Today is the anniversary of the Spencer Tiara’s greatest moment in the spotlight, so it seems like an appropriate time to treat ourselves to some gorgeous close-ups of the sparkler!
Before we get to the close-up views of the tiara, let’s do a little recap of its history. The jewel was made in 1937, the year of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth’s coronation, for Cynthia Spencer, wife of the 7th Earl Spencer. Cynthia was the new Queen Elizabeth’s Lady of the Bedchamber, so she needed plenty of tiaras for her required attendance at royal events.
Cynthia already had one family sparkler—the Spencer Honeysuckle Tiara—in her jewelry box. (That’s the tiara she wore for the 1937 coronation itself.) A second jewel, now simply known as the Spencer Tiara, was made for Cynthia that year using a set of nineteenth-century diamond ornaments that had once belonged to Lady Sarah Spencer, the daughter of the 4th Earl Spencer. Cynthia wore both tiaras during her service to Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, which lasted until Cynthia’s death in 1972.
After both Cynthia and her husband had passed, the tiara was inherited by their son, John, the 8th Earl Spencer. All three of his daughters, as well as his daughter-in-law, wore the tiara on their wedding days. The first Spencer bride to be photographed in the tiara was Lady Jane Spencer, who married Robert Fellowes (then an assistant private secretary to the Queen) in 1978.
Two years later, in 1980, Lady Sarah Spencer wore the tiara for her wedding to Neil McCorquodale. Their younger daughter, Celia, would later also wear the tiara for her wedding to George Woodhouse in 2018.
And most famously, of course, Lady Diana Spencer wore the tiara on July 29, 1981, for her wedding to the Prince of Wales.
When the youngest child of the family, Viscount Althorp (now the 9th Earl Spencer) married his first wife, Victoria Lockwood, in 1989, she also wore the Spencer Tiara.
Though the tiara always remained in the possession of the head of the Spencer family, Diana often borrowed the jewel to wear at gala occasions during her years as Princess of Wales. Here, she wears the tiara with her Saudi Sapphire Suite in Australia in 1983. (She also wore the tiara with the sapphires gifted to her by the Sultan of Oman, as you’ll see in the image at the top of this article.)
Here, in 1991, she wears the tiara in Canada. She paired the jewel with diamond and emerald jewelry on this occasion, including earrings and a bracelet given to her by Prince Charles, plus a necklace with a Prince of Wales Feather pendant.
After Diana’s divorce and death, the tiara returned to Althorp for good. By that time, her father had passed away, and her brother was the 9th Earl Spencer. He has allowed the tiara to be exhibited several times, including a display at Althorp House and a traveling exhibition, Diana: A Celebration.
Here’s a close-up of the centerpiece of the tiara, which features diamond scrolls that come together to form heart-shaped motifs. You’ll also spot several large collet-set diamonds in this part of the tiara, as well as two heraldic rose designs. Those heraldic roses (which sort of look like snowflakes when you first glance at them!) repeat across the entire tiara.
Here’s one of the sides of the tiara. You’ll be able to spot even more floral designs, including lily and leaf motifs, amid the swirling scrolls of the jewel.
You’ll spot even more lily, leaf, and rose designs in this view of the other side of the tiara.
And here’s another photograph of the same part of the tiara, taken from a different angle. The combination of the floral and scroll designs really makes this tiara a romantic piece. It’s easy to see why five different brides have chosen it for their wedding days!
Here’s one more close-up of the center of the tiara. It’s such an iconic aristocratic jewel! And contrary to what you’ll read sometimes on the internet, it’s going to stay that way. The tiara will be inherited one day by Diana’s nephew, the present Viscount Althorp, not by any of Diana’s royal descendants.