30 May 2020

Queen Mary's Tiaras: The Lost and Hidden Gems

Wikimedia Commons

Our celebration of the birthday of Queen Mary continues today with a look at some of her tiaras that have been sold, dismantled, or have just plain faded into history. (If you missed yesterday's look at her currently-worn tiaras, you can find that here!)

Wikimedia Commons

Queen Victoria gave this convertible necklace/tiara to Mary as a wedding present in 1893, and the bride sensibly wore it nestled among flowers on her wedding day. In 1919, she had the piece dismantled, and the diamonds were used to make her new diamond fringe tiara.

The Ladies of England Tiara

Given to Mary as a wedding present in 1893 by a committee of 650 "Ladies of England," this Hunt and Roskell tiara could also be worn as a necklace or a corsage ornament. Mary had the tiara dismantled in 1913. The diamonds were recycled and used in two new tiaras: the Lover's Knot Tiara and the Honeysuckle Tiara.

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Another of Mary's wedding presents, this tiara was a gift from the people of the County of Surrey. It could also be worn as a necklace. When Mary had it dismantled in 1913, its diamonds were used in the making of two other tiaras. Thirteen of the large brilliants were used to replace the upright pearls that were originally placed atop the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara, while the rest of the diamonds were used in the construction of the Honeysuckle Tiara.

Grand Ladies Site

Queen Mary's Laurel Leaf Bandeau

Mary wore this small bandeau in a series portraits; you can just make out a laurel-wreath pattern in between the larger diamonds. The piece was originally a necklace, given to her as a wedding present in 1893 by the 1st Duke of Westminster. The fate of the small bandeau appears to be completely unknown.

Like her grandmother, who won the famous Cambridge emeralds in a charity lottery, Mary supposedly won these amethysts at an auction. She had them set in a parure which included a tiara, a necklace, earrings, and a brooch. She reportedly gave the set to the Queen Mother, but it was later sold at auction. (One source names Princess Margaret as the seller.) In recent years, Vogue editor Anna Wintour has been photographed wearing the necklace from the set.

Grand Ladies Site

The Boucheron Loop Tiara

This tiara was commissioned by Mary from Boucheron in 1902, using diamonds that had been given to her by De Beers the previous year. She had it dismantled about a decade later and had the diamonds used to make the Delhi Durbar Tiara.

Wikimedia Commons

The Cambridge Sapphire Parure Tiara

Part of a nineteenth-century diamond and sapphire parure that passed through Queen Mary's family from her grandmother, Princess Augusta, Duchess of Cambridge, to her aunt, the Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, this tiara was given by Mary to her daughter-in-law, Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent, as a wedding gift. The Kent family retained the tiara for two generations, but it was sold some time ago by the present Duke and Duchess of Kent. A new tiara was subsequently fashioned for the Kents out of the button necklace from the set.

Illustrated London News, Nationaal Archief/Wikimedia Commons

Queen Mary acquired this tiara -- a low, sleek kokoshnik-shaped tiara made of diamonds set in a lozenge pattern and topped with 13 pearls -- sometime before 1935. The tiara, with the pearl toppers removed, was later worn by Princess Margaret, and it's very possible that it's still hiding somewhere deep in the palace vaults now.

This simple, elegant diamond bandeau with a large sapphire center element was supposedly purchased by Queen Mary from Princess Nicholas of Greece and Denmark, who was born a Romanov grand duchess. (The provenance of the piece has never really been made clear.) The sapphire can be switched out for other brooches/elements. Queen Mary wore it in her later years, and it was also donned several times by Princess Margaret. Presumably this one is also languishing in the vaults at Buckingham Palace today.