There is no simple story about the Spanish Royal Jewels. And the misinformation online abounds.
Some jewels are said to have been destroyed in a fire. Others are said to have been stolen or gone missing during Napoleon’s invasion. Rumors indicate some others remain hidden at the Royal Palace in Madrid.
We are going to stick with facts, and update this post as new credible information arises.
For starters, Spain does not have a Royal Crown, at least not in the physical sense. The crown is a heraldic symbol.
However, in recent centuries, the Royal Family has displayed a crown made during the 1700’s during extremely important events, including funerals and proclamations.
King Felipe displayed it during his own investiture ceremonies in 2014 at the Congress of the Deputies. It is not meant to be worn.
The public only got to see the crown on extremely rare occasions. But under the new King, Patrimonio Nacional — which holds royal collections and runs royal palaces — has put it on display.
In a glass display box next to the very large crown is Royal Scepter. It has been around since at least the 1700’s but it’s exact provenance is not known.
Queen Isabella used many of her jewels to impress foreign ambassadors during the late 1400’s. She also used them to help finance the Reconquista wars.
Isabella’s crown and scepter are on display near her resting place at a church in Granada, a prized city in her quest to take back control of the Iberian Peninsula from Muslim rulers.
During the 1800’s, Queen Isabella II gave her crown of topaz and diamonds to the Virgin of Atocha in Madrid. It is now part of the Royal Collections.
Generally, the jewels that members of the Spanish Royal Family wear today are considered privately owned. Queen Letizia and Queen Sofia hold several tiaras.
One of the tiaras belonged to Queen Maria Christina of Austria. Another was a gift from German Emperor Wilhelm II to Princess Victoria Louise of Prussia, Queen Sofia’s grandmother.
Another was a gift from Generalissimo Francisco Franco to Queen Sofia on the occasion of her marriage to King Juan Carlos.
Last year, Queen Letizia debuted a new tiara by Spanish jeweler Ansorena made of diamonds and pearls, and includes a Fleur-de-lis, a symbol of the House of Bourbon. It is said to be a gift from the King.
The story of the Peregrine pearl is an example of the complicated nature of Spanish royal jewels. It ended up in the hands of Elizabeth Taylor.
“La Peregrina”, a Cartier pearl, diamond and ruby necklace owned by US actress Elizabeth Taylor on display during a preview of The Collection of Elizabeth Taylor December 1, 2011 at Christie’s in New York. The jewelry in Taylor’s collection will go on sale December 13, this necklace is estimated at USD 2 million to 3 million. AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)
But Queen Sofia has been seen wearing a similar large pearl, and some royal watchers say the Peregrine remains in the family’s hands.