Posts tagged tiara

The diamond and pearl tiara commissioned by the Grand Duchess Vladimir; it was bought by Queen Mary and left to her granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II. It is currently on show at the Queen’s Gallery in Buckingham Palace as part of the Russia, Royalty and the Romanovs exhibition.

I have noticed from the reader activity on my blog that there seems to be a special interest in jewels formerly owned by the Romanovs- my blog entry on the famous pearl and diamond tiara commissioned by the Grand Duchess Vladimir (aunt by marriage of Tsar Nicholas II) seems to have elicited particular interest.

There is an opportunity, for those who are interested, to go and see this jewel up and close for a limited time only. I am not going to go into the history of the piece again- click here if you would like to read the background of this fascinating jewel.

The tiara is part of a much wider exhibition being held at the Queen’s Gallery beside Buckingham Palace in London. The title of the exhibition is Russia, Royalty and the Romanovs and is an insight into the close links the royal houses of Great Britain and Russia maintained for 300 years. These started when the Emperor Peter, also known as Peter the Great, spent some months living in London at the end of the 17th century in an effort to learn European engineering and culture.

The Mosaic Egg of 1914 by Fabergé, currently on display at the Queen’ Gallery in Buckingham Palace.

A detail photograph of the Colonnade Egg of 1910 by Fabergé.

The exhibition offers some fascinating exhibits; as a jeweller, I have to be completely biased and say that it is worth going to see for two reasons: the Fabergé on show, which is almost incomparable- it is of the highest quality possible and includes three of the famed Imperial Easter eggs, as well as an important selection Fabergé hardstone flowers. It is rare to see such a exemplary pieces from a private collection all on show together.

And secondly, of course, the famous tiara- displayed alone, in a darkened side recess of the gallery, emanating legend not just legend and Imperial mythology, but also a glittering example of the jewellers’ craft and design abilities at its height.

A fine three quarter view of the Grand Duchess Vladimir 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 Grand Duchess Vladimir tiara owned by Queen Elizabeth II, which she inherited from her grandmother Queen Mary.  It is shown hung with the Cambridge emeralds, which she also inherited from her grandmother.

The Queen wearing the Grand Duchess Vladimir tiara with the rest of the Cambridge emeralds.  The necklace is also hung with a cleaving from the Cullinan diamond.

This beautiful piece of jewellery has graced the heads of three magnificent matriarchs of royal dynasties: the Grand Duchess Vladimir (who commissioned it), Queen Mary (who bought it) and Queen Elizabeth II (who inherited it), and is associated with a romantic story of escape during the Russian Revolution. 

It was ordered in the 1870s from Bolin, Russia’s most famous jeweller after Fabergé, around the time of Marie’s marriage into the Romanov family.  It must have been one of the first of many important pieces of jewellery to come her way.  Its style was a revolution in simplicity by the standards of the time when the leading trend was the Garland style, with jewellery tending to be modelled on elaborate festoons of flowers. 

The Grand Duchess Vladimir began life as Princess Marie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, a scion of a relatively modest principality in Germany.  In spite of considerable opposition she married the Grand Duke Vladimir, uncle of Tsar Nicholas II and into a life of unimaginable splendour.  A weaker character would have been overawed by this newfound status, but Marie revelled and excelled in her position.  Stories abound of her hosting fancy dress parties where she wore jewel encrusted peasant style dresses.  The Tsarina Alexandra was steadily withdrawing from public life due to her son’s haemophilia (which was then a State secret), so Marie developed a glittering rival court in St. Petersburg.  She cultivated her jewellery collection to enhance this position, from whence she patronised the foremost artists and revolutionary styles of her day.  The Grand Duchess included in her collection wonderful stones then considered slightly inferior such as cat’s eyes and tourmalines.         

The circle tiara was hugely successful and its groundbreaking style was recognised by Cartier, who took the opportunity to make three copies of it when it was sent there for cleaning.  It was clearly a favourite, as there are several existing official photographs of the Grand Duchess wearing the piece throughout her life.   

The Grand Duchess Vladimir wearing the tiara she commissioned from Bolin.  She is photographed with her only daughter, Elena, who married Prince Nicholas of Greece.  She sold the tiara to Queen Mary in 1921.  Her daughter Marina married the Queen's uncle, the Duke of Kent.  Note the grandeur and sumptuousness of their Court dress.

Queen Mary wearing the Vladimir tiara.  Note her diamond studded Garter star.

The Grand Duchess finally escaped Russia in 1919, taking with her only a small bag of her once vast treasure.  The bulk of her possessions were left walled up in her St. Petersburg palace, when a relatively junior figure at the British Embassy called Bertie Stopford took it upon himself to break into the yet undiscovered safe and smuggle the treasures out of Russia on behalf of the Romanov family.  There is a romantic, though unsubstantiated story that Stopford stuffed the tiara into a black bonnet whilst disguised as an old woman, and the pearls were concealed into false cherries sewn onto this.  The majority of the jewels were re-united with their owner, who died in exile in 1920 at Contrexéville in France.  The jewels were divided by her children according to stones, the diamonds going to the Grand Duchess Elena (who married Prince Nicholas of Greece), the pearls to Grand Duke Cyril, the emeralds to Grand Duke Boris and the rubies to Grand Duke Andrei.  The tiara was bought from Princess Nicholas of Greece in 1921 by Queen Mary, whose daughter Marina married the future Duke of Kent. 

Queen Mary also altered the tiara to make the pearl drops interchangeable with emerald cabochon drops, and the Queen has been photographed many times wearing it with either stone.  At a State Banquet in Latvia in 2006 the piece was worn with no drops.

The Vladimir tiara hung with its original pearls.  It was completely reset in the late 1990s by Garrards onto a more resistant platinum frame.

The Queen of Diamonds

Queen Elizabeth II is agreed by most to have an inimitable, timeless, regal style.  In both her private and personal life diamonds have been a highlight of that style, whether expressed through impressive diamond parures or the discreet elegance of her engagement ring.  According to a recent article in The Times, the Queen enjoys tiara time- when she sits down with her small, specialised tool kit and alters the changeable pieces in her tiaras, adding or taking away decorative elements and changing drops and stones.

In celebration of her 90th birthday, I highlight five of my favourite pieces from the Royal Collection.

The Russian Kokoshnik Tiara

The Russian Kokoshnik Tiara being prepared to go on display during the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in 2012.

Set in platinum, the tiara was given to Queen Alexandra in 1888 on behalf of 365 Peeresses of the United Kingdom.  The shape was highly fashionable at the time- it was based on the headdresses of Russian peasant girls.  For a tiara, it remains a curiously contemporary looking jewel due to the simplicity and elegance of the line.

The Cullinan III and IV Brooch

The Cullinan III and IV Brooch, the most valuable brooch in the world.  The marquise diamond suspended from the emerald and diamond necklace is also a cleaving from the Cullinan Diamond.

We can’t talk about the Queen’s jewels and not mention the Cullinan.  This is the most valuable brooch in the world, made from the 3rd and 4th largest cleavings of the largest diamond ever found, the Cullinan.  The stones weigh and impressive 94.4 and 63.6 carats and are known affectionately as Granny’s Chips, after Queen Mary, who set them.

The Queen’s Engagement Ring

The Queen's Engagement Ring

A classic and timeless design, the stone for this ring came from a tiara that had belonged to Prince Philip’s mother.  The rest of the stones were used to make a stunning Art Deco bracelet.  To this day, if the Queen starts twisting the ring round her finger, her staff recognise it as a sign of intense annoyance.

The Greville Chandelier Earrings

The Queen wearing the Greville Chandelier Earrings, the Festoon Necklace and the Russian Kokoshnik Tiara.

Included because I love a good pair of verticals and I think these are beautifully proportioned.  Gifted to the Queen Mother by Mrs. Ronnie Greville, she presented them to her daughter as a wedding present.  Made by Cartier, they include every known modern cut of diamond.

The Rhodesian Flame Lily Brooch

The Rhodesian Flame Lily Brooch

This brooch was a present from the children of Southern Rhodesia during a 1947 tour of Africa.  It is a highly realistic rendering of a flame lily in diamonds, the (then) Rhodesia’s national flower.  The Queen wore it on the lapel of her black dress as she flew back home on the death of her father.

The Festoon Neklace

Another gift from her father, the Queen often wears this with the Chandelier earrings mentioned above.  It was made up from some loose diamonds George VI inherited and probably made by Garrards, the then Crown Jeweller.

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.