02 May 2015

The Fabergé Myrtle Wreath Tiara

When the eldest daughter of one of the richest men in Britain gets married, not just any tiara purchased from the local jeweler will do. Indeed, when Lady Tamara Grosvenor, daughter of the Duke of Westminster, married Edward van Cutsem in 2004 — at a wedding that was so prominent even Queen Elizabeth II numbered among the guests — she settled for nothing less than a laurel wreath tiara crafted by Fabergé.

This tiara has been with the Grosvenors since its creation in 1906, when it was commissioned for the wedding of Lord Hugh Grosvenor and Lady Mabel Crichton. Many tiaras have been added to the family’s vaults since, but this one has remained a central part of the collection.

The piece is designed to mimic the classic shape of a wreath of leaves, described variously as laurel or myrtle. I tend to be convinced that it's the latter; as wreaths of myrtle were worn in ancient times to honor Aphrodite, Greek goddess of love, the myrtle motif would make especially good sense for a tiara that was originally made to be worn at a wedding. The piece was made in Fabergé's workshops by Albert Holmström, a Finnish jeweler who worked for the company from 1903 to 1917. He was the son of August Holmström, who had been appointed chief jeweler at Fabergé in 1857.

Along with making the Grosvenor tiara, the younger Holmström also made several of the firm's famous Imperial Easter Eggs, including the Mosaic Egg (pictured above), which is owned by the Royal Collection in Britain, and the Winter Egg, which is reportedly now in the collection of the Emir of Qatar. The Grosvenors actually also own another Fabergé tiara made by Albert Holmström: the Cyclamen Tiara, which was designed in 1905. As the company made few tiaras at all, having two in one family's collection is rather extraordinary.

It says something about the breadth of the Duke and Duchess of Westminster's tiara collection that Tamara didn’t wear the same tiara that her mother, Natalia, did at her wedding — the family has a seriously extensive array of tiaras, more even than some reigning royal families. (I’m looking at you, Belgium.) The Grosvenors also clearly understand the artistic and cultural value of their rare Fabergé tiara, as the piece is occasionally lent to museum exhibitions on Fabergé, as pictured above in 2000.