The Ruby Dragonfly Tiara

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Sparkling tiaras and wealthy heiresses are often a match made in jewelry heaven. Today, we've got a look at one of these fantastic pairings: the Ruby Dragonfly Tiara worn by Princess Camilla of Bourbon-Two Sicilies.

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The ruby and diamond tiara was made around the turn of the twentieth century, likely in France. Insects like dragonflies were popular with jewelry-makers during the Art Nouveau period, and this tiara is an excellent example of the trend. The exact maker of this piece, which features tiny blossoms and diamond leaves interspersed with dragonflies, does not appear to be known, but firms like Boucheron and Lalique both produced tiaras featuring dragonflies in their design.

The tiara was sold at Sotheby's in 1999, and it was subsequently featured in Geoffrey Munn's Tiaras: A History of Splendour. Both of those moments of publicity shared a few facts about the piece with us, notably that the dragonflies on the tiara can be removed and worn as brooches. The photograph of the tiara in Munn's book shows it with the dragonflies alternated in their position on the frame, with one facing down and then the next facing up. That works beautifully for a photograph, but when worn, it's clear that the tails of the dragonflies must face upward for the tiara to be worn atop the head.

Luckily for those of us who like to see tiaras being worn, the piece found its way into the hands of a member of a former reigning family. It's not clear whether Princess Camilla of Bourbon-Two Sicilies bought it directly from the Sotheby's auction or acquired it shortly afterward, but we know that she is the most recent owner of the piece. Born Camilla Crociani, she's the daughter of a wealthy Italian business man, Camillo Crociani, and an Italian actress, Edy Vessel. The family connections mean that she's got plenty of money to spend on a tiara or two. (It's a serious amount of wealth.)

Camilla's family afforded her the ability to buy a tiara, but her husband is the one who has offered her the opportunity to wear one. In 1998, Camilla married Prince Carlo of Bourbon-Two Sicilies, a descendant of the family that ruled the Kingdoms of Naples and Sicily until 1860. He brought her links to members of several other former reigning families (his sister, Princess Beatrice, for example, is the mother of Jean-Christophe, Prince NapolĂ©on), as well as some currently reigning royals. Prince Carlo is a close friend of Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark, even serving as a godfather to his younger daughter, Princess Josephine. Carlo and Camilla live in Monaco, and their friendship with Prince Albert II means that they're regular attendees at the various gala events that take place annually in the principality.

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It's fitting, then, that Camilla's major appearances in the tiara so far have taken place in Copenhagen and in Monte Carlo. In May 2004, she wore the tiara with ruby and diamond earrings and an elaborate ruby and diamond necklace for the gala held on the night before Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary of Denmark's royal wedding. She paired the jewels with a bright pink dress for the occasion.

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Several years later, she wore the tiara in public for another major royal occasion: the dinner and reception held after the wedding of Prince Albert II and Princess Charlene of Monaco in July 2011. She sparkled in the tiara and the same ruby earrings and necklaces, worn with a bold red and black gown, as she arrived at the Opera Terraces in Monte Carlo for the reception.

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The wedding reception in Monaco offered us an especially good view of the Art Nouveau tiara and the dazzling ruby and diamond necklace.

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It's been almost a decade now since we've seen Camilla wear this tiara in public. (More recently, she's chosen to wear the Ancona Tiara, a Bourbon-Two Sicilies heirloom.) Here's hoping we spot this sparkler again on Camilla (or perhaps on one of her two daughters) sometime soon!