Our Sparkling Spotlight on the spectacular spinel continues today with a look at an unusual tiara worn by a British duchess with major imperial history. Here’s more on the Bagration Tiara worn by Natalia, Duchess of Westminster.
In 1978, Natalia “Tally” Phillips married Gerald Grosvenor, Earl Grosvenor in Luton, near Tally’s ancestral home. They’d met a year earlier at a ball at Blenheim Palace. Both the bride and the groom boasted impressive aristocratic heritage. Gerald was the son of the 5th Duke of Westminster (and became the 6th Duke of Westminster shortly after the wedding). He was one of the richest men in Britain. Tally’s mother, Georgina Wernher, was a granddaughter of Grand Duke Mikhail Mikhailovich of Russia and Countess Sophie of Merenberg, Countess de Torby. (You can read more about one of their fantastic jewels here.) Georgina was also a very close friend of the Queen. Both Gerald and Tally also often found themselves in royal circles. Tally is a godmother of the Duke of Cambridge; Gerald and Tally’s son, Hugh, is a godfather of Prince George of Cambridge.
On her wedding day, Tally wore a rather spectacular antique tiara. The diadem is set with diamonds and rare dark pink spinels, and it features a unique twisted base. It was made at the dawn of the nineteenth century for a Georgian princess, the wild and wonderful Catherine Bagration. The tiara was made in France, perhaps by Jean Baptiste Fossin, who worked for the Nitot family and later bought their firm (which is now Chaumet).
Later, a necklace and earrings were made to coordinate with the tiara. In the 1970s, the set was offered for auction at Christie’s. (See Vincent Meylan’s excellent book, Christie’s: The Jewellery Archives Revealed, for more!) Gerald ended up buying the entire set for his fiancée as an engagement present in 1977.
Tally secured her tulle veil with the tiara from the spinel and diamond parure on the couple’s wedding day. Her silk organza gown, with its frilly neckline and cuffs, was made by Sarah Butler. The nuptials were one of the biggest society events of the year, and they went forward despite the sudden illness and hospitalization of Gerald’s father. Royals in attendance at the wedding included the Duchess of Gloucester, Lord Mountbatten, Princess Margaretha of Sweden and John Ambler, Prince George and Princess Anne of Denmark, and Prince and Princess Michael of Kent.