A little girl nowadays ‘needs’ a princess dress and a little golden crown on her head. And the dress is pink, period. All the little girls want to go to school in their princess dresses and they play that they are a princess. No idea, where this trend in the Netherlands comes from, maybe fairy tales. I have no idea.
The idea is that she is standing out of the crowd. The same as a king or queen wants. In one way or another, the crown is one of the royal regalia and the most important one. In all cultures, important and powerful people wear something special on their heads. And the crown is designed to look high and mighty. Since it is most of the time a high kind of head, the person wearing it looks larger.
You might think, the king wears a crown, because it is higher and heavy, and the queen has to settle with a tiara. Not very gender-friendly thought, but most of the royals are not that progressive, are they?
But what is the difference between a crown and a tiara, and who is wearing a crown? Are men wearing a tiara or only a crown? So many questions… in this blog, I will answer them (I hope, otherwise let me know and I will continue my research).
Who is wearing what headdress?
The other members of the royal families wear coronets (smaller and more simple crowns) or a tiara. The other people are not allowed (according to the traditions) to wear a crown or a tiara unless you are a bride or a married royal woman. But there are exceptions:
In the English royal family, you are allowed to wear a tiara when you are a princess, and when you are single. Kate Middleton (now wife of Prince William) and Megan Markle (now married to Prince Harry) did not wear a tiara before their wedding day, since before that they were not a princess.
The crown princess of The Netherlands, Princess Amalia, is not allowed to wear a tiara before her 18th birthday. We know that she loves tiaras, and she is just turned 18. We are really curious which tiara she is going to wear first. Let us be honest… she has a lot of tiaras to choose from.
And another exception is of course all the little girls in The Netherlands (and maybe elsewhere too) dreaming about being a Princess and will not ask permission to wear a little crown or tiara to accomplish the pink princess dress.
Differences in design
A crown is a full circle, and they are taller and larger than a tiara. A tiara is only part of a circle and you wear a tiara a bit backward on your head (about 45 grades), while a crown stands right on your head, otherwise, you will lose it.
Crowns have more color in the material they are made from, and also fabric and fur can be added. A tiara had a somewhat more simple design, but there can be a lot of gemstones and pearls in a tiara.
A famous example is the British Imperial State Crown, which is made of 33 sapphires, spinel, rubies, emeralds, 2800 diamonds, 273 pearls, purple velvet, and fur. And… the 105-carat Koh-I-Noor diamond. I weigh some 2.3 kilos or 5 pounds and I have pity with Queen Elisabeth II when she has to wear it. You can have a closer look at this jewel in the Jewel House of the Tower in London.
And some more differences
A crown is a representation of power, royal status, and authority and a tiara is a symbol for someone who belongs to the royal family or a bride.
A tiara is worn by ladies, never by men. But a crown can be worn by men and women when they are a queen or a king. The designs of both headdresses vary due to tradition, taste, and location. But nearly everywhere the design of a crown is circular and from every angle, it looks the same. A tiara is semi-circular as already mentioned with a focus on the front.
More in detail: the crown
The word ‘crown’ means the item on top of the king’s head. And it means the monarchy itself. When you become a king you get all kinds of symbols of your power, like a sword, or a scepter, a special ring, and a crown. With the exception of the Belgium king. He swears that he serves his people before parliament. That’s all.
Rich, richer, richest
Since the king is a very special and important person, the symbol of this power is special too. In the Western world, his royal hat is made of gold, silver, and a fur base (more comfortable), decorated with beautiful and extraordinary gemstones. The English crown has a very famous diamond on top of it, the Koh-i-Noor. That is one of the largest cut diamonds in the world. A nice present from India.
But when in a certain culture another metal or item is valuable people use that to decorate crowns. Like in Indonesia one of the kings uses a silk head with an enormous diamond brooch on it. The king of Lesotho has a silver one full of diamonds in the shape of a woven-grass rain hat.
The king of the Yoruba people has a yellow piece, made of beads. And he has one made of a fabric cap decorated with agate beads.
Starting a ‘crown’ tradition
Since the pre-history rules wear special headgear to show their power. And since that time on that special headgear is made of valuable materials of items. The Native American chiefs of kings had headgear of valuable feathers. In Antiquity, they use golden leaves in the shape of a diadem to stand out like a king or leader. Old civilizations that lived between the Eufrat and the Tigris wear double crowns and the Romans have a diadem.
One of the oldest Christian crowns in Europe is the Iron Crown of Lombardy. Iron in those days is a very rare material and therefore a perfect base for crowns.
The loss of crowns
A monarchy is a way to rule a country and in Europe, there are times people reject the monarchy. And therefore all the symbols (like the regalia) of that rejected monarchy.
In the French Revolution, the king does not survive and the Republic that gets the power sold the French Crown Jewels in 1885. For historical reasons, one of the crowns survives and with the glass beads that replace the gemstones, it is in the Louvre. The Spanish Crown Jewels are destroyed in a big fire and the Irish Crown Jewels are stolen in 1907 from Dublin Castle.
The European kings or queens that are still in office have one (yes only one) royal hat. And that royal hat is used over and over again. It is sometimes owned by the people and sometimes belongs to the heritage of the king’s family.
A lot of replicas in the world are in the Diamond Museum in Amsterdam. It is fascinating to see what material people during time think is suitable to use to make a crown. Fascinating to see how rich European royal families are or once were. The craftsmanship of cutting and polishing the beautiful gemstones and precious metals used.
Enjoy looking at these treasures and know that nowadays the real power is to the people and the kings/queens work for us.
If you see a crown as a piece of jewelry designed to make a king or queen look high and mighty then you can say that this royal hat doesn’t accentuate his or her best features, but her or his social position. Actually, that is what all pieces of jewelry do: accentuate your social position or your best features.
Say you are a king or queen and you have to wear a crown on regular occasions and that ‘thing’ is heavy and does not suit you, because it is too big for you. But it is tradition, so no arguments, just wear the bl… thing. But you are so lucky that you can choose to wear the pieces of jewelry, that make you beautiful, give you confidence, and are comfortable.
More in detail: the tiara
Like every little girl, I love to play ‘princess’ in my childhood. Wearing a beautiful princess dress and of course a tiara. And to finish it properly my brother is my staff in my play taking care that I am comfortable. A few weeks ago I visit a great exhibition about the Russian jewels in Amsterdam. There I discover that wearing a tiara is no fun at all!
The word ‘tiara’ is used wrong.
The word ‘tiara’ comes from the Persian word ‘tara’. That is a high hat made of fabric or leather decorated with gold, silver, and gemstones. Kings and priests wear a hat like that and the design is used for the hat of the Pope. But royals don’t wear this kind of head decoration.
You call a hair decoration, made of gemstones, precious metals, and pearls a ‘diadem’. Most of the royals wear it in their hair on special occasions. You use in English, the word ‘tiara’ for the hat of the clergy and kings. And for the hair jewelry of the queens and high-ranked ladies.
To make it easier for the English-speaking readers in this blog post I use the word ‘tiara’ for the hair jewelry.
A tiara is beautiful but a burden.
The tiara has the function of a kind of crown for women. Men’s crowns are not elegant and it is important that the crown can be seen from a distance by ordinary people. A crown is mostly worn only at the inauguration of the king (or queen when she is becoming the ‘head of state’).
A queen wants to show that she is a queen. And wants a crown or tiara that stands out in the crowd. That hair jewel is made of gold or silver, decorated with pearls and gemstones, and is heavy, very heavy. It is a challenge to keep that jewel straight on your head. That takes a lot of pins to keep it in your hair. Some queens complain that those pins are real torture. And cause sometimes a severe headache.
In the Netherlands you have a phrase ‘wie mooi wil zijn, moet pijn lijden’ or in English ‘no pain, no gain’. Well wearing this hair jewel is the best example of ‘no pain, no gain’.
At the inauguration or crowning of King Edward VII, one of his guests wants to visit the bathroom. While she bends forward the hair jewel fall off her head and ended in the toilet. It takes a lot of trouble to get that very expensive piece of jewelry out of there. And after cleaning she joins the nobility to attend the crowning of the new king.
At most royal weddings, like the one of Harry and Megan, the bride has a very long train and veil, attached to the tiara. You have to be sure that all the fabric and jewel itself stays on your head. It takes a lot of pins to stick the jewelry properly in the hair of the bride. Stephanie of Luxembourg, marrying the grand duke feels her tiara moving backward during her wedding day. Can you imagine how she feels at that moment?
The do’s and don’ts
Not everyone can wear such a gorgeous head jewel. There are a lot of do’s and don’ts especially when you are a member of a royal family. First of all, you have to be married or you are going to be married, to wear it. It is seen as a symbol of losing your innocence to the crowing of love.
They are not a symbol of certain inherited status, but it is a tradition. The occasion where you wear it is important. You should wear it a bit backward, about 45 degrees from just behind your ears up. That is not really easy when your hair is smooth and fine. The trick seems to be not to wash your hair before wearing a tiara. Then it keeps in place, together with a lot of pins.
Some tiaras are reassembled from a necklace or other piece of jewelry, already owed by the family, and royal families tend to lend this jewel to other family members on special occasions. A tiara is more a family-owned piece of jewelry than a personal piece in your own jewelry box.
It is not practical
My advice is to skip the tiara as a piece of jewelry you have to have. It is not comfortable and you don’t have to wear it. You are probably not a queen or high-ranked noblewoman. When you want to decorate your hair there are lovely hats and hairpieces decorated with flowers. And when you want to show off with gemstones and precious metals on your head, you better use a brooch on your head. Or… where gorgeous statement earrings.
Nobody nowadays thinks that wearing a tiara is a thing to do: fun or no fun. Maybe when you are getting married, or a little girl playing ‘princess’. But it is not a custom piece of jewelry. And even when you think about buying one, do you know whether a tiara makes you more beautiful? Or do you know what necklaces look great on you? What earrings match your eyes perfectly.
It is good to know what jewelry accentuates your best features and how to camouflage your minor features with the right jewelry. For instance, if you have short arms and you want them to look longer you should wear a lot of stacked bracelets of the same color or shades of that same color. There are so many other tips to camouflage or accentuate your features with the right jewelry.
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