It’s the holiday season, which means many of us are busy decking the halls—and maybe hanging up some mistletoe in a doorway or two. What better time to highlight a rare tiara that uses mistletoe as its design inspiration?
In December 2012, the French jewelry firm Mellerio dits Meller shared some of its archival materials with the press as they prepared to celebrate the company’s 400th anniversary. Among the jewelry pieces shared was this diamond, pearl, and platinum tiara made to resemble a wreath of mistletoe.
Here’s a close-up view of the tiara set on a black background to show the piece’s detailing. Mellerio didn’t share an enormous amount of information about the tiara: they simply revealed that it was made in 1910 to be worn by a bride on her wedding day. Because the piece is now in the Mellerio archives, it seems likely that it took one of two paths. It may have been delivered to the bride and worn by her, and then reacquired by the firm at some later point. Alternatively, it may have always remained in the firm’s collection, either loaned to a bride or not worn for its intended use at all.
The archival material also included one of the original sketches of the tiara. As you can see, the final version of the piece deviated rather significantly from the plans in some respects.
For reference, here’s a nineteenth-century illustration of European mistletoe, the basis for the tiara’s design. The final piece actually resembles the shape of the mistletoe leaves than the Mellerio drawing does. There aren’t a whole lot of mistletoe tiaras out there, but beyond the holiday associations, the plant has symbolic associations that make it a natural choice for a wedding tiara. Various cultures have understood mistletoe to be a symbol of love, peace, and fertility. It’s also sometimes used in heraldry, so it could have been a reference to the bride’s family’s coat of arms.
The information provided by Mellerio doesn’t give any details about the bride for whom the tiara was made, but it’s easy to imagine ways that an Edwardian bride might style the jewel. Picture, perhaps, the tiara worn by the bride above, in place of the flowers she used to adorn her veil. The photograph shows a couple, Captain Harry Cecil Johnson and Miss Phyllis Barclay, leaving the church after their wedding in Norwich in April 1914. (Sadly, the groom died less than a year later of wounds he received while fighting on the Western Front.)
The mistletoe tiara even slightly resembles the bridal tiara worn in Downton Abbey by Lady Mary Crawley (portrayed by Michelle Dockery). The diamond floral tiara used by the production was loaned by Bentley & Skinner and later sold.
For me, the tiara’s design brings to mind two sparklers worn by royals today. The drawing of the tiara looks a lot like the Brabant Laurel Wreath Tiara, which is worn by Queen Mathilde of the Belgians. The tiaras are almost exactly contemporary: Mathilde’s laurel wreath was made in 1912.
The naturalistic shaping of the leaves of the mistletoe tiara also calls to mind the olive wreath tiara, set with diamonds and rubies, that is worn by the former Queen of Greece.
Which royal lady do you think would wear this festive mistletoe tiara best?