19 March 2021

A Norwegian Tiara Surprise


One of our lovely readers has tipped me off to a Norwegian tiara surprise! Here's a closer look at an unexpected appearance from one of the family's diamond and pearl tiaras.


A Norwegian reader, Asbjørn, was watching a new Norwegian royal documentary when he noticed something unusual about Queen Sonja's jewelry during a royal reception. The seven-part film, Rex Factor, is devoted to the royal tours and visits made by King Harald V and Queen Sonja of Norway during their three decades on the throne. Episode two is devoted to the couple's 1995 tour of America, which was designed to reinforce the bonds of friendship between the two nations and capitalize on growing interest in Norway following the Olympic Games in Lillehammer in 1994.

On October 11, 1995, the King and Queen attended a special reception at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. In the footage from that event, Asbjørn noticed that Sonja was wearing a rather unexpected jewel: King Olav's Gift Tiara.

Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Why was it an unexpected appearance? Because the tiara belongs to Sonja's daughter, Princess Martha Louise, who has generally been recorded as the only wearer of the piece. As the piece's name suggests, the tiara was Martha Louise's eighteenth-birthday gift from her grandfather, King Olav V of Norway. She received the tiara in 1989.

Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Here's a closer look at the tiara, which features twisted diamond elements resembling grass or wheat, topped by delicate pearls.

Princess Martha Louise clearly loaned her petite tiara to her mother ahead of the month-long American tour in the autumn of 1995. Queen Sonja wore it for the reception at the Waldorf-Astoria, where more than a thousand guests were present to see the royal couple.


She paired her daughter's tiara with a pair of earrings with a long and important royal history: the silver wedding anniversary earrings that belonged to her mother-in-law, Crown Princess Martha. Martha's memory echoed throughout the royal tour; she had brought her three children, including King Harald, to stay in the United States as refugees during World War II.

Associated Press headline, February 1995

The timing of the tour may give us some idea of why Princess Martha Louise would loan a tiara to her mother, whose jewelry box includes several important royal treasures. Earlier the same year, in February 1995, several pieces of Norwegian royal jewelry had been taken to Garrard in London to be cleaned. Thieves broke in to the firm's showroom and workshop and made off with a bag containing several pieces of jewelry that belonged to Queen Sonja, including the diamond and pearl tiara that had been one of Queen Maud's wedding presents.

After the theft, Garrard made an exact replica version of the tiara for the royal family. Sonja's jewelry box has also been enhanced in the years since with several other modern sets of jewelry. But by October 1995, I'm not sure that she had received any of these pieces. For a hotel reception in America, her other tiaras, including the Norwegian Emerald Parure Tiara and Queen Josefina's Diamond Tiara, would surely have been too grand. Princess Martha Louise's small, modern tiara fit the bill perfectly for the event.


I'd highly recommend watching Rex Factor, which is a fascinating look back at King Harald and Queen Sonja's travels. The documentary includes both archival footage and new interviews with the royals, who reflect on some of the most important diplomatic moments of their reign. The series is in Norwegian, but if you watch on a browser like Google Chrome, you can translate the captions into English. (You'll also get to hear King Harald's flawless English frequently in episode two, "The Great American Journey." He has the most fascinating accent!)

Fans of the Norwegian royals, and those interested in Crown Princess Martha's refugee journey during World War II, will also want to keep an eye out for an upcoming Masterpiece production on PBS: Atlantic Crossing, an eight-part series that begins on April 4.

Huge thanks again to Asbjørn for sharing his tiara find with all of us!