28 April 2018

The Iveagh Tiara

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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.

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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. (The tiara looks a bit smaller in old photographs, but that's because of Queen Mary's towering hair!)

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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. Birgitte often pairs the tiara with diamonds or pearls, as she did in October 1999 for a Guildhall banquet in honor of the Chinese president.

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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.


Today, the tiara only spotted on rare occasions, as Birgitte generally tends to wear other pieces to events like state banquets. But she still does sometimes reach for the tiara, as she did in October 2010 to host the Qatari royals at the Guildhall. She also seems to have chosen the tiara for the 2017 Spanish state dinner.

I was especially delighted to see the Iveagh pop up in public again last week, when Birgitte wore it to the Queen's Dinner during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting festivities. The tiara is just an absolute classic. Its balanced, kokoshnik-style design and delicate-yet-solid diamonds make it one of the loveliest in the Gloucester collection.

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