One of the facts that I have always found most intriguing about the royal family is that no one knows how many tiaras they actually have squirrelled away.
Crowns? Sure. They are stashed in the Tower of London for paying tourists from Des Moines to gawp at, but when it comes to getting the full measure of just how vast the house of Windsor's trove of priceless baubles, it's a guessing game.
Not only, over the years, have they acquired notable pieces via, shall we say, circuitous means (there are a number of Romanov pieces in their collection) they have also been given oodles of the stuff.
For example, Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge was gifted a diamond and ruby demi-parure when she wed in 2011 (the identity of the very generous benefactor is a secret to this day) along with having been permanently lent a slew of jaw dropping earrings, necklaces, bracelets and brooches by her grandmother-in-law and keeper of the jewellery safe keys, the Queen.
Now if you or I had access to such a hoard, well, I'd wear them day in and day out. (Pearls with PJs? Sapphires with sweat pants? Bien sur!
But Kate? Well, sometimes what a future Queen really wants to add some flair to her outfit is a pair of $3.90 earrings.
No, I haven't forgotten a zero there or misplaced the decimal point. $3.90 as in, one would get change from a fiver.
On Thursday, she and husband Prince William undertook their first official engagement of the year, visiting the Foundling Museum where they met with adults who had grown up in foster care. All very worthy and all very humdrum.
However, it's what the 40-year-old chose to wear for the outing which we need to talk about. On show, a Jigsaw coat and pants the duchess has worn before along with those seriously cheapie faux gold hoops.
Her choice of bargain accessories stands in stark contrast to her sister-in-law and former Kensington Palace WAG Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex. Earlier this year, the Daily Mail calculated, carry the one, add the seven, that the California-based royal had debuted more than $26,000 worth of new jewellery in the 2021.
Amongst the pricier pieces, the $5549 diamond earrings she wore to feed the family's chickens during their Oprah interview or the $2970 diamond ring she wore to appear on the Ellen Show.
If there was ever an image which symbolised Meghan's new life, free from the shackles of royal expectations and free to laugh all the way to the bank, was in the video put out to mark her 40th birthday last August. There she sat, drinking tea in her aggressively greige Montecito studio, a room that appeared to have been monochromatically styled to within an inch of its life, wearing bling diamond and gold necklaces in tribute to her children Archie and Lili.
This new-found appetite for the more luxe things in life extends to her wardrobe which has seen her introduce a number of pieces from The Row, a brand that is basically the Uniqlo of the private jet set, including at least two of their $2000 cashmere turtlenecks.
And, good for her. She, at least, is theoretically working for her fortune (though the Sussexes' megawatt Netflix and Spotify deals have seen them release only 32-minutes of content in 16-months). Her cash, therefore, it's entirely her prerogative about how she wants to splash it around. To quote Beyoncé Knowles, a luminary whose orbit one would have assumed would have intersected with Meghan's already, and the rest of Destiny's Child, "The rock I'm rocking, I bought it, 'Cause I depend on me if I want it."
But, there is what is oodles of fun (shopping for new diamonds! Wearing them inside a chicken coop!) and there is what is smart (perhaps not wearing all those new diamonds).
When it comes to Kate's budget earrings, I'd argue that her decision to wear them was entirely strategic.
To be royal in the 21st century is to walk a precarious and very narrow line.
On one hand, part of what makes a living, breathing monarchy so beguiling is that they are so stunningly other, like unicorns with titles. The anachronism of the whole box and dice somehow adds to the strange spell the crown casts over the public.
But stray too far in that direction and all of those gold coaches, liveried footmen and the arcane panoply of staff with job titles like Page of the Back Stairs, stop being a drawer and become a serious liability.
An intrinsic part of William and Kate's jobs is to make the monarchy seem relevant and resonant with contemporary society, while also just that perfect soupçon of magic and majesty.
Which is where Kate's wardrobe comes in. While she regularly wears pieces that cost well into the four figures, she also regularly deploys buys from brands such as Zara. These style choices make her seem in touch and just the very right level of relatable for the masses.
In recent years she wore $15 petal drop earrings from the same chain store to the Chelsea Flower Show and opted from $9 gold hoops from the same brand to speak to volunteers via video call during the lockdown in 2020.
I also wonder if there is more at play here too.
Kate grew up in a very well-to-do family and had never had a full-time job, or often, any job, before she joined The Firm. Which is to say, she is not a woman who has ever wondered how to pay the gas bill or had to rein in her Chelsea shopping expeditions.
But she was normal – well, a very wealthy version of normal – pre-HRHdom. And every time Kate wears something like these Accessorize earrings, they serve as a reminder that she has not lost touch with her commoner roots. She might be on track to become the next Princess of Wales but the message such fashion choices as those earrings carry is that her royal status has not irrevocably changed her as a person.
It's a powerful and crafty message.
Meghan, on the other hand, seems to be well and truly leaning into her new persona as Uber Wealthy Lady. The issue here is that her image, of $10,000 plus outfits and diamonds galore, could make it that much harder to swallow her attempts to push the couple's charitable agenda. How many women's shelters or soup kitchens could the very large mystery diamond pinky ring she regularly wears fund?
These very conspicuous displays of wealth also run the risk of alienating the everyday viewers, listeners and potential Archewell proponents whose support, clicks and streams will be absolutely crucial for Harry and Meghan to succeed at their new life. They might have gotten out of the royal game but their new gig still relies on ongoing public buy in and backing.
Here's what I hope: That while Kate might craftily pick out discount jewellery for her official looks, when she is at home, ensconced in the Cambridge's four-storey apartment answering her emails she does it wearing a pair of ancient trackie pants and historic, priceless diamonds dripping from her ears, neck and wrists.
Daniela Elser is a royal expert and a writer with more than 15 years experience working with a number of Australia's leading media titles.