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Crown Jewels Redisplayed Ahead of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee

Zoe Craig
By Zoe Craig Last edited 57 months ago
Crown Jewels Redisplayed Ahead of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee
The front of the Jewel House has been smartened up, with a frehsly painted clock and improved flood lighting
The front of the Jewel House has been smartened up, with a frehsly painted clock and improved flood lighting
After this point, photography of any kind is really, really frowned upon...
After this point, photography of any kind is really, really frowned upon...
The Ampulla and Coronation Spoon, the oldest object in the collection.
The Ampulla and Coronation Spoon, the oldest object in the collection.
Sovereign's Sceptre with Dove, made in 1661. The dove symbolises the Holy Spirit. It's one of two sceptres held during the coronation ceremony.
Sovereign's Sceptre with Dove, made in 1661. The dove symbolises the Holy Spirit. It's one of two sceptres held during the coronation ceremony.
Mary II's Orb. William III and Mary wanted a joint coronation, so there were several smaller versions of the Crown Jewels created for Mary to hold.
Mary II's Orb. William III and Mary wanted a joint coronation, so there were several smaller versions of the Crown Jewels created for Mary to hold.
Queen Victoria's coronation ring. Being so petite, she had a new one made because the other coronation ring was too big. But they went the other way making this one too small, and the Archbishop had to force it onto her finger. The Queen noted in her diary: "I had the greatest difficulty to take it off again - which at last I did with great pain."
Queen Victoria's coronation ring. Being so petite, she had a new one made because the other coronation ring was too big. But they went the other way making this one too small, and the Archbishop had to force it onto her finger. The Queen noted in her diary: "I had the greatest difficulty to take it off again - which at last I did with great pain."
Queen Victoria's small diamond crown; the smallest in the collecton. It has no coloured stones, to match her mourning dress.
Queen Victoria's small diamond crown; the smallest in the collecton. It has no coloured stones, to match her mourning dress.
Queen Mary's Crown. Unlike the others, this crown contains eight half arches which can be removed and the crown can be worn as a circlet, making it the "convertible" of the bunch
Queen Mary's Crown. Unlike the others, this crown contains eight half arches which can be removed and the crown can be worn as a circlet, making it the "convertible" of the bunch
Imperial Crown of India. Not technically part of the Crown Jewels, this crown was specially made to feature in King George's Delhi Durbar because none of the other crown jewels are allowed to leave the UK. Think of this as a "travel crown".
Imperial Crown of India. Not technically part of the Crown Jewels, this crown was specially made to feature in King George's Delhi Durbar because none of the other crown jewels are allowed to leave the UK. Think of this as a "travel crown".
The Imperial State Crown: 2868 diamonds, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, five rubies and 273 pearls. It weighs 0.91kg and is 31.5cm tall. This is what the Queen wears at the State Opening of Parliament.
The Imperial State Crown: 2868 diamonds, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, five rubies and 273 pearls. It weighs 0.91kg and is 31.5cm tall. This is what the Queen wears at the State Opening of Parliament.

Like everything else in London at the moment (it seems), the Crown Jewels have had a polish ahead of the Diamond Jubilee later this year.

We headed to the Tower for a preview of their new display earlier this week. The exhibition has been enhanced with new lighting, video footage and stirring music. It tells the story of the jewels through their use in coronation ceremonies, so they're now laid out in the order they get put onto a new monarch: anointing spoon first, crown last. There's a fun King Rollo-esque animation of a coronation procession, and a slim, 3-minute highlights video of Queen Elizabeth's 3-hour-long crowning ceremony. Then you get to the objects themselves. The new display has been pared back; taking tips from today's jewellers, the Historic Royal Palaces' curators have tried to make the jewels "float and glow" with dark backgrounds and tiny supports.

They look incredible. Indeed, one of the most-asked questions of the staff is "Are they real?" Even the most cynical hacks in our party were impressed. And it's hard not to be when you're confronted with so many amazing diamonds in one place.

Here's a few facts you might not know about our Crown Jewels:

  • The heaviest coronation crown was William IV's at 3kgs (7lbs).
  • The oldest item in the collection is the silver gilt spoon. Hidden during Cromwell's smashing and melting spree, it's the only work to survive from the 12th century.
  • The largest cut diamond in the collection, and second largest in the world(over 530 carats), the Cullinan I is in the top of the Sceptre.
  • The lightest crown weighs just 145g (5.11oz) and belonged to Queen Victoria.
  • George V's Imperial Crown of India cost £60,000 to make: that's £4,530,137 in today's money. It was worn once.

If you're planning a visit, aside from the new display, there's another reason this year might be a good one. None of the items are to be used during the Diamond Jubilee celebrations: "it's not that kind of event," said our guide, rather disdainfully. So, if you steer clear of feast days (Christmas, Easter) and the State Opening of Parliament (May), you should avoid seeing those annoying "In Use" markers instead of the actual object.

Because these are the real, working Crown Jewels on display. Not replicas.

The Crown Jewels are on display at the Tower of London, Tower Hill, London, EC3. Entrance costs £20.90 for adults; £17.60 for concessions; £10.45 for children under 16. Visit www.hrp.org.uk to find out more.

Last Updated 30 March 2012