We don’t know who the maker is or who may have worn it. Though the Victoria and Albert Museum believes the tiara was made in England, circa 1850. We do know, however, that this tiara imitates the wreaths of silver corn-ears Queen Victoria’s attendants wore at her coronation in 1838. This makes it almost certain the tiara was made in England.
The mystery tiara is in the form of a wreath and the brilliant and rose-cut diamonds and pearls are set in silver and gold.
The tiara is very beautiful, almost like a work of art. I love pearls and diamonds together. But I don’t know how wearable this tiara might be; it just doesn’t look comfortable. Maybe it’s for the best that these days the tiara sits in a museum patiently waiting for visitors to admire it.
By the way, if you are in the mood to peruse through a jewelry collection and can’t get to the Victoria and Albert Museum, I highly recommend you view the collection online. There is a large collection of jewelry available with generous historical details.
You may recognize today’s tiara because it was worn at a 2015 state banquet by the Duchess of Cambridge! The Lotus Flower Tiara was a gift from Queen Mary to Queen Elizabeth (The Queen Mother). The Queen Mother later gave it to Princess Margaret, who loaned it to her daughter-in-law, Serena, to wear as her wedding diadem. Quite a historic tiara with so many outings!
Geoffrey Munn describes the tiara as “Egyptian inspired.” Indeed, the tiara is arranged in a line of diamond encrusted lotus flowers and arches. It’s studded with two pearls at its base and topped with a large natural pearl.
I am not sure of the ownership of this tiara, but since it was more recently seen on the Duchess of Cambridge I can only surmise that after the death of Princess Margaret it returned to Queen Elizabeth II.
I like that the tiara seems to be flexible. The Queen Mother wore it low across her forehead, as was the style. The Duchess of Cambridge wore it up higher. It’s wonderful when a tiara can be adjusted for a new era!
Here’s hoping to seeing this tiara again very soon!
Today’s tiara belonged to an American woman who married into the British aristocracy. The Manchester Tiara was made by Cartier in 1903 for Consuelo, Dowager Duchess of Manchester (1853-1909).
The heart-shaped scrolls give this tiara a very romantic feel, don’t you think? It’s set with thousands of rose-cut diamonds, most of them supplied by the Dowager Duchess herself. Mr. Cartier, when planning the tiara’s design, asked his designers do draw inspiration from the 18th century ironworks of Paris and Versailles. This was a fitting design inspiration because Consuelo spent the early years of her life in Paris.
The Dowager Duchess of Manchester was born Miss Consuelo Yznaga in 1853 in New York City. She was one of four children born to Cuban-born millionaire Antonio Yznaga del Valle and his American-born wife Ellen Maria Clement of New Orleans.
Even though the Yznagas were wealthy, the family was met with suspicion by the upper echelons of American society. On top of being classified as nouveau riche (new money) by the established families, the Yznagas had “foreign lineage” which made them less desirable to socialize with. (To put things in perspective, the Astors were old money.)
Nevertheless, Consuelo grew up happy and loved by her parents. Because the Yznagas were shunned by America’s top families, they spent most of their time in Paris where they received a very warm welcome by Empress Eugénie and her circle. After the fall of the Second Empire, the Yznagas relocated to London.
Consuelo became one of the first “Dollar Princesses” when she married George Victor Drogo Montagu, the future 8th Duke of Manchester. His family was initially not pleased with the match. They had never met the bride before the engagement and could not comprehend having an American daughter-in-law. They even tried to stop the wedding from happening. However, the family was won over by Consuelo and the wedding took place in 1876 in New York City.
Though it was not a happy marriage (both had extramarital affairs), Consuelo paved the way for other Americans to marry into aristocratic families.
The Manchester Tiara, with its heart-shaped motif, was a fitting choice for a sentimental American woman who forged a place for herself within British society. Today the tiara belongs to the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Today’s tiara is rare and of an unusual design. The headpiece is made of blackened steel and bordered with circular-cut diamonds. The two scalloped edges and the bottom row’s diamond-encrusted palmettes manage to give the tiara a romantic feel, despite the black steel.
Between 1912 and 1915, Parisian workshop Henri Picq made about five of these steel tiaras for Cartier. This particular tiara was bought in 1912 as a wedding gift for the seller’s grandmother. It has managed to stay with the same family until the seller sold it via Sotheby’s in 2015. It fetched the hefty sum of CHF 538,000.
I don’t have any information on the family, but the bride must have been quite the avant-garde fashionista to have embraced and kept such a unique tiara.
We’ve looked at the Vladimir Tiara several times on the blog. Here is another photograph (dated 1887) of Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna (also known as Grand Duchess Vladimir) wearing the Vladimir Tiara.
The Vladimir Tiara was sold to Queen Mary after Maria Pavlovna’s death in 1920. The Romanov jewel has been with the British Royal Family since 1921 and, at this time, is exclusively worn by Queen Elizabeth II.
The Russian Field Diadem came to the world’s attention after it was featured in the sales catalogue of the Russian crown jewels. The tiara was created for Empress Maria Feodorovna in the early 19th century. It appears she may have been the only woman to have worn the diadem. The diadem, set in gold and silver, is centered around a large white sapphire and composed of six ears of rye encrusted in diamonds. There are 37 briolette diamonds dispersed throughout the diadem; other diamonds are brilliant and rose cut.
Maria Feodorovna, born Sophia Dorothea of Württemberg in 1759, was a niece of King Frederick the Great of Prussia, and the second wife of Paul I. Her mother-in-law was Catherine the Great. She was also the mother of Tsar Alexander I (if you remember your history lessons, Alexander I embarrassed Napoleon) and Tsar Nicholas I.
Maria Feodorovna led quite an eventful and full life after the death of Paul I. She acted as matriarch to her family and advisor to Alexander I. Whether her children were near or far she kept in contact with them, advised them as she saw fit and made sure her children were financially provided for. She appreciated and cultivated the arts within Russia. She was also a patron of charities; she even founded an institute of learning for children. Each successive empress took over her institute until its closure in 1917.
The Dowager Empress loved and appreciated her homes, the Russian countryside and her gardens. She was overjoyed whenever her beloved daughter, Anna Pavlovna, Princess of Orange and wife of the future William II of the Netherlands, sent her bulbs and plants for her gardens. Therefore, it makes sense that Maria Feodorovna would have commissioned a tiara with a motif that embodied the Russian fields. After her death in 1828 the diadem was sent to the Diamond Fund. It remained there until the revolution.
Sadly, after its auction sale in 1927, the tiara disappeared. Perhaps we’ll see it again in a future auction. Though that may be doubtful as the last documented sale was the one by Christie’s in 1927. In an era when monarchies fell like dominos and stock markets crashed, wearing tiaras may not have seemed appropriate. It’s possible the seller pulled the tiara apart for its stones; perhaps even reconfigured it to wear as smaller, individual brooches. Only time may tell.
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 the tiara is worn in public again we’d all notice. Otherwise, we may never know of its fate. Unless it hits the auction block again.