The luminous turquoise is one of December’s lovely birthstones, and royals around the world have lots of the gemstone in their collections. Today, we’re looking at three royal turquoise tiaras that come from the British royal collection.
Let’s start with the turquoise tiara that belonged to everyone’s favorite British royal magpie, Queen Mary. From an early age, May loved turquoise, and her family members loved to present her with bejeweled gifts set with the stone. Her parents, the Duke and Duchess of Teck, gave her the Teck Turquoise Parure, an entire set of diamond and turquoise jewelry from the Duchess’s collection as a wedding present in 1893. In the portrait on the left, taken when she was Duchess of York, Mary wears the original tiara with several other pieces from the suite.
In 1912, Mary had the size of the tiara reduced slightly, removing the pointed top of the jewel. A little more than two decades later, she gave the entire suite to her newest daughter-in-law, Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, as a wedding present. Above, Alice wears the tiara and earrings for the opening of the new Odeon Theatre in London’s Leicester Square on November 2, 1937.
Today, the Teck Turquoise Tiara and its accompanying jewels are worn by Princess Alice’s daughter-in-law: Birgitte, the current Duchess of Gloucester. Above, she wears the tiara, earrings, necklace, and brooches for a banquet at the Guildhall in London during the 2015 state visit from the President of Mexico.
Princess Alice wasn’t the only royal daughter-in-law to receive a parure of turquoise jewels from King George V and Queen Mary. In 1923, the king offered a lovely, complete set of diamond and Persian turquoise jewelry to Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the bride of their second son, the Duke of York (later King George VI). Here’s a look at the turquoise tiara in its original kokoshnik shape, pictured in the Illustrated London News in April 1923. It’s very similar to another royal kokoshnik: the Milford Haven Ruby Kokoshnik.
After receiving the jewels, the new Duchess of York decided to tinker a bit with the tiara. She had the top line of diamonds removed. She’s wearing the tiara in the adapted form in the image above, taken in the 1930s, shortly before she became Queen Elizabeth.
In 1951, Queen Elizabeth reportedly gave the entire Persian Turquoise Parure to her younger daughter, Princess Margaret, as a twenty-first birthday present. Margaret would wear the suite of jewelry frequently at gala occasions for the next half century. Above, she wears the tiara, earrings, necklace, and brooch for a banquet at the Belgian embassy in London during the state visit from King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola in 1963.
Here’s a look at Margaret wearing the turquoise tiara and jewels in brilliant color, taken in 1993 at the Portuguese embassy in London. We haven’t seen a glimpse of the Persian Turquoise Parure in public since Margaret’s death in 2002. It was not part of the famous auction of her jewelry, and many of us hope that it was returned to the Buckingham Palace vaults. (That’s what happened to the Lotus Flower Tiara, another sparkler worn by Margaret.) Here’s hoping this one sees the light of day again sooner rather than later. I’d love to see it on the Duchess of Cambridge.
In March 1929, the Duchess of York (second from the left) wore her turquoise tiara for a pre-wedding gala at the National Theatre in Oslo, celebrating the wedding of Crown Prince Olav of Norway and Princess Märtha of Sweden. But hers wasn’t the only British royal turquoise tiara present at the event. Queen Maud of Norway (fourth from the left), who was born Princess Maud of Wales, wore a diamond and turquoise tiara that she had inherited from her mother, Queen Alexandra of the United Kingdom, in 1925.
To my knowledge, there are no portraits of Queen Alexandra wearing the turquoise and diamond circlet. We also don’t know for certain exactly when this unique diamond and turquoise tiara, with its Indian-inspired designs, came into Alexandra’s collection. In my research, I came across a newspaper report from the Jersey Evening Post in December 1902 that provides a possible provenance: “Last week we all united in congratulating our beautiful Queen on having attained her fifty-eighth birthday. The King’s birthday present to his Queen was a splendid diamond and turquoise tiara, turquoises being extraordinarily becoming to her fair hair and still lovely complexion.”
Today, the diamond and turquoise circlet is worn by Queen Maud’s granddaughter, Princess Astrid. She’s been wearing the tiara for decades. Appropriately, she chose it for a banquet during a state visit from Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip of the United Kingdom to Oslo in January 2002. (Princess Märtha Louise, also pictured here attending the British state banquet, wore the King Olav’s Gift Tiara.)
Here’s a more recent picture of Princess Astrid wearing the tiara, taken during the 80th birthday celebrations for King Harald V and Queen Sonja of Norway in 2017.
Which of these British royal turquoise tiaras is your favorite?