The Italian Almanac

wearing royal jewels

Italian News - February 14

Priceless jewels which once belonged to Italy's royal family could soon emerge from the dusty vault where the Bank of Italy has kept them for nearly 60 years.

The 'Savoy Treasure' consists of regal jewelry encrusted with thousands of pearls, diamonds and other precious stones, some of which date back to the early 19th century. It includes a double string of diamonds which contains 1,859 diamonds and forms the Savoy House's ancient knot symbol. There is also a ten-string pearl necklace containing 684 pearls given by King Umberto I (1878-1900) to his consort Queen Margherita and a famous pink diamond which once belonged to a Sicilian ally of Napoleon.

Central bank governor Mario Draghi said the 'treasure' of the House of Savoy could be brought out and perhaps put on display as soon as a few unresolved legal problems were attended to. Draghi suggested that the Culture Ministry and the premier's office look at the question in order to overcome what he called the "legal limitations weighing on the deposit".

The chestful of jewels was placed in the Bank of Italy in 1946 when Italy's last king, Umberto II, left the country in the wake of a referendum which abolished the monarchy. The dethroned monarch entrusted the treasure to the bank along with a note saying "To be returned to the rightful owner." There has been debate over whether he meant his own family or the Italian people.