As King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands wrap up their official visit to North America, let us learn more about their great nation through the wonder of jewelry.
Queen Maxima was born in Argentina and met the king during the 1999 Seville Spring Fair in Spain. His Majesty, who was inaugurated in April 2013 when his mother, the now-Princess Beatrix, abdicated in his favor. Willem-Alexander only introduced himself as “Alexander” at the time, Maxima recalled in an interview, and didn’t reveal his background until they had been dating for a bit.
The couple married in 2002, and have three daughters.
The Court Jeweller‘s Ella Kay answers my questions about the House of Orange’s most historically significant jewels.
The Duchess Diary: What is this lovely diamond set Maxima is wearing?
Ella Kay: The tiara is the family’s diamond bandeau, made of stones that were originally set in a necklace that belonged to Queen Emma. (She was the current king’s great-great grandmother.) Emma’s necklace was turned into a bandeau tiara by her daughter, Queen Wilhelmina, in the ’30s. It looks comparatively small — until you realize that the diamonds weigh in at more than 100 total carats! She’s also wearing Queen Wilhelmina’s diamond earrings.
TDD: What is the most exquisite piece of jewelry (in your opinion) that Maxima inherited from the Dutch royal family?
EK: Here’s the interesting thing about the Dutch royal jewel collection: the biggest, best pieces are held in trust, so most of the grand jewels that Máxima wears aren’t owned by her. They’re a part of the Orange-Nassau Foundation, which was set up to ensure that the jewel collection remained intact. It’s great, because pieces can be worn by many members of the family, so you’ll see pieces of historical jewelry popping up unexpectedly on people like the wives of the king’s cousins. But I think one of the grandest pieces in the entire foundation — and the best one Máx has worn so far — is the grand diamond and sapphire tiara that she wore at the king’s inauguration!
TDD: Tell me about this set Maxima wore to the Luxembourg pre-wedding gala in 2012.
EK: Here, Máxima is wearing pieces from the family’s Mellerio Ruby Parure. Queen Emma — the same one who owned the diamonds from the aforementioned bandeau — received the set as a Christmas gift from her husband, King Willem III, in 1889. The entire set is massive — it even includes a diamond and ruby encrusted fan! And it’s clearly an important set, because Máxima chose to wear the tiara for her first official portrait as queen. The necklace is one of my favorite pieces from the entire Dutch collection!
TDD: Ooh, what are these shiny pieces?
EK: This is the family’s diamond and aquamarine parure, which originally belonged to the current king’s grandmother, Queen Juliana. The set must have been incredibly sentimental for Juliana, because all of the pieces came from important people in her life. She received the Art Deco-style tiara from her parents, Queen Wilhelmine and Prince Hendrik, on her 21st birthday.
The necklace was an 18th birthday gift from her grandmother, Queen Emma. Her mother-in-law, Princess Armgard, gave her the earrings as a wedding present. And the brooch, which Máxima has pinned to her waist, was a wedding gift from her husband, Prince Bernhard.
TDD: I’m liking Maxima’s star tiara.
EK: This is Máxima’s wedding tiara! I like to call this one a “frankentiara,” because it’s cobbled together from other pieces of jewelry. The base belongs to the family’s Pearl Button Tiara, and the diamond stars belonged to Queen Emma. Máxima is the “Magpie of the Month” this May on my blog, The Court Jeweller, and I recently wrote all about the tiara — you can read about it here!