13 March 2014

Shamrocks and Clovers

Augusta Victoria of Germany's clover coronet, ca. 1913 [1]
St. Patrick's Day is nearly upon us -- what better time to take a gander at royal jewels that feature shamrocks, clovers, and trefoils as a part of their design? We may not see many new pieces of royal jewelry today that incorporate these motifs, but the Victorians loved a good shamrock. And why not — the shamrock is not only used as a symbol of Ireland but also seen as a representative of the trinity and of other sacred trios. Here are a couple of my favorite pieces of jewelry that feature this lucky symbol.

The Prussian Clover Coronet
Augusta Victoria [2]
This striking clover diadem, pictured above and at left, was designed by a royal who wasn't primarily known for his interest in the aesthetics of jewels: Kaiser Wilhelm II. He commissioned the coronet, which featured shamrock and clovers, from Koch in 1906 as a twenty-fifth wedding anniversary gift for his wife, Kaiserin Augusta Victoria. Dona was photographed in the piece; she also wore it in a portrait painted by Philip de László in 1908. After the family was exiled to the Netherlands in the aftermath of World War I, they managed to keep this piece in their collection. In the ensuing decades, however, the tiara was altered. In 1950, parts of the tiara were removed to create two additional tiaras. In its current form, the clover coronet is often featured in various museum exhibitions. (There's a similar clover coronet in the collection of another branch of the German royal family; it was worn by Princess Birgitta of Sweden and Hohenzollern during her German marriage ceremony in 1961.)

The Shamrock Kokoshnik Tiara
For my money, one of the most charming kokoshniks out there is this tiara, which is made up of tiny shamrocks or trefoils. The piece also comes from the collection of the former imperial family of Germany. The tiara, which was made by Fabergé, can also be worn with three detachable elements to supplement the design. It was given as a wedding present to Cecilie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, the wife of the last German crown prince, in 1905. Her daughter, also named Cecilie, wore it at her wedding to Texan architect Clyde Harris in 1949. Ursula's site features additional pictures of the piece.

The Irish Guards Shamrock Brooch
When the Duchess of Cambridge makes a visit to the Irish Guards, she borrows a gold shamrock brooch from them to wear for the occasion (see the photograph above). The piece has a teeny-tiny emerald set right in the center of the shamrock leaves, giving it a bit of glitter as well as shine. Kate has worn the brooch on three separate occasions so far (and likely will wear it again on Monday); in the past, the regiment has also loaned the brooch to the Queen Mum and to Princess Anne.

Countess of Flanders [4]
The Flanders Tiara
The Albion Art Institute in Tokyo today owns this trefoil-motif tiara, which once belonged to a member of the French imperial family. Napoleon's adopted daughter, Stéphanie de Beauharnais, was probably the first owner of the piece, which is made of pearls and diamonds set in gold and silver. Her granddaughter, Princess Marie, married the Count of Flanders, a son of King Leopold I of Belgium; she's the wearer who is most frequently associated with the tiara. Marie's daughter inherited the tiara, but it eventually left the family altogether. Since it was acquired by Albion Art, it's been included in a number of exhibitions all over the world, including the "Diamond Divas" exhibit in Belgium [3].

1. Cropped version of an image in the public domain due to its age; source here.
2. Cropped version of a photograph available via Wikimedia Commons; source here.
3. Here's an item on the Flanders tiara from the exhibition.
4. Cropped version of a photograph in the public domain; source here.