The Imperial State Crown of Great Britain, Tower of London. It incorporates the "Black Prince's Ruby", a 140 ct. Badakhshan spinel. This image of the crown was taken prior to the 1953 coronation, when the crown was modified for Queen Elizabeth II
State: worn by monarchs on other state occasions. (Note that similar headgear, worn by nobility and other high-ranking people below the ruler, is in English called a coronet, however in many languages the same word is used, e.g., French couronne, German Krone, Dutch kroon.)
Crown of King George XII of Georgia made of gold and decorated with 145 diamonds, 58 rubies, 24 emeralds and 16 amethysts. It took the form of a circlet surmounted by ornaments and eight arches. A globe surmounted by a cross rested on the top of the crown.
Perhaps the oldest extant Christian crown in Europe is the Iron Crown of Lombardy, of Roman and Longobard age, later again used to crown modern Kings of Napoleonic and Austrian Italy, and to represent united Italy after 1860.
In the Christian tradition of European cultures, where ecclesiastical sanction authenticates monarchic power, when a new monarch assumes the throne in a coronation ceremony, the crown is placed on the new monarch's head by a religious official. Some, though not all early Holy Roman Emperors travelled to Rome at some point in their careers to be crowned by the pope. Napoleon, according to legend, surprised Pius VII when he reached out and crowned himself, although in reality this order of ceremony had been pre-arranged: see coronation.
Special headgear to designate rulers dates back to pre-history, and is found in many separate civilizations around the globe. Commonly, rare and precious materials are incorporated into the crown, but that is only essential for the notion of crown jewels. Gold and precious jewels are common in western and oriental crowns. In the Native American civilizations of the Pre-ColumbianNew World, rare feathers, such as that of the quetzal, often decorated crowns; so too in Polynesia (e.g. Hawaii).
Coronation is often combined with other rituals, such as enthronement (the throne is as much a symbol of monarchy as the crown) and anointing (again religious sanction, the only defining act in the Biblical tradition of Israel).
In other cultures no crown is used in the equivalent of coronation, but the head may still be otherwise symbolically adorned, as a royal tikka in the Hindu tradition of India.
A crown is often an emblem of the monarchy, a monarch's government, or items endorsed by it. The word itself is used, particularly in Commonwealth countries, as an abstract name for the monarchy itself, as distinct from the individual who inhabits it (see The Crown). A specific type of crown (or coronet for lower ranks of peerage) is employed in heraldry under strict rules. Indeed, some monarchies never had a physical crown, just a heraldic representation, as in the constitutional kingdom of Belgium, where no coronation ever took place; the royal installation is done by a solemn oath in parliament, wearing a military uniform: the King is not acknowledged as by divine right, but assumes the only hereditary public office in the service of the law; so he in turn will swear in all members of "his" federal government.
Costume headgear imitating a monarch's crown is also called a crown. Such costume crowns may be worn by actors portraying a monarch, people at costume parties, or ritual "monarchs" such as the king of a Carnivalkrewe, or the person who found the trinket in a king cake.
The nuptial crown, sometimes called a coronal, worn by a bride, and sometimes the bridegroom, at her wedding is found in many European cultures since ancient times. In the present day it is most common in Eastern Orthodox cultures. The Eastern Orthodox marriage service has a section called the crowning, wherein the bride and groom are crowned as "king" and "queen" of their future household. In Greek weddings, the crowns are diadems usually made of white flowers, synthetic or real, often adorned with silver or mother of pearl. They are placed on the heads of the newlyweds and are held together by a ribbon of white silk. They are then kept by the couple as a reminder of their special day. In Slavic weddings, the crowns are usually made of ornate metal, designed to resemble an imperial crown, and are held above the newlyweds heads by their best men. A parish usually owns one set to use for all the couples that are married there since these are much more expensive than Greek-style crowns. This was common in Catholic countries in the past.
Crowns are also often used as symbols of religious status or veneration, by divinities (or their representation such as a statue) or by their representatives, e.g. the Black Crown of the Karmapa Lama, sometimes used a model for wider use by devotees.
The heraldic symbol of Three Crowns, referring to the three evangelical Magi (wise men), traditionally called kings, is believed thus to have become the symbol of the Swedish kingdom, but it also fits the historical (personal, dynastic) Kalmar Union (1397–1520) between the three kingdoms of Denmark, Sweden and Norway.
Dancers of certain traditional Thai dances often wear crowns on their head. These are inspired in the crowns worn by deities and kings.
Because one or more crowns, alone or as part of a more elaborate design, often appear on coins, several monetary denominations came to be known as 'a crown' (see Crown (British coin)) or the equivalent word in the local language, such as krone. This persists in the case of the national currencies of the Scandinavian countries and the Czech Republic. The generic term "crown sized" is frequently used for any coin roughly the size of an American silver dollar.