21 August 2014

The Poltimore Tiara

On this day in 1930, a British princess was born. Margaret Rose, the younger daughter of George VI and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, made her debut on August 21 at Glamis Castle, one of the ancestral homes of her mother's family. Today would have been her 84th birthday, and in her honor, we're devoting our discussion to the grandest of all her jewels: the Poltimore tiara.

If ever there was a tiara match made in heaven, it was Princess Margaret and this whopper of a tiara. The Poltimore, with its floral and scroll elements, may not have been made for Margaret’s swinging ’60s beehive hairdo, but when the two came together, it was tiara kismet.

The tiara gets its name from its original owner: Florence Bampfylde, Lady Poltimore. It was made for Lady Poltimore by Garrard around 1870, and it can be either worn as a tiara or broken down into a necklace and a whopping eleven brooches. As a tiara, it can also be worn in its full glory or in a slightly smaller version. That’s a seriously convertible sparkler.

Margaret, the wife of the 3rd Baron Poltimore, wore the tiara at the 1911 coronation. Lady Poltimore’s grandson, the 4th Baron Poltimore, offered the tiara for sale at auction in 1959. Princess Margaret, who would marry Antony Armstrong-Jones (later Earl of Snowdon) the following year, snapped it up for a mere £5,500. She wore the tiara, which is actually a completely closed circlet, at her wedding.

Even though she wore other tiaras throughout her life, the Poltimore became the diadem most closely associated with her. Her husband even famously photographed her wearing it in her bathtub!

Margaret died in 2002, and by 2006, her two children were facing a massive estate tax bill. Along with quite a few of Margaret’s other jewels (though not all of her tiaras, it should be noted), the Poltimore was auctioned at Christie’s in London that July.

The high end of the auction estimate was set at about $350,000, but it ended up selling to a private buyer for a staggering $1.7 million. A fittingly grandiose price for an absolutely stupendously grand tiara, if you ask me.