Is There A Difference Between A Tiara And A Crown?

When you hear the word "tiara" or "crown," images of royalty may instantly come to mind. According to Symbolism and Metaphor, kings, queens, princes, and princesses have worn bejeweled headpieces for centuries, known colloquially as crown jewels. These crown jewels are typically cast in precious metals to show their wealth, power, and sovereignty.

The terms are generally used interchangeably, but the two pieces of regalia are actually very different and used in different ways. The crown and tiara are part of the traditional garb worn by various members of royal families. According to the British Royal Family, these pieces are sometimes very symbolic and can even hold cryptic meanings.

Crowns and tiaras are donned by royalty all over the world, but what makes them physically different? Why would a king or queen, prince or princess, choose one headpiece over the other? It really has as much to do with the event that the royal is attending as to who is wearing it. 

The crown

Let's talk about crowns first. Proper crowns are only worn by the monarch and are not gender specific, according to Jewelry Shopping Guide. They are traditionally meant to be a physical display of their divine right to rule. The crown is most often used in situations that are meant to be a display of power or sovereignty, or the coronation of a new monarch, per Symbolism and Metaphor. These situations may include a coronation or the opening of Parliament, according to the British Royal Family.

Crowns differ from tiaras in other ways as well. Crowns are always built upon a base that is a full circle and covers the whole head, whereas a tiara is a semi-circle and only covers half the head per, Jewelry Shopping Guide. Crowns are also often brightly colored and incorporate multiple mediums, such as fabrics, precious metals, and different types of gems or crystals.

The tiara

Think of tiaras as the less formal and more fashionable younger sibling of the crown. Tiaras have a wider scope of wearability and the rules of wearing one are based more on tradition rather than proper etiquette, explains London jeweler, Geoffrey Munn, in an interview for Town & Country. Tiaras are worn by members of a royal family, other than the monarch, and are more of a piece of additional jewelry. They are not necessarily a symbol of divinity, per Jewelry Shopping Guide.

Tiaras are also worn for important social or political occasions, and not just religious ones. For example, Princess Margret famously wore her tiara here, there, and everywhere, including in the bathtub, as Town & Country explains. A member of a royal family often wears a tiara for the first time on their wedding day, like Princess Eugenie's wedding day tiara. 

Chances are you've even seen a tiara on someone you know as well. Whether being donned by a bride on her wedding day or on a beauty queen who has just won a pageant, tiaras have become just as much an over-the-top fashion statement as they are the epitome of royalty and glamour.