The British monarch leaves behind one of the biggest private collection of jewels in the world. Which royal will be their inheritor?
With the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, the members of the British royal family now stand to gain more than just new titles. Throughout her 70-year reign, the British monarch amassed an estimated personal fortune of over US$500 million—which her oldest son, now christened King Charles III, will inherit.
Queen Elizabeth’s exorbitant wealth can be credited to her diverse portfolio of personal assets, including her investments, real estate holdings (most notable are the castles Sandringham House and the Balmoral Castle, where she died), art collection and, of course, her jewels.
Read more: In Pictures: The Life of Queen Elizabeth II
The late ruler boasted one of the most impressive—and expensive—collection of jewels in the world, comprising historic tiaras, brooches, necklaces, and rings that date all the way back to the reign of Queen Victoria, her great-great-grandmother.
On top of her personal jewellery collection, Queen Elizabeth also had access to the Crown Jewels, which is estimated to be worth US$3.48 billion in total.
Those priceless jewellery assets would make an even richer man out of King Charles, whose own private wealth was estimated to be US$100 million before his mother’s death.
Below, we take a closer look at the fate of Queen Elizabeth’s jewels.
The Crown Jewels
The royal ceremonial objects pieces that make up the Crown Jewels, which are kept at the Tower of London, belonged to Queen Elizabeth II—but only symbolically.
In fact, the collection, which dates back to the 1600s, is considered to be England’s royal treasures; they belong to the institution of the British monarchy itself. The ownership of the Crown Jewels will go to the present monarch in the right of the Crown—in this case, King Charles III.
The Crown Jewels comprises over 100 objects, most of which are coronation regalia that are used during royal ceremonies. The most significant piece is St. Edward’s Crown, which was crafted in 1661 from over two kilograms of gold and embellished with 444 gemstones including rubies, sapphires and topazes. It was last used in Queen Elizabeth II’s crowning ceremony in 1953. Although it will never be sold, the crown is valued at around US$36 million.
Other priceless pieces that make up the Crown Jewels include the Imperial State Crown, crafted for coronation of King George VI in 1937; the Jewelled Sword of Offering from 1820, which would be worth around US$660 million today; and the Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross dating back to 1661, which features the 530-carat Cullinan I diamond—the largest colourless cut diamond in the world.
The Royal Collection
Just as the Crown Jewels belong to the monarch of the time, The Royal Collection of art and jewellery has also been passed to King Charles III.
This includes the Gem and Jewels, a collection of 277 precious objects such as cameos, intaglios, jewels and medieval gems that are kept at Windsor Castle. Like the Crown Jewels, these historic pieces are essentially priceless and unlikely to ever be sold. They were first publicly showcased at the Victorian and Albert Museum—formerly known as the South Kensington Museum—in 1862.
Queen Elizabeth II’s Personal Jewels and Tiaras
Made up of Queen Elizabeth’s personal purchases, gifts she received, or heirlooms that she inherited, this collection of jewels is one that that King Charles III is not automatically entitled to.
Many of her famous tiaras also fall under this collection. There’s the Delhi Durbar Tiara, made for Queen Mary in 1911 and is now one of the largest tiaras in Queen Elizabeth II’s collection. While she never wore the jewel herself, Queen Elizabeth did loan it to her daughter-in-law, Camilla, who is now known as the Queen Consort. It’s likely that the late monarch has handed it down to Camilla in her will. It’s estimated to be worth US$9.88 million.
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Another noteworthy diadem is Queen Mary’s Lover’s Knot Tiara, which Queen Elizabeth II gifted to Princess Diana for her wedding. It was a beloved jewel of the princess, but she returned it to her mother-in-law after her divorce from then Prince Charles. The tiara is now a favourite of the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, and will add at least US$1 million to her fortune if she inherits it.
The Duchess might also be passed the Cartier Halo Tiara, estimated to be worth US$1.7 million, as she had worn it as “something borrowed” on her royal wedding to Prince Williams.
For now, though, Queen Elizabeth II’s personal collection of jewels are on display at the Buckingham Palace for the exhibition, Platinum Jubilee: The Queen’s Accession. The late royal’s prized possessions will be showcased to the public until October 2, before they are passed down.