(ANSA) - Rome, 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 .
The legal questions to which Draghi referred reportdly concerned the right of the Bank to do anything at all with goods which had once been entrusted to it .
The central banker's thoughts came in response to a letter from centre-right MP Raffaele Costa, who had asked for the jewels to be dug out and put on show in Turin during the current Winter Olympics .
A first green light came from Rome prosecutors in 2002, when they said there was no longer any reason in national law why the jewels should remain buried in the Bank of Italy vaults .
Although the Italian constitution was recently changed to allow male Savoy heirs back into Italy, the section which put the family's belongings in the hands of the Republic remains in force .
Costa urged the Bank of Italy and the government to work quickly to overcome the lingering legal technicalities .
"It is vital to continue this initiative," he said, urging the Culture Ministry and the Premier's office to study "how the bank can respond to the request to bring the treasure of the Crown back into the light of day." Maria Gabriella di Savoia, one of the daughters of the last Italian king, apparently had no desire for the jewels to be returned to her family which is now based in Geneva .
She was quoted in Corriere della Sera on Tuesday as saying they should become the centre-piece of a permanent exhibition, along the lines of the Crown Jewels in London, because they were a "piece of Italian history" .
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Italian Crown Jewels