In the beautiful documentary ‘Kungliga Smycken’, Queen Silvia and Princess Victoria open their jewelery safe for once. Behind the Swedish glitters and glimmers there appear to be beautiful stories about love, power and politics. And that makes us curious, because what would we hear if Máxima and Beatrix followed their example?
Like an oyster. That’s how closed the Oranges are when a question is asked about their historic jewelry collection. We only partly know what they have and where all the beautiful things come from. Even Máxima’s inauguration diadem is more unknown than known, and it doesn’t look like this is going to change any time soon. Too much attention for the royal possessions would only cause unrest, according to King Willem-Alexander.
Things are very different at the Swedish court. The ladies see glitter as a royal virtue and duty, which is why they pull out a beautiful glimmer at every party. From a historic cameo brooch to a sweet pink topaz necklace. In the two-part documentary Kungliga Smycken, the ladies even go a step further than shining, because with a great sense of beauty and history they personally explain the most important masterpieces from their collection.
Here you can see how the jewels are stored: in a cassette
One of those masterpieces is a typical case of hate it or love it. Through the estate of Josefina van Leuchtenberg, step-granddaughter of Napoleon Bonaparte and wife of Oscar I from Sweden, the Swedish monarchy acquires a genuine cameo diadem with hand-carved gods of love. Created by Napoleon’s favorite jeweler, Nitot, the jewel exudes the style of the French court from top to bottom. You have to love it, but apparently they don’t find it that difficult in Sweden. Both Queen Silvia and Princess Victoria wore the jewel on their wedding day.
Queen Silvia: “It is beautifully made, but very delicate. With the pearls and the rose gold, which is so soft. You have to be very careful with it. Today I don’t like to travel with this set. I used parts of it during the last state visit to France because I wanted to tell a story. That it was a gift from Napoleon to Empress Josephine. When I told that to the president, he was very surprised. It was wonderful to show the French people that there is a close connection between Napoleon Bonaparte, Empress Josephine, and Josephine’s granddaughter Josefina, who became Queen of Sweden.”
Generation upon generation
If Máxima had to tell a similar story about the Orange collection, she would undoubtedly come up with the Stuart diadem. The sea-green diamond that shines on top of this impressive jewel has a rich history. In this year 1690, the Dutch stadtholder Willem III was crowned King of England. His wife, Mary Stuart, was presented with a pear-shaped, sea-green diamond of no less than 39.75 carats on the occasion. Over the centuries, the stone was passed on from generation to generation, and after many adventures it adorned a diamond diadem of the Orange at the end of the nineteenth century.
Emma, Wilhelmina and Juliana knew how to appreciate the stone’s (historical) value and wore it on important occasions. But when Beatrix became queen, both the stone and the diadem disappeared from view. Reportedly, Beatrix thought the jewel was too gaudy, too much.
Fortunately, when Máxima became queen, it was not a question of if, but when the Stuart diadem would reappear. During a state visit to Luxembourg in May 2018, the diadem first appeared (left), but without the stone. A year later, the sea green knoperd did come into the picture during the state visit to the United Kingdom. The day after the “resurrection”, Máxima explained her choice of jewellery: “The Stuart diadem was bought for Mary Stuart in 1690, so it is a symbol of very old relations between the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. So we thought this would be the right time to wear the Stuart diamond and diadem.” To everyone’s surprise, another version appeared in Germany (2021). Highly simplified, but still imposing (right).
When asked whether the heavy diadem has also given her a headache, Máxima answers with a grin of no. But it’s not such a silly question, because Queen Silvia now has quite a bit of experience with tiara headaches. In Kungliga Smycken she tells that during the Nobel Prizes of 1976 she became unwell because the imprint of her diadem was an inch deep in her scalp. To prevent a repeat of the fiasco, the help of a Swedish hairdresser was quickly called in. He devised a long, crocheted headband for under the diadem, so that the weight could be better distributed and the metal would no longer press into Silvia’s skin. Because the hair band can be delivered in any desired color, you can’t see or see anything of it. In addition, a diadem can also be incorporated more easily into the hairstyle with pins due to the crocheted loops. Actually, Máxima and Beatrix should talk to the Swedish hairdresser, because in the Netherlands the diadems are worn with a visible frame and simply fastened to the metal with pins.
With an extensive and shared jewelery collection, it is of course always a question of who is wearing what. In Sweden there appear to be unwritten rules. Victoria indicates in the documentary that she does not wear certain jewelry because they are too royal. Only fit for a queen. We see a similar situation in the Netherlands. Since the inauguration, Máxima wears different, and above all larger, diadems than before. During the state visit to Japan, for example, she wore an impressive diadem with more than fifty pearls and a hundred diamonds. The jewel was made at the end of the nineteenth century for the young Queen Wilhelmina, and after her death it was only worn by Juliana, Beatrix and Máxima. Beatrix even wore the diadem on her wedding day, and if you look closely at her wedding dress, you will see that the motif of the jewel has even been applied to the side of her wedding dress with a small razor blade.
Another masterpiece from the royal collection is the ruby Mellerio diadem. As the name suggests, the jewel was made by the French jeweler Mellerio, who was allowed to operate toute royale in the nineteenth century. King Willem III was also successful, and in 1889 even ordered a complete set of ruby and diamond. The ruby diadem also includes a necklace, bracelet, fan and two brooches. Princess Beatrix can probably tell very fascinating stories about the set, because she has worn the jewelry in the most beautiful places on earth over the years. From Bellevue Palace in Germany to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the Royal Palace in Copenhagen.
We will not soon see Princess Laurentien with the aforementioned masterpieces, and Amalia will probably also have to be patient for a while. But how are the jewels distributed if there is a big party, where several ladies have to wear a diadem? Princess Beatrix once let it be known during an informal conversation that this simply takes place in mutual consultation, with the most important ladies of course taking precedence. The same is true in Sweden. Queen Silvia: “It really depends on the occasion what kind of jewelry you wear, and it just depends a little on the color and style of the dress. Sometimes we match the jewelry to the dress we wear, but most of the time we match the dress to the jewelry. We talk about it and discuss it. We try not to wear the same colors. So yes, we ask. They (the princesses, ed.) ask me what I want, and I ask what they want to wear. It’s a family conversation. A way to tune in so that it will be beautiful.”
Choosing jewelry is therefore no easy task, but according to Queen Silvia and Princess Victoria wearing it is more than special. Victoria: “You keep looking at it and looking. Jewelery tells so much about time and sometimes about the people themselves. They bring history to life. Jewelry and other items bring us closer to the individuals. It’s not just something. It is something that has been worn and touched by someone. That is beautiful.” Queen Silvia agrees: “The jewelry says a lot. They are the symbol of a country. A treasure, a cultural heritage. They represent everything Sweden has stood for.” With that in mind, a Dutch jewelery documentary only beckons even more. Let’s hope that Máxima also sees this text…