Gemstones were the traditional symbols of wealth and authority for those in power. Decorating crowns and royal regalia with gemstones became an extension of that tradition. It was also an opportunity for an empire or state to display the fine craftsmanship produced by its goldsmiths and jewelers. Crowns became traditional regalia for royal coronations and ceremonies.
Nowadays the crowns of monarchs and their imperial empires of the past no longer represent the power and authority imposed by the state as they once did. They are often considered ostentatious, purely for pomp and ceremony. However in western culture they remind us of our past imperial glory. We view them in museums and admire their craftsmanship and artistry which is unparalleled for their time. Moreover we are reminded of our history and those who ruled over us, be it with capability or ineptitude.
The crown of the Empress Kunigunde.
The Kunigunde Crown: One of the earliest known royal symbols is the Kunigunde crown. The crown belonged to the wife of the Emperor Henry II of Bavaria, the Empress Kunigunde. This crown was made around the early 10th century before Bavaria became a kingdom. It doesn’t look like a typical crown; in fact one might say it is reminiscent of a wreath. In the 14th century a second crown was added to this one in order to make the crown appear more regal. However it was later removed and the way it is pictured here is in fact how it would have originally looked. The principle gemstones in this crown are the large sapphires, which were believed to symbolize the wisdom of god. There are also amethysts, pearls, carnelians, peridots and topazes. This crown is on display at the Treasure Chamber at the Munich Residency.
King Maximillian I Joseph, never wore his crown.
The Crown of King Maximillian I Joseph of Bavaria: After Bavaria became a kingdom in 1806, King Maximilian I Joseph had crowns made for himself and his wife. This crown also features a large Sapphire below its cross. However for certain occasions the blue sapphire was exchanged for a blue diamond. This act of pomp is one of the few interesting facts about this crown, which was considered merely symbolic and was never actually worn by any king. The crown was created by a Parisian master goldsmith called Biennais. It features five bands with alternating rubies and emeralds as well as pearls and diamonds. The crown is kept at the Munich Residency.
The crown of king Maximillian I Joseph
The crown of the Emperor Rudolf II (Crown of the Philosopher)The Emperor Randolph II had this impressive crown made for the throne of the imperial German Empire in 1602. The crown was made in Prague which is where the emperor resided. This gold crown is lavishly decorated with pearls, alternating with diamonds at its base. It features four fleurs-de-lis style tips with colored gemstones and pearls. Once again a large sapphire is set at the top of the crown, only this time above a small cross. King Randolph II wore this crown for all his official duties and after his death it was inherited by the house of Hapsburg. Later Austria became an empire and the crown is now at the Secular Treasury in Vienna.
The crown of the philosopher.
The Crown of the Prince of Transylvania, Istvan Bocskay
Istvan Bocskay, the leader of the Hungarian Protestants, was known as the rebel prince because he led an uprising against the Emperor Randolph II. This crown was given to him by the Ottoman Empire in 1605. The helmet style crown was made in Turkey from gold. It has niello engraving; a style that originates from Egypt and is still popular today. The gemstones are turquoise and pearls with alternating emeralds and rubies.
The crown of Istvan Bocskay, Prince of Transylvania.
Please see part 2 for more famous crowns of Europe.
photos from photobucket.com