As May draws to a close, we’ve got time to shine a spotlight on one more tiara from Queen Mary’s incredible collection. Today, we’re looking closely at the Westminster Laurel Leaf Bandeau, a delicate diamond necklace conversion that seems to have vanished into the royal vaults!
Queen Mary’s remarkable 1893 cache of royal wedding gifts was certainly fit for a future queen consort. The haul included numerous tiaras, set with diamonds, pearls, and even turquoises, as well as several pieces that could be converted to be worn as diadems.
One of these pieces destined for tiara conversion was the present given to Mary by the 1st Duke of Westminster. The immensely wealthy duke, one of the richest men in the country, gave the princess a “jewelled necklace” to mark the occasion. The piece is depicted in a July 1893 illustration above. It shows the laurel leaf designs interspersed between the larger diamonds in the piece.
At some point, Mary had the necklace reconfigured, placing it on a frame so that it could be worn as a bandeau-style tiara. The large diamonds in the piece were surrounded by geometric frames as part of the conversion. You can still spot the laurel leaf designs in this image of Mary wearing the tiara.
Around the time of her husband’s accession in 1910, Mary wore the tiara in a pair of portrait sessions. The images here are fascinating, because they have clear marks of early photograph editing attempts.
In the first photo set, she wears the laurel leaf bandeau with diamond and pearl ornaments, including her eleven-row pearl choker necklace (now worn by the Duchess of Gloucester) and the Duchess of Cambridge’s Pearl Pendant Brooch.
The second portrait session must have taken place in or after 1911, as Queen Mary is wearing an important jewel—the Cullinan III & IV Brooch—made for her that year by Carrington.
Her other jewels also include the laurel leaf bandeau and the Love Trophy Collar. Sadly, these pictures appear to be some of our last glimpses of the laurel leaf tiara. Presumably, if it wasn’t broken up, it was inherited by the Queen in 1953 and remains in the palace vaults today. I’d love to see it worn in either necklace or tiara form again!