24 January 2015

Saturday Sparkler: The Dutch Sapphire Necklace Tiara

One of my favorite things about the Dutch royal family is their willingness to innovate with their jewels. Today’s tiara, one of the family’s “newest” pieces, is actually composed of a sapphire necklace supplemented by elements from another dismantled sapphire jewel.

 Queen Emma wears the necklace (source)

While the necklace was not worn in public as a tiara until 2009, it has a much longer history. It began as a choker of diamonds and eleven sapphires and was purchased for Queen Emma by her husband, King Willem III. Along with other sapphire and diamond jewels, it was collected into a married parure. Occasionally a sapphire pendant was added to the center of the piece. (For a very long time, sources — including the Dutch royal household itself — have stated that the choker and other parts of the sapphire parure were made by Mellerio. More recent research has suggested this is not the case.) Above, Emma wears the choker with the pendant.

The choker necklace was lengthened in the first half of the twentieth century; with the extra length added, it can still be worn either with or without the pendant. Above, Queen Juliana wears the lengthened version of the necklace in a 1955 portrait.

The tiara is topped by five lozenge-shaped sapphire and diamond ornaments. These pieces came from another item altogether: part of the sapphire and diamond “wedding gift parure” that was made by Israel and Hoetig and given to Queen Wilhelmina on behalf of the people of the Netherlands when she married in 1901. The five pieces were originally sections of the necklace from that parure, which was broken up in 1962 and used to make other smaller pieces of jewelry for the four daughters of Queen Juliana. (You can see a diagram of exactly where the lozenges were located on the original necklace on John's website.)

Princess Margriet began wearing the new tiara in 2009, and since then, both she and Queen Máxima have sported the sparkler at various occasions. Máxima chose the tiara for one of the biggest royal events of 2010: the 70th birthday celebrations for Queen Margrethe II of Denmark. And last year, Princess Beatrix wore the piece for the first time during the official visit from Prince Albert II of Monaco. In a collection full of major (and sometimes tough-to-wear) tiaras, I'd predict that innovative smaller pieces like this will be more and more useful in the coming years -- especially when there are three young Dutch princesses attending tiara events.