Today’s tiara is a rarity. The unique diamond and ruby tiara, set in gold, dates to the Ottoman Empire. It was made in Turkey around 1800. Ottoman Sultans retained jewelers at court; in 1526 the Sultan retained around 90 jewelers. This tiara was probably made by such an artisan in the Sultan’s service.
The tiara follows a favorite motif of Ottoman jewelry; nature. The focus of the ornate headpiece is a large diamond floral rosette; its petals set in sparkling diamonds. The floral sprays surrounding the center are set with diamonds and rubies. The crown-like tiara is topped with the star and crescent moon motif.
It was sold by Sotheby’s in 2011 and I can just image the grandeur of this tiara when it was worn. I’d love to see this tiara repaired, polished and worn again, but I don’t think that will happen. My guess is that it was bought for sentimental reasons or to display as decorative art.
Today’s tiara is not of royal provenance, at least none that I’m aware of. However, it was made in St. Petersburg between 1870 and 1900, so I’d like to think that this headpiece saw its fair share of imperial balls.
The tiara is made of silver and does not hold a single gemstone. It is designed as flowering sprays of myrtle. The accompanying brooch matches the tiara’s design and is in the shape of a single rose. The myrtle plant, being a symbol of love, would have made a lovely 19th century wedding gift to a young bride.
Today’s diamond tiara was designed by Marianne Ostier for Oesterreicher (later Ostier, Inc. of New York) for the marriage of Queen Geraldine and King Zog I of Albania in 1938. The tiara depicts the Albanian royal crest of the Ram of Skanderberg. Though the Albanian monarchy is not very old, nor did it last long, the ram is an ancient Albanian symbol dating back centuries.
Per Sotheby’s lot details, the ram sits “atop a graduated floral vine, set with old European and single-cut diamonds weighing approximately 28.05 carats, accented by baguette diamonds weighing approximately 4.80 carats.”
The Albanian monarchy ended in 1939 and Queen Geraldine’s tiara was sold. In 1966, the tiara made its way into the possession of Mamdouha and Elmer Holmes Bobst. After their deaths, it went on the auction block once more, selling in 2016 for $225,000, far exceeding its initial estimate. Though the winner of the auction was a private individual, I’d love to know what they did with the tiara. Did they take it apart for the diamonds (I hope not)? Did they buy it as decorative art? Or did they purchase it to wear to tiara events? The ram makes it such a distinctive piece, that if it is worn in public again we’d all notice. Otherwise, we may never know of its fate. Unless it hits the auction block again.
Bentley & Skinner sold an early 20th century American diamond scroll tiara, circa 1900. The diamond tiara has three ribbon bow motifs and a garland running through the tiara. It’s encrusted with old-cut diamonds.
The tiara is stamped with the name of the firm Bailey, Banks and Biddle. Bailey, Banks and Biddle was an American company founded in 1832 in Philadelphia, PA. Perhaps a Dollar Princess brought it with her to the UK and eventually the tiara made its way to Bentley & Skinner? We may never know, but it’s a dreamy and beautiful tiara.
I’ve mentioned before that Queen Máxima of the Netherlands is one of my favorite royals. If I could sit down for tea with any royal woman, Queen Máxima would be at the very top of my list. In this glamorous photograph, she (when she was the Princess of Orange in 2011) is wearing the Antique Pearl Tiara with the matching earrings and brooch. I think her look in this photograph could easily be transported into any era and she would still fit in and look stylish. What do you think?
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?
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
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In the image above, Barbara Hutton wears Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna’s emeralds set in a tiara.
The emeralds were once part of a sumptuous parure given to Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna in 1874 as a wedding gift from her father-in-law, Tsar Alexander II. After her death, the parure was sold by her son Grand Duke Boris Vladimirovich of Russia.
Unfortunately, the original parure is no longer intact. While pieces from the emerald parure come up at auction from time to time, many of the emeralds’ whereabouts are unknown.
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Jewels of the Romanovs: Family & Court by Stefano Papi