Posts tagged pearl and diamond tiara

The pearl and diamond Lover's Knot tiara, made by Queen Mary and passed down to her descendants.

The Lover’s Knot tiara was one of Princess Diana’s favourite pieces of jewellery, probably the piece that most people can recall when they think of her.  It was probably presented to her by the Queen on her marriage to the Prince of Wales in 1981 and it is good to see that it has been put to further use by her successor, the Duchess of Cambridge.  It is an elegant, balanced, stylish jewel with the sharp increase in the value of natural pearls its value today is probably almost incalculable, containing as it does the set of perfectly matched natural drop shape pearls.  Spectacular and rare it may be, but it is not a unique jewel.

Princess Diana wearing the tiara with panache: teaming it up with a pearl bolero jacket.

Queen Mary wearing the tiara given to her by the Ladies of Great Britain as a wedding present.  She removed the upright pearls to create the Lover's Knot tiara.

The original Lover’s Knot tiara, made in around 1818, was a jewel owned by Augusta, Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg Strelitz, aunt and godmother of Queen Mary (grandmother of the present Queen).  It was a piece that Queen Mary knew well and which she much admired.  She did not inherit it, however- probably on the grounds that Queen Mary already had a lot of jewels at her disposal and would have access to even more on her accession to the British throne.  The tiara was left to the Grand Duchess’ granddaughter.

The tiara known to us was ordered by Queen Mary from Garrard and Co., then Crown Jewellers, in about 1913.  This was less than three years after hers and her husband’s accession and amongst other things, was busy remodelling several pieces to suit her own taste.  She created an exact replica of the Mecklenburg tiara; the original also contains upright pearl drops in addition to the ones suspended in the frame, which Queen Mary also copied.  For these, she removed upright pearls from the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland tiara which she had been given for her wedding and set them on her new Lover’s Knot tiara.  The drops were then made detachable and permanently removed in 1932.  It was in this form in which the Queen inherited the piece on Queen Mary’s death in 1953.

The Queen presented the Lover’s Knot tiara to Princess Diana on her marriage to the Prince of Wales in 1981.  It matched her personality perfectly- romantic bows, diamonds to complement her skin tone and pearls representing innocence.  As she evolved as a fashion figure, she was able to incorporate the tiara into some of her more daring outfits with panache- it could be argued that the tiara and the Princess made each other iconic.  It is now worn by the Duchess of Cambridge.

Princess Tatiana Youssoupov wearing her Lover's Knot tiara in a portrait by Winerhalter.

A Bolshevik committee evaluating Tsarist treasure.  The Youssoupov tiara can be seen at the bottom left hand corner.

There were other copies of the Lover’s Knot tiara in other princely European families, notably those of Saxony and Bavaria.  These have not been seen decades and are unlikely to have survived.  There is a loss that must be mourned, however, and this is of the Youssoupov Lover’s Knot tiara.  Contemporary photographs of it show it containing large, perfectly matched natural drop pearls, the shape and size being superior to those in the British version.  As this was made for the Youssoupovs, the richest family in Tsarist Russia, we can assume the quality was impeccable, too.  From a gemmological point of view it is sad that this fine assemblage of perfect pearls was dismantled.  The tiara was last seen on the table of the Bolshevik committee tasked with valuing and selling Tsarist treasure.

The original, however, the 1818 tiara that probably sparked all those copies, is still around and remarkably, intact.  It was auctioned by Christie’s in 1981 with the buyers rumoured to be a noble, rich, German family. 

The original Lover's Knot tiara, from which Queen Mary copied hers: note the upright pearls on top of the piece.


The pearl and diamond diadem of the Empress Eugenie by Lemmonier.  It passed into the Thurn und Taxis family and is now back at the Louvre.

The abdication of Charles X in 1830 swept the senior branch of the Bourbons away from the French throne for ever, giving way to the junior Orleans branch of the family.  It was headed by the dreary Louis Philippe, who was proclaimed King of the French and who had married the equally uninspiring Amelie of the Two Sicilies.  King Louis Philippe and Queen Amelie had none of the panache required to pull off the magnificent personas demanded by the French.  Parsimonious by nature, this quality was initially admired in the Citizen King (as he was nicknamed), but began to grate on the French after a bit.  His contribution to the Crown Jewels and to the arts in general was negligible at best, destructive at worst.  At Versailles, he ripped out hundreds of beautiful 18th century apartments in the courtiers’ wings, the cream of French interior design and replaced them with long, boring picture galleries. 

Louis Philippe was sent packing in 1848 and replaced with the Second Republic, which by 1853 had become the Second Empire, personified in Napoleon III (nephew of the first Napoleon).  The new Emperor had the sense not to re-enact the defunct ceremonies and etiquette of the Ancien Regime and he was proclaimed, not crowned.  Although physically uninspiring, he was a dynamic figure, attractive to women and full of vision.  Under his direction, the French economy was rebuilt and flourished and beautiful Paris as we know it today was largely thanks to him.  He married the dazzling Eugenie de Montijo- he showered her with jewels and she was a worthy leader of the magnificence that was the Second Empire. 

The Empress Eugenie by Winterhalter.  Her love of clothes and jewellery came to define the look of the Second Empire.

The Empress Eugenie's currant diamond brooch, one of the very few surviving from a set of 30.

The Empress Eugenie enjoyed wearing jewels and was a leader of fashion- she wore the Crown Jewels with gusto, both the surviving pieces and the new ones created using spectacular stones from the treasury.  She and her husband continued to patronise Bapst et Fils, as the Bourbons had done, whilst also commissioning from Gabriel Lemonnier some of the more extravagant creations.  She gave some of the up and coming jewellers such as Pierre Cartier and Frederic Boucheron their big breaks, as well as talented couturiers such as Charles Worth.  Eugenie was an admirer of Marie Antoinette and adapted much of her style to her own taste.  The combination of 18th century motifs, talented jewellers and couturiers was a match made in fashion heaven and came to define the look of the Second Empire.

The Empress Eugenie's diamond hair comb and star and flower hair pins.  Examples of jewellery that was sold and broken up after the great sale of the French Crown Jewels in 1887.

The Empress Eugenie's corsage bow brooch by Bapst, reflecting her love of the 18th century. 

Some of the great jewels of all time were made during this period.  Most notable are the pearl and diamond tiara made by Lemonnier, created out of one of the Empress Josephine’s pearl and diamond parures.  It is composed of extravagant swags of pearls and diamonds and was topped by two of the great pearls of history, La Regente and La Perle Napoleon.  Another notable tiara was an imposing Greek meander tiara created out of the diamonds from Napoleon I’s sword.

The frothy creations and crinolines of Worth were the perfect canvas for the Empress’ taste.  She favoured large bow brooches and stomachers ‘a la Marie Antoinette’, but also had a penchant for the rediscovered naturalism of the 19th century.  Stone cutting techniques were improving, with diamonds benefitting the most.  The Empress adored large pieces fashioned in the shape of roses, feathers and vine leaves all mass set with diamonds sparkling with new found fire.  The most remarkable of these was a set of 30 brooches in the shape of highly naturalistic currant leaves, suspending rows of graduated diamonds which represented boughs heavy with currants.  One of these still survives and is the size of a hand.

The good life came to an end for the Bonapartes and the Second Empire in 1871 following the defeat of France during the Franco-Prussian War.  They retreated to dignified exile in England, where Napoleon III died shortly after in 1873.  His wife was to outlive him by nearly 50 years, dying in Spain in 1920 aged 94.  She had had the good taste, unlike her predecessor Marie Louise, to leave behind in Paris all the jewellery that had been paid for by the State.  It may have been elegant behaviour, but it was ultimately to prove disastrous for one of the greatest jewellery collections the world has ever seen.

The Tiara That Survived the Shipwreck
The Lady Allan Cartier Tiara

The Lady Allan Cartier Tiara

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.

The Lusitania

The Lusitania

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.

Lady Allan wearing the tiara.

Lady Allan wearing the tiara.

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.