08 June 2016

The Modern Fringe Tiara

The Modern Fringe Tiara (Photo: Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)

While the Swedes are well-known for draping themselves in historic jewels, there are also slightly newer tiaras in their collection. This one -- the Modern Fringe Tiara -- was an unexpected surprise at the wedding of Princess Madeleine and her financier husband, Christopher O'Neill, which took place three years ago today.

Silvia wears the tiara in 2006 and the necklace in 2011 (Photos: Pool/Getty Images, JASON SZENES/AFP/Getty Images)

The piece made its first public appearance in the late 1980s. It's often said that the diamond tiara may have been a tenth-anniversary present from King Carl XVI Gustaf to Queen Silvia in 1986, but that has never been confirmed. The Swedish court generally refers to the piece only as "a private tiara," making it clear that it is a personal possession, not one of the pieces in the Bernadotte jewel foundation.

Madeleine wears the tiara at the 2005 Nobel Banquet (Photo: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

The internet long ago christened this one the "Modern Fringe Tiara" (because it's a newer addition to the Bernadotte vaults) or the "Carl XVI Gustaf Fringe Tiara" (because it was probably acquired by -- you guessed it -- Carl XVI Gustaf), but it seems that the tiara may have a longer legacy. Eagle-eyed jewelry fans have scouted out photographs of the Countess of Tankerville (wife of a British aristocrat) wearing a visually identical tiara. (Here's a thread from the Royal Jewels of the World Message Board with tons of photos.) Either the Swedes somehow acquired the Tankerville tiara, possibly via auction, or more than one tiara was made in this style (also possible, given the popularity and ubiquity of diamond fringe tiaras back in the day).

Madeleine wears the tiara at the 2006 Nobels (Photo: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

Even though it may not be new or unique, the sparkler is something of an innovative fringe tiara. Rather than simple vertical spikes, or slightly tapered "sunray" spikes, this tiara features geometric fringe pieces that resemble stylized fleur-de-lys elements. Each large spike also has three diamonds radiating from its peak: two smaller circular diamonds extending from each side, and one large round diamond affixed to the top of the fringe.

Victoria wears the necklace at Versailles in 2002 (Photo: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

When worn as a tiara, the piece has a rather unusual frame. It is mounted on a base that make the tiara appear to hover, halo-like, above the wearer's head. But, like many fringe tiaras, this one is convertible, and the tiara often pops up at royal occasions as a necklace. Queen Silvia, Crown Princess Victoria, and Princess Madeleine have all worn the fringe necklace.

Madeleine wears the tiara at the 2007 Nobels (Photo: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

Although the tiara was first worn by Queen Silvia, over the years it has been worn with increasing frequency by her younger daughter, Madeleine. She's made numerous appearances in the tiara, both in necklace and in tiara form, at state banquets, at the annual Nobel Prize ceremony, and at royal weddings.

Madeleine wears the tiara on her wedding day (Photo: Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

Madeleine even surprised many royal watchers by eschewing the traditional Cameo Tiara and wearing this tiara at her wedding to Christopher O'Neill in June 2013. On that particular occasion, she embellished the piece by covering the floating base of the tiara with orange blossoms. But while the Swedish royal court sometimes provides tantalizing tidbits of jewel history to coincide with major occasions like royal weddings, we sadly learned little new information about the fringe on the day -- the wedding press release from the court still described the piece only as "privately owned."

Photo: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Some have speculated that this tiara has been given by Queen Silvia to Princess Madeleine, although there's been no announcement of such a gift, and Queen Silvia has continued to wear it occasionally over the years. Above, she wears the tiara as a necklace during Queen Margrethe II's ruby jubilee celebrations in 2012.

Madeleine wears the tiara at the 2014 Nobel Banquet (Photo: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

Even so, I think we can expect to see Madeleine continue to wear this tiara at royal events in the years to come. A classic, convertible piece like this is an asset to the jewel collection of a younger royal daughter -- and it will also be perfect one day for Princess Leonore to wear at events when her aunt and cousin reign in Sweden.

Note: This is an updated version of an earlier post, with new text/images.