Members of Italy’s former royal family have begun negotiations with the Italian authorities in an attempt to recover the crown jewels of the House of Savoy. The jewels have been in a vault in the Bank of Italy for the last 76 years.
The jewels consist of more than 6,000 diamonds and 2,000 pearls on brooches, earrings, tiaras and necklaces. They are estimated to be worth around €300 million. The jewels were placed in safekeeping at the bank on 5 June 1946 by Falcone Lucifero, the minister of the Royal House, on the orders of King Umberto II. The Italian people had voted in favour of a republic in a referendum three days earlier, and the King went into exile.
A request for the return of the jewels was submitted by Sergio Orlandi, a lawyer for the House of Savoy, last November and rejected by the Bank of Italy, which replied: “The request for restitution cannot be accepted, taking into account the responsibilities of the depositor.”
However, the family is confident that the jewels will eventually be returned, and they quote the terms of the deposit, which said they were to be held “at the disposal of those who have right” and that they represented “the so-called jewels belonging to the crown of the realm.” The jewels were never confiscated by the Italian state.
The male heirs of the House of Savoy were not allowed to re-enter Italy until 2002, and the former King lived in exile in Portugal. He died in Geneva in 1983 at the age of 78. His grandson, Emanuele Filiberto, said it was ridiculous that the jewels had been locked in a bank vault for so many years.
“It would be wonderful to show the Italian people the private treasures of the House of Savoy, which belonged to kings and queens, as happens in the Tower of London. It could also be important for the country’s income if we think of their tourism appeal,” he said.