Toby Melville/AFP/Getty; Dominic Lipinski/WPA-Pool/Splash News Online
Erin Hill
October 21, 2015 01:15 PM

It’s the battle of the tiaras!

Queen Elizabeth and Princess Kate broke out the crown jewels for a night of elegance at the official State Dinner for Chinese President Xi Jinping Tuesday night.

The royal mom of two, 33, entered the banquet wearing the sparkling Lotus Flower tiara, while the Queen, 89, dazzled in her Modern Sapphire tiara.

The diamond and sapphire tiara was commissioned by the monarch in either the 1950s/60S to be worn with the necklace of sapphires and diamonds she paired it with last night, a Buckingham Palace source tells PEOPLE. The necklace, which was made in 1850, was a wedding gift from her father, King George VI. The Queen has worn this “suite” of jewelry many times over the years.

As for Kate, her decision to wear the Lotus Flower tiara, which she has worn in the past, was a deliberate one.

“This was not an occasion where Catherine should be the center of attention,” expert Leslie Field, author of The Queen’s Jewels, tells PEOPLE about the Egyptian-style tiara, which was also previously owned and worn by the Queen’s late sister, Princess Margaret. “If she had worn a tiara she had never worn before the press would all want to know about that. Her role is secondary – this is Her Majesty and the president of China at an extremely important state visit. It was tactful of everyone to not try and take the spotlight.”

The Queen has a legendary collection of jewels to choose from when she dresses for an important event. And her approach to jewelry, says Field, is “very sentimental. She usually wears the same 30 pieces.” Her favorites include her diamond engagement ring, designed by her husband, Prince Philip, and the Kensington bow brooch.

As for the difference between the two headpieces, a crown is traditionally and symbolically in the shape of a circle to represent infinity and power, according to Holly Hardwick Crowns. And a tiara is a semi-circular headpiece that covers the front of the head only. Also, tiaras are only worn by women, while crowns are worn by men as well as women.

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Reporting by PHILIP BOUCHER

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