Princess Louise, daughter of King Edward VII, was given this magnificent diamond tiara by her new husband, the Duke of Fife. It was designed in 1887 by French jeweler Oscar Massin.
The tiara is set with hundreds of diamonds. You’ll note the large pear shaped diamonds and that they are “swing-set,” allowing them to move and sparkle when the diamonds catch the light. It must have been quite a sight to behold when worn.
Today we know the Halo Tiara as the wedding tiara of the Duchess of Cambridge. But originally it was made for Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) by Cartier in 1936.
The diamond tiara is in the shape of a “halo” and has 16 scrolls. It’s set with 739 brilliant cut diamonds and 149 baton (cut in a long, thin rectangular shape) diamonds. Each scroll is divided by one brilliant cut diamond. The largest diamond is reserved for the center of the tiara.
Next month Sotheby’s is auctioning incredible jewelry from the collection of the late Countess Mountbatten of Burma (1924-2017). With an illustrious name like Mountbatten, we can’t just delve right into the jewels. Let’s dig into the family genealogy first, shall we?
The 2nd Countess Mountbatten of Burma was born Patricia Edwina Victoria Mountbatten in 1924. She was the eldest daughter of Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma (1900-1979) and his wife, the equally illustrious, Edwina Ashley (1900-1960). If the Mountbatten name seems familiar to you, it’s because Patricia’s father was Britain’s last Viceroy of India, the 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma, who was killed by the IRA in 1979. After her father’s assassination, Patricia inherited his peerage in her own right making her the 2nd Countess Mountbatten of Burma.
Patricia was a great-great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria, through her father. The Earl of Mountbatten’s parents were Prince Louis of Battenberg (Mountbatten is the anglicized version of Battenberg and was changed in response to anti-German sentiments) and Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine.
Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine was a grandchild of Queen Victoria through her mother, Princess Alice of the United Kingdom. Louis Mountbatten’s sister was Princess Alice, later Princess Andrew of Greece and Denmark, the mother of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. This made Patricia a first cousin to Prince Philip.
Patricia married John Knatchbull, 7th Baron Brabourne (1924-2005) in 1946. They had eight children together and by all accounts were happily married for almost sixty years. After Patricia’s death, her eldest son, Norton, inherited her title becoming the 3rd Earl Mountbatten of Burma.
Now let’s take a look at a few items on the auction block.
On the auction block is this hardstone, enamel and diamond pendant made by goldsmith and jeweler Robert Phillips. It was probably commissioned by Queen Victoria in 1878 in memory of her daughter, Princess Alice of the United Kingdom (the grandmother of Earl Mountbatten). It was a terrible shock to Queen Victoria to lose her daughter in 1878. She was Victoria’s first child to die and was only 35 years old. Alice left behind her husband and five children. (Another child died of the same illness, diphtheria, right before Alice.)
It makes sense to me that Queen Victoria commissioned an object to commemorate her second daughter. The back of the pendant has a locket which contains hair, probably Princess Alice’s. The engraved date is Alice’s death. (Sadly, Alice’s family would endure more tragedy forty years later when two of her daughters, Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna and Tsarina Alexandra, were killed by the Bolsheviks.) Sotheby’s estimates the pendant might fetch between £2,000 and £3,000, but my guess is a higher number.
Also on the auction block is this elegant 18th century brooch brought into the family via the Knatchbulls. The center stone is a cushion-shaped yellow diamond. Sotheby’s estimates the sale to be between £40,000 and £60,000.
This lovely gem and diamond necklace dates from the 1950s. It’s set with carved rubies, emeralds and sapphires and circular cut diamonds. It’s not by Cartier, but it’s in the style of the firm’s famous Tutti Frutti jewelry. Sotheby’s estimates the jewel to sell between £40,000 and £60,000.
Also up for auction is a pair of gem set and diamond clip brooches in the Tutti Frutti inspiration, circa 1930s. The clips match the necklace perfectly, don’t you think? Sotheby’s estimates the sale to bring in between £10,000 and £15,000.
Today’s tiara is not of royal provenance, but it’s not any less beautiful. It was made around 1835 in England.
The gold-stamped tiara is set with large chrysoprase gemstones. What’s unique about this headpiece is that it’s made by machine, instead of by hand. British Historian Dame Joan Evans donated it, along with other jewelry, to the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Though this tiara was likely mass-produced, I still find it very appealing and unique. What do you think?
In the photograph above, Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine is wearing Queen Victoria’s emerald diadem.
Victoria (1863-1950) was the eldest daughter of Princess Alice of the United Kingdom, the second daughter of Queen Victoria. She married Prince Louis of Battenberg in 1884 and they had four children together.
After she and Prince Louis renounced their German titles, they became the Marquess and Marchioness of Milford-Haven.
One of Victoria’s daughters was Princess Alice (later Princess Andrew of Greece and Denmark), thus making her the maternal grandmother of Prince Philip. In this image, you can spot her at Prince Philip’s royal wedding. She is standing in the far right, holding a black handbag. The groom’s mother, Victoria’s daughter Princess Alice, is standing to the right of Queen Mary.
Queen Mary (then Princess of Wales) is wearing the Boucheron Loop Tiara. This tiara no longer exists because Queen Mary had it dismantled for the creation of a new tiara. Garrard, the court jeweler, used the stones to create the Delhi Durbar Tiara.
For all the tiaras at her disposal, Queen Elizabeth II turns to the Vladimir Tiara for tiara events more often than not. It’s beautiful and suits the Queen very well. But it’s more than just a well-suited piece of jewelry. The tiara, acquired from the collection of Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna, has a storied past.
Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna, born Marie Alexandrine Elisabeth Eleonore of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, was already engaged to a German prince when she met Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich, second son of Tsar Alexander II of Russia. She promptly ended her engagement with the German prince. After several back-and-forth negotiations, such as her wish not to convert to the Russian Orthodox faith, she married Grand Duke Vladimir in 1874.
That same year, the happily married couple moved into their newly-built palace, Vladimir Palace, situated near the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. There they lived a life of splendor where they entertained lavishly and cultivated the arts. They had five children together, though only four survived to adulthood: Grand Duke Alexander (1875-1877), Grand Duke Cyril (1876-1938), Grand Duke Boris (1877-1943), Grand Duke Andrei (1879-1956) and Grand Duchess Elena (1882-1957). By all accounts, the family had a happy home life.
Perhaps understanding her prominent new role in the imperial court, her father-in-law, Tsar Alexander II, generously provided her with a magnificent emerald parure as a wedding gift. This was only the beginning of her love affair with jewelry. Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna maintained a working relationship with Chaumet and Cartier, who provided her with new jewelry on a continuous basis. She often provided them with her own gemstones. She made frequent trips to Paris where she met with her jewelers. One of her favorite pieces of jewelry, which she wore frequently, was the Vladimir Tiara, a kokoshnik-shaped tiara believed to be made by court jeweler Bolin in 1874, the year of her wedding. It’s made of fifteen intertwined diamond-encrusted circles from which fifteen perfect pendant pearls hang. The Grand Duchess also had the option to wear the versatile tiara without the pearls.
Sadly, Grand Duke Vladimir died unexpectedly in 1909. Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna carried on, acting as the matriarch to her now-grown children and their families. Later, she survived the Russian Revolution and was the last Romanov to escape Russia. In 1920, under the protection of the White Russian Army, she departed on a boat to Italy. Luckily, most of her jewels, including the Vladimir Tiara, were already smuggled out of Russia by a trusted British friend, the Honorable Albert Henry Stopford. After arriving in Italy, Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna made her way to Switzerland before finally settling in France.
The Grand Duchess didn’t live much longer after her escape from Russia. She died in September 1920 at the age of 66. After her death, the Vladimir Tiara was inherited by her daughter Grand Duchess Elena. To finance their new lives in exile, her children sold most of the jewels. Grand Duchess Elena sold the Vladimir Tiara to Queen Mary in 1921.
After Queen Mary purchased the Vladimir Tiara she took it to Garrard, the court jeweler, for repairs. The tiara wasn’t necessarily in the best of shape. Garrard updated the frame to include a special mechanism that allowed the wearer to switch from pearls to a different set of gemstones, in this case, emeralds.
After Queen Mary died in 1953, the Vladimir Tiara was inherited by her granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II. Queen Elizabeth II wears the Vladimir Tiara often. She has worn it with both the emerald and pearl settings, but also without either drops. After almost 150 years it’s safe to say the Vladimir Tiara has a permanent home.
Dressing the Queen: The Jubilee Wardrobe by Angela Kelly
Jewels of the Romanovs: Family & Court by Stefano Papi
Yesterday we had a peek at Queen Victoria’s Emerald Diadem. Let’s take a look at the rest of the parure, which includes a necklace, earrings and a brooch, all designed by Prince Albert for Queen Victoria. The parure was created in 1843, two years before the creation of the emerald diadem.
The brooch’s emerald weighs 20 carats and is surrounded by diamonds. The necklace is composed of nine large emeralds and nine smaller emeralds, all surrounded by sparkling diamonds. The drop earrings also contain two fairly large pear-shaped emeralds and two smaller emeralds, also encircled by diamonds. Queen Victoria was thrilled with her gifts.
Today, the entire parure is still intact and owned by the descendants of Princess Louise, Duchess of Fife. It’s on a long-term loan to Kensington Palace, where I was very lucky to have viewed the parure in person.
Tiaras: A History of Splendour by Geoffrey C. Munn
We’re chatting about another emerald treasure today.
Today’s emerald and diamond diadem was designed by Prince Albert for Queen Victoria. It was made by Joseph Kitching in 1845 for £1,150. Queen Victoria was very happy with her gift and wrote in her diary about Prince Albert’s “wonderful taste.”
Later, the emerald and diamond parure was inherited by Queen Victoria’s granddaughter, Princess Louise. Princess Louise, daughter of Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, married the Duke of Fife in 1889. Perhaps, after Queen Victoria’s death, Edward VII inherited the jewels and then passed them on to Princess Louise.
The parure is still in the ownership of the descendants of Princess Louise, Duchess of Fife and is on a long-term loan to Kensington Palace.
Tiaras: A History of Splendour by Geoffrey C. Munn
Prince Albert wasn’t allowed to propose to Queen Victoria because she was a reigning monarch. However, after Queen Victoria proposed to Prince Albert, he gave her an emerald and ruby engagement ring set in gold. What’s unique about this ring? It’s in the shape of a snake. It was quite the fashion in Queen Victoria’s day to wear serpent-like rings. Serpents were thought to represent love so it makes sense that Prince Albert commemorated their engagement with such a ring.
The engagement ring is buried with Queen Victoria, but you can find a similar style here.