UK spruces up crown jewels for jubilee, Olympics

Wed Mar 28, 2012 10:57am EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's crown jewels, which include the fabled Koh-i-Nur diamond thought to bring bad luck to any male who wears it, have had a makeover in time for Queen Elizabeth's diamond jubilee celebrations and the Olympic Games in London this summer.

The display of crowns, orbs, sceptres and gowns has been upgraded at the Tower of London, with rooms darkened and jewels lit to accentuate their sparkle, and music and film footage placing them in their historical context.

"They've been displayed in a way that is fit for the 21st century," said curator Sally Dixon-Smith at a press preview of the royal collection, comfortably the main attraction for the tower's 2.5 million visitors each year.

"We are especially stressing how this is a living collection that is still in use. It's not just gold and jewels -- it means a lot more than that."

The exhibition, which opens on March 29 and has been sponsored by De Beers, focuses on the coronation, ordering the jewels and regalia to reflect the ceremony itself and explaining their symbolic importance.

The investiture of the monarch has been held in Westminster Abbey since 1066, and was last staged in 1953 when the current queen was crowned.

Newly restored footage of that occasion will be screened to complement the artefacts on display, and Handel's coronation anthems, including "Zadok the Priest", can be heard in each of the rooms as a unifying theme.

The queen's reign in fact began in 1952, and the "diamond jubilee" celebrating 60 years as monarch is expected to heighten the public's interest in all things royal.   Continued...

The Imperial State Crown is carried in for Britain's Queen Elizabeth during the annual State Opening of Parliament in London November 18, 2009. REUTERS/Toby Melville