The Tiara That Survived the Shipwreck
With so many beautiful antique pieces of jewellery to have been broken up for their stones, this one has been luckier than most. The tiara was made in 1909 for Lady Allan, wife of the Canadian banker Sir Hugh Allan. It is a strikingly modern piece for its time and clearly Cartier was departing from the famous Garland Style that marked jewellery at the beginning of the 20th Century. Lady Allan included it in her luggage on her voyage on the Lusitania when the fateful ship was sunk by a German U-Boat in 1915 during World War I.
Lady Allan survived the disaster, but with severe injuries. Her ladies' maid managed to save it by putting it in her bag when they were rescued- they were lucky to survive, as of the 1989 passengers on board 1198 died on the ship. It sank in only 18 minutes.
Having survived not only the Lusitania, but sadly her four children too, on her death Lady Allan bequeathed the tiara to Elspeth Patterson Dawes, her first cousin once removed. Mrs. Dawes' granddaughter auctioned the tiara at Sotheby's last November, where it sold for $799,000.