04 July 2017

Tiaras and Crowns in the USA

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Today is Independence Day in the United States, and while I'm out enjoying parades, barbecue, and fireworks, I've got a trio of diadems for you to marvel over that live right here in the good ol' US of A. Happy Fourth, everybody!


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The Marie Louise Diadem

Made for Empress Marie Louise, the second wife of Napoleon Bonaparte, this enormous diamond tiara was originally set with emeralds, not turquoises. It was part of a parure of jewels made for Marie Louise by Nitot in 1810. The tiara alone included more than 1000 diamonds set in silver. The set was one of Marie Louise's wedding gifts from her new imperial husband. Even after Napoleon was ousted and exiled, Marie Louise hung on to the parure, and the pieces remained with her family until the 1950s, when the tiara was sold to Van Cleef and Arpels.


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Here's a look at the necklace and earrings from the parure, which are now in the Louvre Museum in Paris, to give you an idea of how the original diadem looked when set with emeralds. Under pressure from buyers, Van Cleef and Arpels ended up removing the emeralds from the tiara and selling the stones in new settings. After the firm replaced the emeralds with Persian turquoises, the tiara was acquired by the American heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post. Van Cleef and Arpels loaned the tiara for her to wear at the Red Cross Ball in Palm Beach in 1967, and then she purchased it in 1971.


Cover photo by The Court Jeweller. Do not reproduce.

Post bought the tiara with preservation in mind. Instead of buying it for her personal collection, she purchased the tiara as a gift for the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. The diadem is usually on display at the institution's Natural History Museum, but from now until January, the tiara is included in "Spectacular Gems and Jewelry," an exhibition at Hillwood, Post's Washington estate. (Read more about the exhibition in my review of the accompanying book!)


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The Leuchtenberg Fabergé Tiara

Although Fabergé is famous for its art objects and bejeweled treasures, the firm made relatively few tiaras. One of the few extant examples is this lovely little sparkler, made by the firm around 1890 for the Leuchtenberg family. Some of the large briolette diamonds in the tiara originally belonged to Josephine de Beauharnais; they were given to her by Tsar Alexander I of Russia after her divorce from Napoleon. Shortly after World War I, the Leuchtenbergs sold the tiara to the Belgian royal family.


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The tiara ended up in the collection of Queen Marie-Jose, a Belgian princess who married the last king of Italy. Her daughter sold the tiara in 2007; it was snapped up by Artie and Dorothy McFerrin, a husband-and-wife collecting team from Texas who have acquired an immense private collection of Fabergé items. Along with other pieces from their collection, the tiara is on display at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. (Read more about the tiara over here!)


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Queen Marie's Replica Coronation Crown

This royal diadem wasn't actually worn for a Romanian coronation, but it's as close as anyone will get to the real thing. The crown was made for the coronation of King Ferdinand and Queen Marie of Romania in 1922. The theatrical Queen Marie requested that her new crown, which was paid for by the state, be made in a medieval style. It was made with Transylvanian gold and set with rubies, amethysts, turquoises, emeralds, and opals. Pendant sections hang near the wearer's ear on each side; these are decorated with the coat of arms of the Kingdom of Romania and the coat of arms of the Duke of Edinburgh, Marie's father.


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The whereabouts of the original crown are unknown. Queen Marie herself commissioned this replica of her coronation crown from the Falize Brothers, jewelers based in Paris, in 1923. The replica is now a part of the permanent collection at the Maryhill Museum of Art in Maryhill, Washington. Marie dedicated the museum's original building in 1926, and she donated more than 100 objects to the museum's collection.