09 February 2021

Royal Orange Sparkle: Queen Maxima's Engagement Ring

FRANK VAN BEEK/ANP/AFP via Getty Images


A royal woman as exuberant and fun as Queen Maxima of the Netherlands needs jewelry to match her personality. Today, we're looking at the bright and unusual diamond engagement ring given to her by King Willem-Alexander.


MARCEL ANTONISSE/ANP/AFP via Getty Images


Máxima Zorreguieta Cerruti was 27 when she attended the annual Spring Fair in Seville, Spain in April 1999. There, she met a young man who introduced himself simply as "Alexander." When he told her later that he was a prince—and the future king of the Netherlands—she thought he was joking. But they hit it off, promising to meet a few weeks later in New York, where she was working for a bank. Maxima and her prince, who was 32 when they met, kept their relationship quiet for several months. They appeared in public together for the first time in September 1999.

By 2001, the relationship had become very serious, and the couple decided that they wanted to marry. Maxima, who was born in Buenos Aires, already spoke several languages, began learning Dutch. But her family background caused issues when Willem-Alexander approached the government about a possible marriage. Maxima's father, Jorge Zorreguieta, had served as a cabinet minister to an Argentine dictator, Jorge Rafael Videla. Zorreguieta's connections to a regime that had committed atrocities against the Argentine people were unacceptable to the Dutch government. Some members of the Dutch press argued that Prince Willem-Alexander should have to renounce his rights to the throne to marry Maxima.

Willem-Alexander's parents, Queen Beatrix and Prince Claus, gave their support to the prospective marriage. Beatrix even posed for official birthday photographs with the couple during the negotiations. (Several decades earlier, they had faced similar questions over Claus's German background before their marriage was approved.) Willem-Alexander tried to defend Maxima and her family on television, earning him a rare public rebuke from the country's prime minister, who "asked him to keep quiet" about the issue. Public opinion sided with the young couple, and the government ultimately relented—with the caveat that, although she had not done anything wrong herself, Maxima would have to distance herself from her father, who would not be allowed to attend the royal wedding, which took place in February 2002.


OLIVER BERG/AFP/Getty Images


The engagement was officially announced in The Hague on March 30, 2001. The couple appeared in a televised press conference with Queen Beatrix and Prince Claus, during which Maxima spoke in Dutch. The press conference gave the world the first glimpse of Maxima's engagement ring, which features a rare orange diamond. 

Willem-Alexander had turned to Steltman, a Dutch jewelry firm, to make the special ring. The centerpiece of the white gold ring is an unusual oval-cut orange diamond, which is flanked by a pair of emerald-cut white diamonds. Two rows of pave-set diamonds hug the central portion of the ring.


Michel Porro/Getty Images


Here's a side view of the ring. Maxima's rings often twist on her hands, and so we're able to see the details of the piece from more than one angle. The engagement ring features three separate bands connected together, and the fourth band pictured is her wedding ring.


LEX VAN LIESHOUT/AFP/Getty Images


While many royals wear their engagement ring exclusively on one hand (usually the left), Maxima has been photographed wearing her ring on both her left and right hands. This may be because of the blended traditions that Maxima and Willem-Alexander have brought to their family. In the Netherlands, Catholic people often wear their rings on their left hands, while Protestants often wear the rings on their right hands. Willem-Alexander is Protestant, while Maxima was raised in the Catholic Church. Above, Maxima wears her engagement and wedding rings together on her left hand.


MERLIN DALEMAN/AFP/Getty Images


And here, you'll note that the rings have been switched to her right hand. She also changes the way she stacks the rings, wearing them with the wedding band placed on either side of the engagement ring. You'll spot her wearing them in a different order in many of the photos included in this article.


Michel Porro/Getty Images


The center stone of the ring is something of a marvel. Orange diamonds are among the rarest in the world. The choice of the color was deliberate: it references the House of Orange-Nassau, which is the name of the Dutch royal dynasty. The title bestowed on the heir to the Dutch throne is Prince (or Princess) of Orange, and Willem-Alexander was Prince of Orange at the time of their engagement and wedding. The name of the royal house is a reference to a place (the town of Orange, which is in Avignon in the south of France), not the fruit or the color, but the family understandably later adopted the color orange as one of their symbols. Maxima wears lots of clothing and jewelry in the color orange, but this ring is perhaps one of the most special and valuable of all the orange pieces that she owns.


WESLEY DE WIT/AFP via Getty Images


Along with her engagement ring, Queen Maxima also wears numerous other rings, including three more that were given to her by her husband. All three of the rings could easily be mistaken for engagement rings, but they're actually presents that were given to Maxima to celebrate the births of the couple's three daughters. 

After the birth of Princess Amalia (who is now Princess of Orange) in December 2003, Willem-Alexander presented Maxima with this lovely ring, which features a ruby flanked by a pair of diamonds.


Daniel Leal-Olivas - WPA Pool/Getty Images


Following the birth of their second daughter, Princess Alexia, in June 2005, Willem-Alexander added another ring to Maxima's collection. This jewel features another orange center stone, but it's not an orange diamond. The gemstone, which is a pinkish-orange color, is reportedly a padparadscha sapphire. (That's the same gemstone featured in Princess Eugenie's engagement ring.) The center stone is hugged by three rows of diamonds on either side.


Andreas Rentz/Getty Images


The couple's third daughter, Princess Ariane, was born in April 2007. To celebrate her addition to the family, Willem-Alexander gave his wife a gorgeous diamond ring. The ring features a large emerald-cut diamond flanked by two smaller stones. It's very similar in design to the engagement ring worn by the Duchess of Cornwall.


AAMIR QURESHI/AFP via Getty Images


But while Maxima wears these three rings and others, her engagement ring is still the one spotted most often on her hands, with its easy-to-spot orange diamond sparkling away.