (showing various crowns & other regalia) http://www.willofyre.com/CoronetResearchPage.htm