A majestic, historic diamond brooch designed as a double-headed eagle was recently sold at Sotheby’s. Initially it belonged to Leopold-Salvator of Habsburg-Lorraine, Archduke of Austria, Prince of Tuscany (1863-1931). The brooch was passed on to his descendants until it was sold in May 2021.
The double-headed eagle is significant because it symbolizes the coat of arms of the House of Austria. It’s entirely set with with cushion-shaped, round, single-cut and rose-cut diamonds. Whenever such historic jewels are sold I often wonder who the buyer is and if they plan on wearing the jewels. Here’s hoping that we see this unique brooch either worn or in a museum somewhere.
The Poltimore Tiara was made in 1870 by Garrard for Lady Poltimore, the wife of the second Baron Poltimore and Treasurer to Queen Victoria’s household from 1872 to 1874. The tiara’s thousands of diamonds are set in silver and gold. The design mimics romantic clusters of diamonds and diamond-set scroll motifs. The diadem remained in the Poltimore family until it was sold at auction on January 29, 1959.
It was purchased for Princess Margaret upon the occasion of her marriage to Antony Armstrong-Jones, which took place on May 6, 1960. According to Christie’s lot essay, “The tiara was purchased upon the recommendation of Lord Plunket, who was Deputy Master of the Household from 1954 to 1975. It was acquired in 1959 before the official announcement by H.M. Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother on 26th February 1960 of the engagement of H.R.H. The Princess Margaret to Mr Antony Armstrong-Jones.”
Princess Margaret wore the sparkling tiara as a necklace before her wedding. When worn as a necklace, it takes the shape of a fringe design. The fringe design showed off the diamond leaves and flowers splendidly. Margaret also wore pieces of the tiara as brooches; in fact eleven pieces of the tiara can be taken apart to wear as brooches. Margaret’s first public debut of the tiara was on her wedding day.
The tiara is large, imposing and spectacular. It was the perfect diadem for the last of the English princesses born to a king in a bygone era. Princess Margaret was every inch a princess; she was demanding, a perfectionist, yearned to be admired, loved and respected. Margaret insisted on royal protocol; even her friends referred to her as “ma’am.” At the same time, her search for happiness and freedom outside of a gilded cage eluded her; scandals followed her throughout her adult life and she was unhappily married. She died in 2002 at the age of 71.
After Princess Margaret’s death, the Poltimore Tiara was sold by her children.
Princess Margaret’s auction at Christie’s is a treasure trove of history. If you have time, take a look at the 2006 Christie’s auction. Honestly, I’d classify Princess Margaret as a bit of a hoarder because she seems to never have let go of any of her belongings. But then again, if I was the owner of countless Fabergé and priceless heirloom jewelry I’d never want to let go of them either.
Today’s trinket is a bracelet that was given to Princess Margaret by her mother Queen Elizabeth. The diamond bracelet is set with one natural pearl, one sapphire and one ruby.
But before it belonged to the Queen Mother it belonged to her mother-in-law Queen Mary because she received it as a Christmas present in 1929 from King George V. And before that, it belonged to Empress Maria Feodorovna of Russia. What a provenance!
When Rebecca Bettarini marries her Russian Grand Duke (more about his imperial lineage here) later this year, she’ll be wearing the Lacis Tiara by Chaumet. The tiara, though understated, is quite spectacular. Hundreds of brilliant-cut diamonds, set in white gold, are studded throughout the latticework. There are two center diamonds: one oval cut diamond weighing just over 5 carats and one pear-shaped diamond weighing 2.21 carats.
I can understand why Rebecca selected Maison Chaumet for her nuptial diadem. Before the Russian Revolution, Chaumet had a decades-long relationship with the Romanovs.
In an interview with Point de Vue, Rebecca said Chaumet presented her with several tiaras. She knew almost immediately which tiara she wanted to wear. The Lacis Tiara reminded her of a kokoshnik, the traditional Russian headdress. Another plus for her is that the tiara has never been worn before (it’s a fairly recent creation).
But there is more to planning an imperial wedding than just choosing a tiara. As part of the wedding preparations Rebecca converted to the Russian Orthodox faith. She also changed her name to Victoria Romanovna. The wedding will take place in St. Petersburg on October 1, 2021.
Rebecca’s nuptial tiara is modern, light and airy; perfect for an evening of revelry and dancing. It’s difficult to judge this tiara as a wedding diadem without first seeing the wedding ensemble, but I trust she will look fabulous.
Princess Margaret’s Aquamarine and Diamond Cluster Ring was sold by Christie’s in 2006. The fairly large aquamarine is set in gold and surrounded by twelve brilliant-cut diamonds. I hope whoever bought this ring wears it often because it is stunning and perfect.
You can find the other items of Princess Margaret’s auction sale over at Christie’s.
Thanks for stopping by on this sunny (at least in my neck of the woods) Tuesday. Have a great day!
I have one more book to share with you for this week. Christie’s: The Jewellery Archives Revealed by Vincent Meylan is a treasure trove of royal jewelry secrets. The author was given permission to view Christie’s extensive archives and this book is the result of his painstaking research.
The book is cleverly divided by themes. Each chapter takes on a specific theme and then breaks it down even further by the royal, their jewelry and the history of the jewelry. For example the first chapter is titled Guillotine Diamonds and discusses Madame La Comtesse du Barry and her jewelry. The second chapter focuses on the murdered queens/kings: Mary, Queen of Scots, Marie Antoinette of France, Draga of Serbia and Ludwig II and their valuables.
There are a number of well-written and well-researched articles tracing the history of royal jewelry. The photographs are plentiful and spectacular! The author also includes plenty of illustrations, portraits and old sales receipts/slips from the auctions. It’s really a gem of a book and I’ve gotten lost for hours within its pages.
It’s hard to choose which royal jewelry book to buy, but this one really is a good choice. I’ve met many new royals (such as Draga) that I wouldn’t have known otherwise. Besides being a book about jewelry, I’d say it’s also about world history. After all, the jewelry traveled through the centuries and witnessed plenty of upheaval and revolution.
“Worthwhile, both for the sumptuous jewelry and for the stunning lifestyle photographs.”
Society of Jewelry Historians
For many centuries, collecting precious jewels was the province of kings and queens, emperors, and maharajas. But in the aftermath of the First World War, royal gems passed into the hands of a different kind of elite that included celebrities and a coterie that reveled in a nouveau riche whirl. Changes in fashion and the rise of Art Deco style led them to reset pieces or commission exquisite contemporary designs.
Authors Stefano Papi and Alexandra Rhodes explore this dazzling era via profiles of eleven glamorous women who built up astonishing jewelry collections in the mid-twentieth century. This revised and updated edition includes two new chapters that explore the lives and jewels of Ganna Walska and Hélene Rochas.
The authors reveal the remarkable stories behind the jewels and their collectors. Not only do they bring to life the worlds in which these women moved, but they also describe the gems in detail and chronicle the work of the leading jewelers of the day, including Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Harry Winston. The book is illustrated with gorgeous close-up photography of the jewels as well as drawings of the original designs, and includes portraits of the collectors by Beaton, Horst, and other leading photographers of the time.
Another book I use for jewelry research is 20th Century Jewelry & the Icons of Style by Stefano Papi and Alexandra Rhodes. This book does not solely focus on royals but that’s okay because royal jewelry tends to end up being sold, which results in women of all social strata purchasing and wearing it. This is why today’s book recommendation is another excellent one!
Each chapter in the book focuses on one particular woman, her jewelry and the history of her jewelry.
The women covered are:
Marjorie Merriweather Post
Lydia, Lady Deterding
The Duchess of Windsor
Countess Mona Bismarck
The Maharani Sita Devi of Baroda
HH The Begum Aga Khan III
As with the other books I featured this week, 20th Century Jewelry has scrumptious photographs, biographies, historic details galore and in-depth jewelry history to please any jewelry lover.
While I borrow most of my books from the library (they can be pricey), I have splurged on a number of jewelry tomes over the years. This week, I’ll share some of my favorite royal jewelry books from my personal library.
What can I say about this book except that I love it so very much! It has given me countless hours of entertainment. The book covers more than just tiaras; there is historical context behind the jewelry. There are plenty of royal biographies and the glossy photographs and countless illustrations will keep you happy for hours.
Geoffrey C. Munn, a leading expert in this topic, was granted access to important jewelry archives not usually available to the public, such as Cartier and Boucheron. And the chapters focus on a myriad of tiara topics such as Art Deco, Russian tiaras, European crown jewels and tiaras made as art. Plus so much more.
If you love royal jewelry, then this is a good book to get your hands on. However, it appears that this book is no longer in print. Sadly, sellers on Amazon are pricing it far too exorbitantly. I don’t believe in overpaying for anything. If you’re interested in this book, I suggest you check with your local bookshop or perhaps the local library.
Thank you for stopping by today. Stop by tomorrow for another book recommendation!
Today’s royal trinket is an old photograph. But what a photograph it is!
The photograph depicts the incredible wedding presents Archduchess Elizabeth Marie of Austria received on the occasion of her marriage in 1902 to Prince Otto of Windisch-Graetz. Elizabeth Marie was the only child of Crown Prince Rudolph (son of Empress Elizabeth of Austria, or Sisi). With such an illustrious lineage, it makes sense that she would have received such lovely jewels.
On the middle shelf to the right you can spot the 27 jeweled stars made by Köchert for Empress Elizabeth. Sisi wore them in her hair in the famous portrait by Winterhalter. The photograph of the wedding gifts depicts the last time all the stars were together because Elizabeth Marie (and later her heirs) gave them away as gifts. Sadly, most of the stars have disappeared from history.