Tiaras have again regained their popularity in both popular culture and in the more rarified setting of auction sales where collectors throughout the world are paying increasingly higher prices for these objects of royalty and aristocracy.
To mark Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee celebration, Sotheby’s London will open the largest tiara exhibition staged in the UK in 20 years. The exhibition will feature approximately 50 tiaras of aristocratic and royal provenance, with some pieces to be exhibited publicly for the first time. Virtually all the tiaras in the exhibition were made for and owned by British nobility and together they offer a comprehensive review of all major tiara design styles, Sotheby’s said in a statement, including the Napoleonic Empire, Romantic Naturalism, Belle Epoque, Art Deco, Modern and Contemporary designs.
The exhibition will be open to the public May 28 – June 15.
Several tiaras in the exhibition were worn for the Queen’s Coronation in 1953, including the Anglesey Tiara thought to have been made around 1890; the Derby Tiara initially created for the Duchess of Devonshire in 1893; and the Westminster Halo Tiara, commissioned to Paris-based jewelers Lacloche Frères in 1930 by the Duke of Westminster for his bride Loelia Ponsonby.
The vast majority of the tiaras were loaned to the auction house for this exhibition; however, a few will be offered for sale.
The star of the exhibition is the historic Spencer Tiara (top photo), worn by Princess Diana. Reported to have been initially created in 1767 and passed down among the generations of the Spencer family, it was worn by Lady Diana, just over 40 years ago at St. Paul’s Cathedral in the most highly anticipated Royal wedding of the past century. It will be exhibited in London for the first time since the 1960s.
“Its famous garland style design has a central heart-shaped motif set with diamonds flanked by continuous running scrolls, interspersed with star- and trumpet-shaped flowers – also set with diamonds, mounted in silver and gold,” Sotheby’s said in a statement.
For nearly 200 years, the Spencer tiara was tinkered with until crown jeweler Garrard was commissioned in the 1930s to turn the tiara into the jewel Diana wore for her wedding to Prince Charles.
Other notable tiaras in the exhibition include the following:
Queen Victoria’s Emerald and Diamond Tiara
Designed by Prince Albert in his favored Gothic Revival style for his wife Queen Victoria in 1845, it was crafted by crown jeweler Joseph Kitching for £1,150, a princely sum at that time. Set in gold, it has cushion-shaped diamonds interspersed with step-cut emeralds lined across its base, topped by further diamonds and emeralds shaped in scrolls and surmounted by a graduated row of 19 inverted cabochon pear-shaped emeralds, the largest of which weighs 15 carats.
This tiara is often associated with a younger Queen Victoria with her family, including “The Royal Family in 1846” portrait by Franz Xaver Winterhalter, depicting Queen Victoria with Prince Albert surrounded by their children. Queen Victoria also wore the tiara on several royal and official engagements, including a state visit to France in 1855.
Joséphine Bonaparte’s Gold, Cameo and Enamel Diadem
“This diadem encapsulates the rebirth of the tiara as a highly desirable jewelry and fashion trend,” according to Sotheby’s. Taking inspiration from head ornaments in ancient Greece and Rome, Joséphine Bonaparte reintroduced tiaras through a Neoclassical style that mixed decorative items such as intaglios and decorated cameos with more precious elements including pearls and diamonds.
The gold diadem is adorned with five oval hardstone cameos made of layered agate and jasper – initially created between 16th and 18th century – including the head of Medusa and a profile of Zeus, all within a border of blue enamel and connected by two rows of undulating entrelac de ruban motifs, each with a blue enamel lozenge motif at the center. The diadem was made in Paris for Joséphine Bonaparte by artist Jacques-Ambroise Oliveras, around 1805. This tiara was sold previously by Sotheby’s London on December, 2021, as part of a set of two which fetched estimate at £576,600 ($714,000).
Tiaras on sale
While the majority of the historic tiaras have been loaned to Sotheby’s for this exhibition, a small number will be available for sale, including new commissions by contemporary British jewelers such as Christopher Thompson-Royds and Kiki McDonough. They are:
- The 1930 gem-set silver bandeau tiara featuring foliage and flowers;
- The 1900 bandeau-style diamond tiara; a circa 1880s fringe diamond tiara and necklace;
- A Garrad silver-gilt coronet from a design by the 1st Duke of Wellington;
- A late 19th century diamond-set palmette and cluster motif tiara;
- A late 19th century diamond-set tiara; a cultured pearl fringe tiara;
- A 1920s Cartier amethyst, sapphire, onyx and diamond bandeau;
- An Art Deco platinum and diamond halo tiara from circa 1925-30’s; and
- the Anglesey Tiara and a “Diamond Tiara” formerly in the collection of the late Countess Mountbatten of Burma.
All prices on request