07 March 2015

Saturday Sparkler: The Iveagh Tiara

When tiara lovers today hear the phrase “wedding gift to Queen Mary,” you can almost bet that their thoughts turn quickly to one of her most famous sparklers, the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara. But that wasn’t the only tiara that Mary was given to celebrate her marriage to the future King George V — today’s sparkler, the Iveagh Tiara, was also included in her nuptial jewelry haul.


The tiara takes its name from the couple who gave it to Mary: Lord and Lady Iveagh, Irish aristocrats who would eventually become an earl and a countess. The Iveaghs were members of the famed Guinness family, and the tiara’s name is pronounced like their Irish title: either as “eye-vee,” like the plant, or “eye-vah.” The Iveaghs’ gift was well-used by the new princess. Unusually, Mary wore this tiara throughout her lifetime without making any radical changes to its form — a rarity for a piece owned by a queen who loved to experiment with her jewels.

When Mary died in 1953, the tiara was inherited by her daughter-in-law, the Duchess of Gloucester. Princess Alice wore it during her tenure as duchess, eventually passing it along to her own daughter-in-law, Birgitte, who is the wife of the current duke. The tiara’s home with the Gloucesters and its delicate floral design has earned it another name; you’ll sometimes see the piece called the “Gloucester Leafage” tiara.

In 2008, the tiara adorned the head of another Gloucester woman: Lady Rose Windsor, the daughter of the current duke and duchess. She wore it at her wedding to George Gilman, which took place in the Queen’s Chapel at St. James’s Palace. Since then, the tiara has remained out of sight, as Birgitte tends to wear other pieces to events like state banquets. I’m hopeful that she’ll return this piece to the rotation, as its balanced, kokoshnik-style design and delicate-yet-solid diamonds make it one of the loveliest in the Gloucester collection.