30 November 2015

Jewel History: Hints on Wearing of Jewels (1913)

Empress Josephine by Robert Lefevre, ca. 1805 [source]

"Hints on Wearing of Jewels"
(originally appeared in the New York Times, 30 Nov 1913)

The Empress Joséphine [1] was noted as a well-dressed woman. It is said that she had the same allowance that Napoleon's second wife, Marie Louise [2], later had, and that both of these royal ladies patronized the same dressmaker. But Joséphine always looked better dressed than Marie Louise.

Empress Josephine by Antoine-Jean Gros, ca. 1808 [source]

One of the secrets of Joséphine's dressing was simplicity. She always dressed in white muslin, and when a great state assembly of men and women in velvet and silk and gold and jewels was gathered together, Joséphine would enter the room, dressed in white muslin and wearing a single jewel. And a hush of admiration would fall on all the gaily clad courtiers present.

29 November 2015

On The Tiarapedia: November 22-28

On The Tiarapedia...

Sunday, November 22: The Persian Turquoise Tiara
Monday, November 23: The Essex Tiara
Wednesday, November 25: Crown Princess Sarah's Wedding Tiara
Thursday, November 26: The Yugoslavian Emerald Kokoshnik
Friday, November 27: The Battenberg Star Tiara
Saturday, November 28: The Mountbatten Star Tiara

You can also browse The Tiarapedia alphabetically, by jeweler, or by country!

28 November 2015

The Greville Tiara

This Thanksgiving weekend, I'm taking some time off to be with family -- but never fear, you'll still have sparkle to enjoy! I've updated a few early blog posts from the archive with new information and/or photographs for your reading pleasure. Enjoy!

The Greville Tiara

Created: Boucheron, 1921
Materials: diamonds, platinum
Owner: Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom

It takes a lady with serious tiara hair to pull off one of the biggest sparklers in Britain: the Greville Tiara, which was a favorite of the late Queen Mother and is now worn by her granddaughter-in-law, the Duchess of Cornwall.

27 November 2015

The Luxembourg Empire Tiara

This Thanksgiving weekend, I'm taking some time off to be with family -- but never fear, you'll still have sparkle to enjoy! I've updated a few early blog posts from the archive with new information and/or photographs for your reading pleasure. Enjoy!

The Luxembourg Empire Tiara

Created: Before 1829
Materials: diamonds
Owners: the Grand Ducal Family of Luxembourg

If there were a contest for "biggest tiara in Europe," I'd be hard pressed to think of another sparkler that could best this one. The Empire Tiara owned by the grand ducal family of Luxembourg is a massive diamond fortress of a tiara. At more than four inches tall, it's a giant of the tiara world. Because of its size, the all-diamond tiara has plenty of room for the incorporation of numerous motifs, including geometric, anthemion, and scroll designs.

26 November 2015

Jewel History: A Medium to the Rescue (1920)

"A Medium to the Rescue"
(originally appeared in the Times, 6 Nov 1920)

Paris -- The powers of a medium have, it is claimed, enabled a resident of Neuilly to recover a tiara valued at 800 pounds which had been stolen from her. When she missed the tiara, she announced the loss to her servants, and soon afterwards the housemaid came quietly to her and accused the nurse of being the thief. The nurse, however, declared that, on the contrary, it was the housemaid who had stolen the tiara.

Much perplexed, the mistress decided to consult a medium. The medium went into a clairvoyant state and said she could see the tiara wrapped in a newspaper at the foot of a table in the owner's bedroom, where it had been put by the frightened thief, who was, she declared, none other than the housemaid.

25 November 2015

Jewels on Film: The Uncrowned Jewels (1987)

Grab a snack and put up your feet: here's a lengthy BBC documentary detailing the 1987 sale of the jewels of the late Duchess of Windsor. Enjoy the sparkle!

24 November 2015

The Top Ten: Royal Wedding Tiaras

The Top Ten: Royal Wedding Tiaras

As far as big royal tiara showcases go, few things are better than a royal wedding. Today, I'm presenting you with my top ten list of tiaras worn by royal brides. As you can imagine, this was a particular tough one to narrow down, so I've added a number of honorable mentions as well. Be sure to add your own top ten list in the comments below!

This delicate, lovely diamond tiara was Princess Claire of Belgium's wedding gift from her parents-in-law, King Albert II and Queen Paola. Its petite size might underwhelm some, but it fit Claire to a tee. And, as a bonus, the design of the diamonds echoed the lace of her wedding dress in a particularly pleasing way.

23 November 2015

Jewel Detective: Romanian Coronation 1922

Romanian sisters: Maria of Yugoslavia and Elisabeth of the Hellenes [source]

One of the sets of jewels worn in this picture, which is from the 1922 coronation of King Ferdinand and Queen Marie of Romania, will be very familiar if you've read the blog recently. On the left, Queen Maria of Yugoslavia (one of Ferdinand and Marie's daughters) wears the Russian emeralds she received from her husband as a wedding gift. On the right, her sister, Queen Elisabeth of the Hellenes, is also decked in jewels. Can you identify any of the pieces she wears?

22 November 2015

On The Tiarapedia: November 15-22

On The Tiarapedia...

Monday, November 16: Queen Emma's Diamond Tiara
Tuesday, November 17: The Meiji Tiara
Wednesday, November 18: The Wurttemberg Pink Topaz Tiara
Thursday, November 19: The Romanian Massin Tiara
Friday, November 20: Queen Mary's Fringe Tiara

You can also browse The Tiarapedia alphabetically, by jeweler, or by country!

21 November 2015

Saturday Sparkler: The Yugoslavian Emerald Kokoshnik


One of the most easily-recognizable tiara styles from the late nineteenth century is the kokoshnik. The halo-shaped tiaras were designed to mimic the headdresses worn by Russian women, and accordingly, they were popularized by the women of the Romanov court. Today's striking diamond and emerald kokoshnik started off in imperial Russia, but the upheavals of 20th century history led it on a very interesting journey.

Ella wears the original parure, ca. 1890s [source]

The lovely cabochon emeralds that formed the centerpiece of the tiara originally belonged to Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna (née Princess Ella of Hesse), who was the sister of Tsarina Alexandra. The gemstones were presented to Ella by her mother-in-law, Tsarina Maria Alexandrovna of Russia, as a wedding gift. The gems were part a complete parure of jewels, which you can see Ella wearing above. The set included a kokoshnik, an elaborate necklace, earrings, and an impressive stomacher.

20 November 2015

This Week in Royal Jewels: November 13-19

November 13-19, 2015

Earrings and brooches stole the show this week! Be sure to vote for your favorites in the poll below...

10. The Duchess of Cambridge attended a conference in her role as patron of Place2Be on Wednesday, and a photographer snapped a clear, up-close shot of her "Lauren" earrings by Kiki McDonough. The small earrings are made of yellow gold with pavé-set diamonds.

19 November 2015

Jewels on Film: The Queen's Diamonds

This Associated Press footage shows the Diamond Jubilee exhibition at Buckingham Palace in 2012, featuring some of the most important diamond jewels in the Windsor collection; also includes an interview with Caroline de Guitaut, curator at the Royal Collection Trust

18 November 2015

All My Tiaras: Queen Maud of Norway

King Haakon VII and Queen Maud at their 1906 coronation [source]

On this date 110 years ago, Prince Carl of Denmark was elected King Haakon VII of Norway. Suddenly, the younger son of a Danish king became a monarch in his own right -- and his wife, who was the daughter of the British king, became a queen consort. Queen Maud of Norway had a considerable Edwardian jewel collection, much of which is still in the Norwegian royal vaults today. In honor of her husband's election day, we're surveying her roster of tiaras.


This all-diamond tiara was one of Maud's wedding presents in 1896, and it was one of her most-worn tiaras during her lifetime. She donned it for the coronation of her parents, King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra of the United Kingdom, in 1902, and the wedding of her son, Crown Prince Olav, in 1929. Originally, the top row of diamonds could be swapped out for turquoises, but Maud later repurposed those turquoise pieces. Princess Ragnhild inherited the tiara, but when she died, it was returned to the royal vaults, where it presumably remains today.

17 November 2015

Jewel History: Prince Wedded to a Princess (1907)

Prince Carlos and Princess Louise on their wedding day [source]

"Prince Wedded to a Princess"
(originally appeared in the New York Times on 17 Nov 1907)

With picturesque ceremony and stately magnificence strongly reminiscent of the old French court, Prince Charles of Bourbon [1] was married today to Princess Louise of Orleans [2] at Wood Norton [3], Worcestershire, the country seat of the bride's brother, the Duke of Orleans [4]. The ceremony could have been little more impressive if the duke had been the occupant of instead of the pretender to the throne of France.

Political reasons account for some absences, but about forty members of royal families, near relatives of the bride and bridegroom, were present, while among the four hundred other guests were diplomatists representing most of the nations of the world, including the American ambassador to the Court of St. James, Whitelaw Reid and Mrs. Reid, and the American ambassador to France, Henry White and Mrs. White, and a host of nobles gathered from all the courts of Europe.

Prince Carlos of Bourbon-Two Sicilies [source]

The civil marriage was performed by the registrar in St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church at Evesham at 8:30 o'clock this morning. Half a dozen members of royal families, including the King of Spain [5], the Duke of Orleans, and other necessary witnesses, together with small suites, were the only spectators at this early ceremony, though, in spite of the attempt to keep it secret, quite a crowd of people gathered near the little church and heartily cheered the princess, who is most popular among the country people.

16 November 2015

The Russian Pink Topaz Demi-Parure

The topaz, the versatile birthstone of everyone with a November birthday, comes in varied sizes and colors. Today, let's have a look at one of the most gorgeous topaz sets in any royal collection: the demi-parure of Russian pink topazes that belongs to the Swedish royal family.

I'm already anticipating your first question: if the set is called the "Russian" demi-parure, why is it in the royal vaults in Sweden? Even though the set is in Bernadotte hands today, its history begins in early nineteenth-century imperial Russia. In 1804, Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna, one of the daughters of Tsar Paul I of Russia, married Carl Friedrich, the Hereditary Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach. Maria Pavlovna was a granddaughter of Catherine the Great and the sister of various European rulers and consorts, including Tsar Nicholas I, Queen Catherine of Wurttemberg, and Queen Anna of the Netherlands.

15 November 2015

On The Tiarapedia: November 8-14

Image courtesy of Christie's

On The Tiarapedia...

Monday, November 9: Queen Maud's Vifte Tiara
Tuesday, November 10: The Ruby Dragonfly Tiara
Wednesday, November 11: The Lannoy Tiara
Friday, November 13: The Allan Cartier Tiara
Saturday, November 14: The Delhi Durbar Tiara

You can also browse The Tiarapedia alphabetically, by jeweler, or by country!

14 November 2015

Saturday Sparkler: The Romanian Massin Tiara

Marie of Romania [source]

You may not be particularly familiar with the name of Oscar Massin, but if you're a royal tiara lover, I bet you've gasped over at least one of his tiaras. His most famous tiara design is likely that of the diamond tiara that belonged to the Duchess of Fife, but he's also responsible for the grand Mellerio ruby tiara owned by the Dutch royal family. Today's sparkler, a diamond and pearl tiara worn by two generations of Romanian queens, is also attributed to Massin.

Elisabeth of Romania [source]

The original royal recipient of the piece was Queen Elisabeth of Romania, who was born a princess of Wied. At first, Elisabeth was proposed as a possible bride for the future King Edward VII of the United Kingdom, but he chose Princess Alexandra of Denmark instead. Elisabeth had to turn elsewhere for a kingly husband. In 1869, she caught the eye of a brand-new king shopping around Europe for a royal bride: Carol I of Romania. He’d been recently elected as the country’s king, and he needed a consort. A German princess like Elisabeth fit the bill, and the two were married the same year.

13 November 2015

This Week in Royal Jewels: November 6-12

November 6-12, 2015

The Brits are taking over the royal jewel starting lineup this week, although we've got a few other royals on the roster, too. Be sure to vote for your favorite jewels in the weekly poll!

10. The ladies of the Japanese imperial family -- including Crown Princess Masako! -- appeared at a garden party on Thursday wearing pearls and brooches.

12 November 2015

Update: Royal and Nobel Jewels Auctioned at Christie's

Image courtesy of Christie's

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a number of significant jewels with royal and nobel provenances that were being auctioned at Christie's. The sale has happened, and we've got the results!

Image courtesy of Christie's

The Westminster Blue Enamel Kokoshnik

Provenance: Created by Chaumet for the 2nd Duke of Westminster, ca. 1911
Seller: Trustees of the Duke of Westminster
Auction Estimate: $370,000-$530,000
Price Realized: $677,899

11 November 2015

Jewel History: The Crown Jewels (1910)

"The Crown Jewels"
(originally appeared in the Times on 8 Nov 1910)

The Crown Jewels are again to be seen in the Tower of London after an absence of some ten months [1]. In accordance with a notice issued by the Lord Chamberlain on Saturday, the Jewel House was thrown open to the public at ten o'clock yesterday morning, and a large number of persons entered.

Changes have been made in the general structure of the room, so that there may be no chance of theft. The glass case which encloses the jewels is covered when they are not on view with a metal shield, the upper part of which is composed of riveted steel sheets.

The grille through which the people looked at the Cullinan diamond yesterday is made of tempered steel bars, set closer together than hitherto [2]. The glass can be covered with the steel casing at a moment's notice by the pressure of a button. Gongs, placed in different parts of the Tower, can be set clanging by the slightest pressure on the bars, and the same motive power will close the metal doors of the jewel room at once.

10 November 2015

Jewels on Film: Egyptian Royal Jewels at Auction (1954)

This vintage film footage shows Egyptian officials examining items of jewelry once owned by the royal family ahead of a planned auction. The Egyptian Revolution of 1952 led to the abdication of King Farouk I in favor of his baby son, Fuad II, but the country was declared a republic in 1953. British Pathe dates this footage to 1954. But did the auction really happen? There are apparently doubts, in part because the first tiara shown, Princess Shwikar's elaborate diamond and platinum scroll tiara, is still at the Royal Jewelry Museum in Alexandria. Which jewels were sold to the public in 1954, if any? Apparently that's still not been resolved.

09 November 2015

Tiaras, Trading Cards, and ... Cigarettes?

Although Audrey Hepburn's Holly Golightly is famous for elegantly smoking a cigarette while wearing a tiara in Breakfast at Tiffany's, tiaras and cigarettes aren't necessarily a natural pairing. But in 1908, British cigarette smokers were probably thinking more about tiaras than you might expect. That year, Wills cigarette packs came with advertising cards featuring portraits of European royals -- including several princesses and queens wearing their best jewels. Here's a look at some of the tiaras that were on display.

Queen Lovisa of Denmark wearing the Pearl Poire Tiara

08 November 2015

On The Tiarapedia: October 31-November 7

On The Tiarapedia...

Saturday, October 31: Princess Yasuko's Tiara
Sunday, November 1: The Hanoverian Floral Tiara
Monday, November 2: The Prussian Tiara
Tuesday, November 3: The Ocean Tiara
Wednesday, November 4: The Turquoise Daisy Bandeau
Thursday, November 5: The Bonaparte Olive Wreath Tiara
Saturday, November 7: The S-W-B Diamond Spike Tiara

You can also browse The Tiarapedia alphabetically, by jeweler, or by country!

07 November 2015

Saturday Sparkler: The Bonaparte Olive Wreath Tiara


What do you get when you combine a classic tiara design, a renowned jeweler, and one of the most fascinating princesses of the twentieth century? The answer, of course, is today’s tiara: the olive wreath diadem created by Cartier for Princess Marie Bonaparte.

Descended from Lucien Bonaparte, one of the younger brothers of Napoleon, Princess Marie was born into the imperial line of the French monarchy. She was also the granddaughter of François Blanc, the French entrepreneur who developed real estate and casinos, including the famous Monte Carlo Casino in Monaco. With Bonaparte blood and Blanc money, Marie was both a princess and an heiress. Such a celebrated heritage required major jewels, and one of the most significant pieces in Marie’s collection was this olive wreath tiara. It was a part of the princess’s trousseau on her wedding in 1907; her groom was Prince George of Greece and Denmark, one of the sons of King George I of the Hellenes.

06 November 2015

This Fortnight in Royal Jewels: October 23-November 5

October 23-November 5, 2015

Lots of jewels to recap from the last two weeks! Here are ten of the best -- be sure to vote for your favorites in the poll!

10. Princess Anne wore a delicate pearl necklace and coordinating earrings at a Buckingham Palace engineering prize reception on October 26.

05 November 2015

Redesign It: The Napoleonic Amethyst Tiara

It's been a while since we broke out our jewelry imaginations, hasn't it? Let's apply our fantasy court jeweler skills to a piece of jewelry that has already taken more than one form: the amethyst necklace/tiara owned by the Swedish royal family. 

04 November 2015

Queen Mary II's Jewels: The Stuart Diamond

On this date in 1677, a totally unique royal marriage took place in England: the wedding of future co-monarchs. Mary, the daughter of King James II, married her cousin William, who was the Prince of Orange. (The date also happened to be the groom's birthday). Twelve years later, they ascended to the throne as King William III and Queen Mary II of England, and a special new crown had to be made for Mary so they could be crowned jointly.

William and Mary have many legacies, but for my money, one of their most important achievements was the purchase of a particular jewel: the Stuart Diamond. Today, the gemstone is owned by the Dutch royal family and is mounted in an elaborate nineteenth-century tiara (worn above by Queen Juliana). But it has had a varied and intriguing history, which you can explore below.

03 November 2015

Titans of Tiaras: Robert and Louis Koch

In contemporary America, the phrase "Koch brothers" has divisive political implications, but in nineteenth-century Germany, the same label brought to mind glamorous, glittering royal jewels. Robert and Louis Koch founded their jewelry house in Frankfurt in 1879, and within a few short years, they were supplying jewels to the major royal and princely courts of Germany, as well as to foreign monarchs in Russia and Italy.

Robert and Louis worked with the firm until their deaths in 1902 and 1930, and their descendants ran the company until World War II. Under different ownership, the firm closed for good in 1987. But the beautiful tiaras created by the brothers for European royals are still regularly worn today, a testament to the skill and endurance of their craftsmanship. Here's a look four of my favorites!

02 November 2015

On The Tiarapedia: October 24-30

On The Tiarapedia...

Saturday, October 24: The Prussian Clover Coronet
Sunday, October 25: The Brabant Laurel Wreath Tiara
Tuesday, October 27: Princess Fawzia's Diamond Tiara
Thursday, October 29: The Bavarian Lover's Knot Tiara
Friday, October 30: The Russian Sapphire Bandeau

You can also browse The Tiarapedia alphabetically, by jeweler, or by country!

Jewel History: Josephine's Jewels in Cartier's Hands (1921)

"Josephine's Jewels in Cartier's Hands"
(originally appeared in the New York Times on 1 Nov 1921)

The pair of diamond and emerald earrings given by Napoleon to his former Empress Josephine, which were described in a cable from Paris to The Times of Sunday as having been placed on the market in New York City [1], were found yesterday at Cartier's jewelers, 653 Fifth Avenue. The gems are valued at $100,000.

The earrings are the last of the bejeweled ornaments presented to the former empress by Napoleon, who personally directed the jeweler of his court [2] on how to make the designs. The set originally consisted of an elaborate diamond and emerald tiara, the earrings, a necklace, and clasp for waistband, all executed in the same general design.

Because of their cumbersomeness and further because they were too expensive to find a ready purchaser intact, all the other pieces of Empress Josephine's collection received from Napoleon were disassembled and the precious stones sold separately.

The earrings were the favorite ornaments of Empress Josephine. They consist of two great pear-shaped emerald pendants, surrounded by ten diamonds graduating in size from a little less to a little more than a carat. The pendant is attached to a pin with a hexagonal emerald surrounded by thirteen diamonds of a half carat each. All the stones are of excellent quality, and the emeralds are especially clear and beautiful.