Confession—I was never the Homecoming Queen in high school—just not that popular. So, the only crown I’ve ever worn is on my back tooth. Actually, I have several gold dental crowns---which, despite the number, doesn’t make me royalty. It just means that if I give a big yawn, it can be shiny. Of course, the value of my gold crowns doesn’t quite compare to the value of real crowns worn by monarchs past and present.
Imagine 5,000 diamonds (well, 4,936 to be exact). Now imagine having to design and place each diamond individually in a pattern to create a crown for a queen. That’s what two Swiss jewelers working for the Russian royal court had to do for the coronation of Catherine the Great. Throw in 74 pearls and some other precious stones and see what that thing weighs. As Shakespeare once wrote, “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.” (Henry IV Pt 2). No wonder.
Catherine the Great, who you may recall (or not), bumped off her husband Alexander to take over the throne. She wanted a fancy headpiece for her coronation in 1762—though not too heavy. According to one source, she requested that it weigh no more than 4 pounds. And since it was not finished for her coronation, that may be what it weighed then.
Catherine was queen for 34 years. When she died in 1796, the crown was passed down to 7 more Czars over the next 121 years. Her great, great, great grandson was the last to wear it. It was valued at over $52 million at one time. Although no one has worn it since the Bolsheviks ended the Russian monarchy in 1917, it is kept safe in Moscow. The current weight is reported to be more than 9 pounds. Has anyone seen Putin wearing it around? Special headpieces for rulers have been worn throughout history as symbols of power and authority and glory. Egyptian pharaohs, African tribal leaders, Asian and European royalty have worn some version of the crown. And Native American feathered headpieces were like crowns for the best warriors and chiefs. Even Christ’s crown of thorns is seen by many as a symbol of power and glory.
We in the U.S. haven’t had a monarchy since we sent King George packin’ in 1776. However, we do have a few royal crowns and tiaras lying around. Most are replicas or remodeled versions of European originals. Marjorie Merriweather Post, the cereal heiress, loved expensive jewelry and owned many pieces. The Marie Louise Diadem, a tiara worn by Napoleon’s second wife, was purchased by Post and donated to the Smithsonian. It is on display at the Natural History Museum where a far more famous jewel is also kept. The Hope Diamond.
Shakespeare also stated that “My crown is in my heart, not on my head.” I agree with him, except that I also have a few crowns IN my head as well, thanks to my dentist.