10 May 2018

Bejeweled Close-Ups: The Henckel von Donnersmarck Tiara

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May's birthstone is the gorgeous, grassy green emerald. Today we're taking a closer look -- literally! -- at one of the most valuable emerald tiaras every created: the Henckel von Donnersmarck Tiara.



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The tiara features a series of eleven large cabochon emeralds set atop a base of diamonds set in silver and gold


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The glossy pear-shaped emeralds, which come from Colombia, are drilled and set in diamond cusps. Lot notes from Sotheby's posit that the emeralds resided in India at some point, and that's where they were drilled for use in royal jewels


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Per Henckel von Donnersmarck family tradition, the emeralds were at one part of the French crown jewels, possibly part of Empress Eugenie's own personal collection


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The remarkable emeralds can be detached from the tiara's base for use in other configurations; this close-up shows where the diamond cusps are attached to the base. The base features diamonds in millegrain setting; the cusps do not


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The tiara boasts approximately 500 carats' worth of emeralds


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Here's a closer look at the base, which features laurel and festoon motifs


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The millegrain design of the base (the little "dots" in the metal that help enhance the sparkle of the diamonds) is especially evident in this photograph. Also note that the lily-of-the-valley (or "muguet") motifs set between the large cushion-cut diamonds; like emeralds, this flower is associated with May. Centuries ago, French kings offered sprigs of lily-of-the-valley to the ladies at court on the first day of May


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The size of the magnificent cushion cut emeralds is emphasized in this view of the tiara


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The maker of the tiara is unknown, though Sotheby's has suggested that Chaumet may have been responsible, given other commissions from the Henckel von Donnersmarck family. The tiara was constructed around 1900 for Katharina, the wife of Guido Henckel von Donnersmarck, one of the richest men in Germany at the time


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In 2011, the diadem became one of the most expensive tiaras ever sold, fetching a whopping $12.7 million at Sotheby's from a private buyer. You can read more about the tiara's history here!