Posts tagged royal jewels
AN INSIGHT INTO PRINCESS DIANA'S FAVOURITE 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 FRENCH CROWN JEWELS PART 2: THE DELUGE AND AFTER

The reactionary Charles X of France dressed in Coronation finery.  Note the magnificent diamond crown made for his sacre by Bapst on a cushion next to him.

The French Revolution which began in 1789 unleashed a torrent of terror and destruction which swept everything before it, eventually even consuming some of its creators.  It was inevitable that the Crown Jewels would suffer and in 1793, in the midst of the general chaos engulfing Paris the jewels were stolen from the Garde Meuble, or State Treasury, whence the jewels had been taken to for safekeeping.

It was to be the one of the great heists of history.  The thieves made off with most of the Coronation regalia and these were never seen again- from a historical viewpoint this was an almost incalculable loss, as these included the medieval sceptre of Charles V, the ivory topped Hand of Justice and the crown of Charlemagne itself.  Also lost were some of the great pieces of gold and silversmithing of the medieval age: chalices, orbs and assorted relics, most of which were probably melted down for their metal value.  The thieves also managed to get away with some of the great stones collected by the French kings through the ages: the Cote de Bretagne spinel, the 67 carat French Blue diamond, the 140 carat Regent diamond, the 55 carat Sancy diamond and the 20 carat pink Hortense diamond.  Some of these stones were recovered a year later, some went on to live colourful histories- but the cultural damage had been done.

Some of the Bourbon’s personal jewellery had already been smuggled out of France in 1791 ahead of the Royal Family’s ill-fated attempt to escape the country.  Some pieces were entrusted to Lady Sutherland, wife of the British Ambassador as her bags would not be checked due to diplomatic immunity.  The rest were sent on to Belgium with M. Leonard, Marie Antoinette’s effeminate, highly strung hairdresser, who was to meet up with the Queen in Brussels.  When the Queen failed to appear, M. Leonard entrusted the jewel casket to an army officer, the contents of which were to appear individually all over Europe in the coming decades. 

Queen Sonja of Norway wears the Empress Josephine's emerald tiara.  It passed to her husband's family through inheritance and thence descent.

As his power and Imperial aspirations grew in the aftermath of the Revolution, Napoleon not only tried to reverse the damage but sought to increase the magnificence of the French Crown Jewels.  An inventory taken in 1791 showed that the jewels comprised of just under 10,000 stones- by 1814 the collection had swollen to 65,000 stones.  Napoleon understood better than anyone the power of imagery and created for himself and Josephine splendid new regalia which was a marvellous mixture of his vision of Roman power coupled with medieval insignia designed to give him monarchic legitimacy.  A casual look at his Coronation picture by David gives a good insight to some of the jewellery masterpieces he commissioned, not just himself but his family.  The Hortense pink diamond, for example, derives its name from Hortense de Beauharnais, Napoleon’s stepdaughter and for a time Queen of Holland. 

The Empress Josephine's diamond coronation tiara.

Detail of the Empress Josephine at her coronation.  Note how low the tiara sits on her brow according to fashion.  Note also the diamond comb and huge earrings.

Napoleon’s contribution to the State jewellery box was significant not only in quantity but in quality.  His preferred jeweller was Marie-Etienne Nitot, forebear of what was to become the house of Chaumet.  He created a profusion of parures in fine gemstones of the first quality, some supplied by him and others by the Imperial treasury.  Nitot’s style was one of graceful, timeless elegance, inspired by but not enslaved to the motifs of neoclassicism.  Napoleon’s requirement for jewellery was increased by the need to please two empresses; after divorcing Josephine in 1810, more jewels were commissioned to befit the status of his new wife, the Archduchess Marie Louise of Austria, daughter of the Emperor and Marie Antoinette’s niece.  After the definitive fall of Napoleon in 1815, some of these pieces passed into some of the reigning families of Europe whose members had married into the Bonaparte and Beauharnais families.  Marie Louise rather gracelessly took her jewellery with her, rather than leave it behind as property of the State.

With the Bourbon restoration, much of Napoleon’s jewellery was altered but it was also added to- the Bourbons wanted to create shape the Restoration to their own image (the coronation crowns of Napoleon and his wives did not survive- these were destroyed by Louis XVIII). The Bourbons dispensed with Nitot, preferring to use the services of Bapst et Fils.  This jewellery dynasty had married into the Meniere family, who owned Boehmer et Bassange and had been Marie Antoinette’s personal jewellers.  The Duchesse d’Angoulême

Sapphire parure belonging to the Empress Josephine, now in the Louvre.

 (Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette’s only surviving child), married to the heir to the throne, needed pieces that were not associated with the Bonaparte regime. Her father-in-law, the reactionary Charles X (Louis XVI’s brother), would also commissioned extensively.  He yearned for a return of the Ancien Regime, its pomp and privileges. His coronation was a reflection of that desire and the defining jewel was the magnificent diamond crown he created for himself, topped with a diamond fleur-de-lys set with the Sancy, in the style of the crown of his great-grandfather Louis XV.  Much of the ancient regalia lost during the Revolution was painstakingly re-created or restored for this sacre, which was to be the very last in France’s history.