The British royal family celebrates several birthdays each August: the Princess Royal, the Duchess of Sussex, Princess Beatrice of York, the Duke of Gloucester, and Lady Amelia Windsor. But one of the most famous royal August birthdays of all belonged to Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, who was born on August 4, 1900. Today, we’re celebrating the Queen Mum’s birth month with a survey of her sparkling royal tiaras, worn during a remarkable life in which she held the titles of Duchess of York, Queen Elizabeth of the United Kingdom, and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.
This delicate floral tiara, made in the nineteenth century, was a wedding present given to Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon by her father, the Earl of Strathmore, when she married the Duke of York in 1923. Elizabeth loved to wear the tiara across her forehead in trendy 1920s style during her years as Duchess of York, but it’s not been worn by any other member of the family, and it’s still in the vaults today.
This charming diamond and pearl tiara was made in the 1920s. The piece, which features a delicate design and gorgeous Egyptian-inspired motifs, was a transformation of another of the Duchess of York’s wedding gifts: a diamond and pearl sautoir given to her by her new husband. The tiara later became one of Princess Margaret’s signature pieces, and it was most recently worn by the Duchess of Cambridge.
In 1923, King George V gave this diamond and turquoise tiara and its accompanying parure to his new daughter-in-law, the Duchess of York. She passed the set (which gets its name from the Persian turquoises used in the parure) along to her daughter, Princess Margaret, who became its most frequent wearer. We don’t know absolutely for sure, but it’s most likely back in the Buckingham Palace vaults today.
In the 1920s, the Duke of York bought his new wife a set of Art Deco bracelets from Cartier. Each of the five bracelets in the set features a different gemstone: one with sapphires, one with emeralds, one with rubies, and two with diamonds. The bandeau is made up of three of those bracelets worn together on a frame. The bracelets still exist, and they’re worn today by the present Queen. Presumably, the tiara frame is somewhere in the vaults, too.
The Duke of York became one of Cartier’s best customers, often purchasing jewels from the firm for his wife and daughters. This petite diamond scroll tiara was a wedding anniversary present from the Duke to his Duchess in 1936, the year before they ascended to the throne. They later gave it to the present Queen as an 18th-birthday present. It’s since been worn by Princess Margaret and Princess Anne, and in 2011, the Duchess of Cambridge memorably chose it as her bridal tiara.
This unusual diamond and aquamarine tiara, with its pinecone-inspired design, was also made by Cartier. It was another anniversary present from Bertie to Elizabeth, who by that time were King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. Elizabeth only wore it a few documented times, including the appearance above, from December 1950. In 1973, Elizabeth (then the Queen Mother) passed the tiara along to her granddaughter, Princess Anne, who still wears it today (after making a few alterations to the piece).
Made in the nineteenth century, the diamond sparkler combines rose and crescent elements that belonged to Princess Mary, Duchess of Gloucester (a daughter of King George III). It was inherited by Princess Mary Adelaide, Duchess of Teck, and then passed down to her daughter, Queen Mary, who handed it over to Queen Elizabeth. She wore it a few times during her husband’s reign, but it’s been in the vaults ever since. We know it’s currently on loan to the Duchess of Cornwall, but she has yet to wear it in public.
Another Teck family heirloom, this convertible necklace/tiara of diamond circles along belonged to Princess Mary Adelaide. The jewel eventually made its way to Queen Mary, who passed it along to Queen Elizabeth. She wore the piece occasionally, before handing it over to Princess Margaret. Today, the convertible tiara belongs to Margaret’s son, the Earl of Snowdon.
In 1919, Queen Mary commissioned this classic diamond fringe tiara as a more modern, wearable alternative to the one worn by Queen Victoria. Mary passed the tiara to Queen Elizabeth at the time of the accession in 1936. She owned it until 2002, loaning it to both Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Anne as a royal wedding tiara. The Queen doesn’t wear it often these days, but it remains one of the most identifiable tiaras in her collection. She also recently loaned it to Princess Beatrice for her wedding.
Designed by Prince Albert, this Eastern-inspired tiara was originally set with opals. Queen Alexandra, who was superstitious, removed them and replaced them with rubies. The tiara is an heirloom of the crown, but it was worn (superbly!) for years by Queen Elizabeth, from the accession in 1936 until her death in 2002. It’s only been worn once by the Queen since her mother’s death.
Queen Mary’s husband, King George V, called this sparkler her “best tiara.” It was made in 1911 for the Delhi Durbar, the celebration of the couple’s coronation in India. Mary recycled diamonds from another dismantled tiara to make the piece, which was originally also set with some of the famous Cambridge emeralds. In 1912, Garrard altered the piece so that it could be worn with the Cullinan III and IV diamonds. Mary gave it as a long-term loan to Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, who wore it only once in public (in South Africa in 1947) and kept it until her death. Today, it’s now on loan to the Duchess of Cornwall, who has also so far only worn it in public once.
Elizabeth’s coronation crown was made specifically for her by Garrard in 1937. Its design was based partly on the crown made for Queen Mary in 1911, though Elizabeth’s was made of platinum. More than two thousand diamonds, including the controversial Koh-i-Noor, are set in the piece. After the coronation, Elizabeth wore the crown occasionally without its arches for state events, including her daughter’s coronation in 1953.
This striking tiara, made by Boucheron and refined by Cartier, features diamonds set in a platinum honeycomb design. After the Queen Mother inherited the jewel from Dame Margaret Greville in the 1940s, it swiftly became one of her signature pieces. Today, the same is true of its current wearer, the Duchess of Cornwall, who has both the presence and the hair to carry off such a major tiara.