As promised, it’s time to discuss some of the additional spectacular tiaras on display in the upcoming Platinum Jubilee exhibition at Sotheby’s!
More than 40 impressive tiaras, including several with royal or aristocratic provenance, are being showcased in “Power & Image: Royal & Aristocratic Tiaras,” a new exhibition at Sotheby’s running from May 28 until June 15. Most of the tiaras are merely on loan for display, though a few of them are indeed available for sale. We talked about the possibility that the Kent Pearl Fringe Tiara is one of the sale pieces in our article from Monday.
Today, we’re going to focus on a few important examples from the exhibition. It’s worth noting specifically that is far from an exhaustive survey—we’re only looking closely at seven of the tiaras being displayed. (This is a highlight reel, not a complete listing!)
For my money, the most impressive tiara included in the jubilee exhibition is the emerald and diamond tiara that was made for Queen Victoria in 1845. The tiara was designed by Prince Albert and made by Joseph Kitching, who had also made a coordinating parure. Historic Royal Palaces describes the jewel as “set with cushion-shaped diamonds and step-cut emeralds, and surmounted by a graduated row of 19 inverted pear-shaped emeralds, the largest of which weighs an astonishing 15 carats.”
The tiara ended up with the descendants of one of Victoria’s granddaughters, Princess Louise, Duchess of Fife. Since 2018, the emeralds have been on display at Kensington Palace with other Fife jewels. The emeralds are on long-term loan from the estate of the late 3rd Duke of Fife, who passed away in 2015.
Many viewers will naturally be excited to see this diamond tiara, which became iconic when Lady Diana Spencer wore it for her wedding to the Prince of Wales in the summer of 1981. The tiara was made in the 1930s using existing diamond pieces from the Spencer family collection, and it’s also been worn by several other family brides, including both of Diana’s sisters.
Lots of us (including me!) have seen it on display before, as part of a traveling exhibition celebrating the life of Diana, Princess of Wales that ran for several years. The tiara remains with the Spencer family, owned today by her brother. Regardless of what you may read in the tabloids, it’s going to stay with the Spencers, too.
The exhibition includes an intriguing tiara that was sold by Sotheby’s in a London auction last December. The tiara, made of gold, enamel, and cameos, was made ca. 1805 by Jacques-Ambroise Oliveras, purportedly for Empress Joséphine of France. The piece was later acquired by the Lascelles family; we discussed the chain of ownership in great detail in our article from the time of the sale.
This royal tiara shown in the exhibition was also previously auctioned by Sotheby’s. The diamond and platinum tiara was made around 1903, likely by Fabergé, for Duchess Cecilie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. The tiara was one of the wedding gifts offered to Cecilie when she married Crown Prince Wilhelm, son of Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, in June 1905. Cecilie’s mother was Grand Duchess Anastasia Mikhailovna of Russia, who was a dedicated customer of Fabergé.
The tiara was later worn by Crown Princess Cecilie’s daughter, also named Cecilie, for her wedding to an American designer, Clyde Harris. The couple had met while he was working as one of the Monuments Men during World War II. The tiara was sold in a Sotheby’s auction in Geneva in May 2019.
The Westminster Halo Tiara
This fantastic example of Art Deco design was made ca. 1930 by Lacloche Frères for Loelia Ponsonby, the third wife of the 2nd Duke of Westminster. She debuted the tiara in the pages of Vogue in 1930, in a portrait taken by famed society photographer Cecil Beaton. Later, the tiara was worn by the Duke’s fourth wife, Anne Sullivan, for the Queen’s coronation in 1953.
The tiara originally included two of the Arcot Diamonds, which once belonged to Queen Charlotte and were later acquired by the Grosvenors. When the tiara was later sold to Harry Winston, the Arcots were removed and replaced with smaller diamond clusters.
The Rosebery Tiara
Numerous prominent aristocratic families have loaned their tiaras to the exhibition, including the Cavendishes (the Dukes of Devonshire) and the Fitzalan-Howards (the Dukes of Norfolk). The Primroses (the Earls of Rosebery) have also opened up their family vault to the exhibition curators, loaning a pair of magnificent diamond tiaras. The jewel pictured here is the Rosebery Tiara, made in France in 1878. It was a wedding gift from the 5th Earl of Rosebery (who was one of Queen Victoria’s prime ministers) for his bride, Hannah de Rothschild.
The Primroses have also loaned a second tiara, appropriately called the Primrose Tiara, to Sotheby’s for the exhibition. The jewel is a romantic nineteenth-century wreath tiara of diamond daisies. It was worn as a bridal tiara by Deidre Reid for her wedding to the current Earl of Rosebery in 1955.
The Angelsey Tiara
This jewel is a very rare example of an aristocratic tiara that was commissioned to be worn by a man. Henry Paget, the 5th Marquess of Angelsey, loved to dress in theatrical costumes, often accessorized by magnificent jewels. He ordered this diamond tiara in the 1890s, though sadly, there don’t appear to be any existing photographs of him wearing. The jewel was later worn by the wives of his cousins and heirs, the 6th and 7th marquesses, at the coronations in 1937 and 1953.
The Angelsey Tiara is one of the jewels displayed in this exhibition that is also available for purchase. The tiaras that are being offered for sale include several antique examples, including a tiara that belonged to the late Countess Mountbatten of Burma, as well as the Kent Pearl Fringe Tiara. You can read the entire list of tiaras up for sale in the Forbes article on the exhibition.