How Much Are the British Crown Jewels Worth—and Who Gets Them Now?
The British crown jewels and Queen Elizabeth II's private jewelry collection are worth billions—here's who will inherit these treasures
As the world mourns the loss of Queen Elizabeth II, who died at Balmoral Castle on Sept. 8, 2022, questions abound about what will happen to the crown jewels, a dazzling collection of crowns, scepters, orbs, medals and rings handed down by British monarchs throughout history. Most notable were Queen Elizabeth II‘s tiaras, which she wore at state banquets, diplomatic receptions and galas.
“Now that King Charles III is the new monarch, they will pass directly to him,” says Lauren Kiehna, historian and writer of the website The Court Jeweller. As she explains, the British crown jewels are part of the Royal Collection, and they are not owned by the state.
Fascination over the royal regalia is not surprising. But what many people may not realize is that the queen also had a personal collection of jewelry and gemstones worth millions of dollars, part of what made Queen Elizabeth’s net worth so high. Who in the royal family tree will wear and be bequeathed these treasures is anyone’s guess. Here’s a look at both collections, including how much they’re worth and which of Queen Elizabeth’s grandchildren and extended family members are likely to get what.
What are the British crown jewels?
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The crown jewels of the United Kingdom symbolize the monarch’s right and authority to sit on the throne. They are a collection of more than 100 royal ceremonial objects and more than 23,000 gemstones that have been acquired by English kings and queens, most since 1660. These crown jewels include regalia used at coronations, crowns acquired by various monarchs, church and banqueting plates, insignia, robes and a unique collection of medals and royal christening fonts.
There are strict rules surrounding the crown jewels, and only three people in the world are allowed to touch them: the current monarch (that’s now King Charles III), the Archbishop of Canterbury and the crown jeweler.
For more than 800 years, the crown jewels have lived in the Tower of London. And they’re kept under close guard, leaving the fortress only for official portraits and ceremonial events, like coronations, royal baptisms and the opening of British Parliament.
How much are the British crown jewels worth?
An almost priceless collection, the royal crown jewels are worth anywhere from $1.2 to $5.8 billion. Here are the most well known (and valuable) of the bunch.
St. Edward’s Crown
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One of the most important pieces in the crown jewels of England, St. Edward’s Crown leaves the Tower of London for coronation ceremonies. Charles will wear it when he’s crowned king, fitting, since his namesake had a hand in its creation.
Charles II commissioned the crown in 1661. It is made of nearly 5 pounds of solid gold set with more than 444 precious and semi-precious stones. The velvet cap wears an ermine trim, and a diamond-set cross pattée sits atop a sphere at the intersection of the arches. It’s worth an estimated $57 million. It was last used to crown a young Queen Elizabeth in 1953.
The queen wore the St. Edward’s Crown for only a few moments. At more than 5 pounds, it’s quite heavy and cumbersome. “You can’t look down to read the speech—you have to take the speech up,” Elizabeth told the Smithsonian Channel. “Because if you did, your neck would break and [the crown] would fall off.”
Imperial State Crown
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A monarch will wear this crown—which was placed on the coffin of the late Queen Elizabeth II in tribute—when leaving Westminster Abbey after the coronation. It’s also appropriate for other state occasions, including the annual opening of Parliament.
It remains to be seen whether Charles will use it for his own coronation. According to the Historic Royal Palaces charity, the Imperial State Crown is made of gold and set with 2,868 diamonds, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, 269 pearls and 4 rubies. It contains some of the most famous gems in the world, including the Black Prince’s Ruby, the 104-carat Stuart Sapphire and the 105.6-carat Cullinan II diamond.
It was made for the coronation of Elizabeth’s father, King George VI, in 1937, replacing the crown made for Queen Victoria in 1838. Today, jewelry experts estimate the crown is worth a stunning $3.4 to $5.7 billion.
The Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross
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The government of the Transvaal in South Africa gifted a spectacular African diamond of more than 3,000 carats to King Edward VII as a birthday gift in 1905. Amsterdam jeweler Royal Asscher cut the magnificent diamond into nine large stones and almost 100 smaller brilliants.
Today, the nine larger diamonds, collectively known as the Cullinan Diamonds, are used in a variety of pieces—seven as part of the queen’s personal collection and the remaining two as part of the crown jewels. The most magnificent of all was placed in the Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross in 1910 for George V.
The bejeweled golden scepter has been used at every coronation since Charles II’s in 1661. It weighs 3 pounds and is laden with 333 diamonds, 31 rubies, 15 emeralds, 7 sapphires and other precious gemstones. Most notably, though, it includes the Great Star of Africa—also known as the Cullinan I, the largest clear-cut diamond in the world. It’s a whopping 530.2 carats!
The Cullinan I alone is worth an estimated $400 million. Considering the value of the gemstones, the sceptre is likely worth several million dollars more.
The Sovereign’s Orb
The Sovereign’s Orb is a hollow gold sphere with a band of emeralds, rubies and sapphires. Topped with a cross, it serves to remind the monarch that their power comes from God. During the coronation, the sovereign holds the orb in their right hand.
When Charles I had the orb made in 1661, he spent 1,150 pounds on it. That’s the equivalent of nearly $290,000 today. But the orb itself is worth much more because of its historical significance and the value of its gold and gemstones.
How much is Queen Elizabeth’s personal jewelry collection worth?
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The crown jewels aren’t the only gems stoking envy across the world: There’s also Elizabeth’s private jewelry collection. It includes diamond tiaras, necklaces and brooches, and experts estimate its worth is in the millions.
“Nearly every piece of jewelry in the queen’s collection has significance, including sentimental gifts from family members, diplomatic presents from foreign leaders and anniversary tributes from organizations and individuals,” says Kiehna. “She owned and wore jewels that belonged to Queen Adelaide, Queen Victoria, Queen Alexandra, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, the queen mother.”
Here’s a look at some of her most valuable jewels.
The King Faisal Diamond Necklace
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Famed jeweler Harry Winston designed this 84-carat diamond necklace, which the late King Faisal of Saudi Arabia gave to the queen in 1967. She frequently wore it herself but also lent it to the late Princess Diana and Sophie, Countess of Wessex.
The Nizam of Hyderabad Necklace
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The Nizam of Hyderabad, the ruler of a former Indian state, gifted Elizabeth this stunning platinum necklace, set with 300 diamonds, in 1947. That’s the year India—a former British colony—gained independence and was partitioned into India and Pakistan.
The Nizam of Hyderabad Necklace is one of the most valuable necklaces in the queen’s collection, with an estimated worth of $76.3 million, according to Market Realist.
The Lover’s Knot Tiara
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Who could forget the tiara with diamonds and dangling pearls? Elizabeth inherited the tiara from her grandmother, Queen Mary, when she died. But the piece gain worldwide fame when the queen loaned it to her then-daughter-in-law, Princess Diana. It left the spotlight until, years later, Princess Kate (then the Duchess of Cambridge) wore it to a royal reception. The tiara is so well known that the Royal Canadian Mint even has a collector’s coin featuring elements of it.
Though we don’t know exactly how much the stunning tiara is worth, jewelry experts have estimated it’s in the $1 million to $2 million range.
The Diamond Diadem
If Queen Elizabeth was known for one thing (other than her royal corgis), it was her A-plus accessories game. She wore this item on the way to her coronation in 1953, and it certainly made a statement. The heirloom, which belonged to King George IV, is made of silver and gold and set with 1,333 diamonds and 169 pearls. If you look closely, you’ll see a rose, a thistle and two shamrocks in the design—the national emblems of England, Scotland and Ireland.
The Williamson Pink Diamond Brooch
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The queen’s Williamson Pink Diamond Brooch holds the largest pink diamond in the world, valued at about $28.7 million, Kiehna says. The diamond was discovered in 1947 in a Tanzania mine owned by Canadian geologist John Williamson. He gave the queen the uncut, 54.5-carat diamond as a wedding gift, though she later had it cut and added to a diamond brooch.
Ever notice the queen wearing a platinum brooch in the shape of a flower? If you can look past the bling—it features more than 200 diamonds—you’ll notice the pink diamond in the center. This, as you’ve probably guessed, is the Williamson Pink Diamond Brooch.
Who gets to wear the jewels?
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The crown jewels are part of the Royal Collection, which the monarch doesn’t personally own. (It’s worth noting, however, that there’s debate as to whether Britain owns the pieces at all. Many were stolen from countries Britain colonized.) The Royal Collection is held in trust by the queen or king for the nation. That said, the royals don’t let just anybody wear the crown jewels.
Experts expect that Charles will wear the crowns that have adorned the heads of England’s monarchs for centuries during his coronation ceremony and during state ceremonies and galas. Camilla, the former Dutchess of Cornwall and now the Queen Consort, is likely to be crowned alongside her husband in Westminster Abbey. In the past, Queen Consorts have had their own crowns made for such occasions, but she’ll most likely wear the late queen’s St. Edward’s Crown.
As for Elizabeth’s personal treasures, experts believe that will also end up with Charles. “The new king is also likely to inherit Queen Elizabeth II’s entire private jewelry collection,” says Kiehna. “And I think he will follow in his mother’s footsteps by loaning out pieces to various family members rather than gifting jewels outright.” That means King Charles III will be the one who ultimately decides which royal family members and other relatives can borrow jewelry from this private collection.
We may see the Queen Consort and the Princess of Wales wearing small pieces from Elizabeth’s collection, perhaps brooches to start. “Eventually, we’ll see them wear some of the grand tiaras and necklaces for gala occasions, like state banquets,” Kiehna predicts.
The main reason all the jewelry is likely going to King Charles III? Under British law, the monarch doesn’t have to pay an inheritance tax on these items. No other royal family member would be exempt from that tax.
Additional reporting by Kimberly Holland.
- Lauren Kiehna, historian and writer of The Court Jeweller
- Historical Royal Palaces: “The Crown Jewels”
- UK Royals: “The Royal Collection”
- UK Royals: “The Crown Jewels”
- Yahoo Life: “Queen’s Imperial crown: How much is it worth and will King Charles wear it?”
- Royal Asscher: “The Cullinan”
- Market Realist: “Queen Elizabeth II Has Died But Her Most Valuable Jewels Will Pass On”
- Royal Canadian Mint: “1 oz. Pure Silver Coin”
- Independent: “Queen’s Diamond Diadem to go on show at Buckingham Palace”