24 July 2014

The Top Ten: Ruby Tiaras

If you're a July baby, you know very well that your birthstone is one of the most striking precious gems around: the ruby. Rubies come in various shades of red, from fire engine to pink to nearly brown; they're most commonly found in Asian countries like Thailand and India, though some rubies have also been discovered in mines in North America, Africa, and Europe.

Today, we're combing through royal vaults to have a look at ten tiaras that feature rubies prominently in their designs. From heirlooms to modern pieces, rubies have been used in numerous styles in royal jewelry worn today. Which is your favorite royal ruby tiara?

10. The Niarchos Ruby Tiara

A single or double bandeau of rubies set in gold, this tiara belongs to Queen Sofia of Spain. Along with a suite of coordinating pieces, the tiara was given to the Greek-born princess as a wedding gift in 1962 by Stavros Niarchos, the famous Greek shipping magnate. The entire set was made by Van Cleef and Arpels.

9. The Bains de Mer Tiara

Princess Grace of Monaco did not wear tiaras often, but when she did, this Cartier-made diamond and ruby example was one of her go-to items. It was given to Grace as a wedding present by the Société des Bains de Mer. The three elements that are affixed to the thin diamond base of the tiara can be removed and worn in other configurations. Although Princess Caroline has worn the individual elements as brooches, this tiara has not been worn in public since Grace's death.

8. The Burmese Ruby Tiara

Made from a cache of 96 rubies given to Queen Elizabeth II as a wedding present by the people of Burma, this tiara also made use of stones from the dismantled Nizam of Hyderabad tiara when it was constructed by Garrard in 1973. The tiara looks abstract from a distance, but up close, you can see that the rubies form the centers of a set of Tudor roses.

7. The King Edward VII Ruby Tiara

This Edwardian-era ruby and diamond tiara was a wedding gift in 1905 to Princess Margaret of Connaught, later Crown Princess Margareta of Sweden, from her uncle and aunt, King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra of the United Kingdom. The tiara has been sold and repurchased by various members of the Bernadotte family since Margareta's death in 1920; today, it is back in the hands of the reigning king, Carl XVI Gustaf, and is worn by his wife, Queen Silvia.

6. The Spanish Wedding Gift Tiara

As the name suggests, this tiara was given to the Spanish-born Queen Fabiola of Belgium as a wedding gift in 1960 by General Franco. The tiara can be worn in multiple configurations; along with rubies, aquamarines and emeralds can also be worn in the center of each diamond flower. Fabiola has not worn this piece in public in years, and there's much speculation about who will eventually inherit it.

5. The Ruby Peacock Tiara

Although it looks rather modern, this Dutch royal tiara is actually more than a century old. It was made in 1897 by Schürmann during the reign of Queen Wilhelmina. The central peacock element is detachable and can be worn as a brooch. For many years, this was a signature piece for Princess Irene, who scandalized the Dutch nation with her marriage to a Bourbon-Parma prince, but in recent years, it has been worn more generally by the women of the family.

4. Queen Victoria's Oriental Circlet

One of a handful of tiaras designed for Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom by her beloved Prince Albert, the Oriental Circlet was inspired by Indian design motifs that he saw at the Great Exhibition in 1851. The tiara was originally set with opals, but Queen Alexandra had them replaced with a set of Burmese rubies from the royal collection. This became one of the Queen Mother's most-worn tiaras; in the years since her death, Queen Elizabeth II has only worn the piece in public once.

3. The Ruby Olive Wreath Tiara

One of the tiaras that has remained with the Greek royals even after their monarchy was abolished is this gorgeous tiara, which includes pigeon's blood rubies from Russia. It was made for Queen Olga, who was born a Russian grand duchess, and it has traveled through various branches of the family before arriving in the hands of King Constantine and Queen Anne-Marie, who wears it regularly at royal events in her native Denmark and abroad.

2. The Mellerio Ruby Tiara

The Dutch royal jewel vaults are so extensive that they include not one but two major ruby parures. This one is even older than the first -- it was made by Mellerio dits Meller for Queen Emma in 1889. The tiara, which features diamond swags connecting its major diamond and ruby elements, has been worn by all Dutch queens since. Queen Maxima even chose it for her first official portrait as queen!

1. The Danish Ruby Parure Tiara

One of the most historic ruby tiaras in any collection is the sparkler from the Danish ruby parure. The diamond and ruby suite was made for Désirée Clary, the erstwhile fiancée of Napoleon Bonaparte. Instead, she married Jean Bernadotte -- later the king of Sweden -- who gave her the rubies, which she then wore to Napoleon's coronation in 1804. The tiara wasn't a part of the parure then -- the elements that would later be used to construct the tiara were originally a set of hair ornaments. Since those days, the tiara has traveled through the Swedish and Danish royal families to its current wearer, Crown Princess Mary.