This week, our Sparkling Spotlight shines on tiaras worn by royal women celebrating July birthdays. We marveled at Queen Sonja of Norway’s complete tiara collection earlier this month, but today, we’ve got a closer look at a petite diamond bandeau with major royal provenance.
In October 2002, King Harald V and Queen Sonja of Norway attended the American-Scandinavian Foundation’s annual gala dinner and dance in New York City. For the black-tie event, Queen Sonja wore a pale lavender and ice blue evening gown with velvet floral appliqué details and sheer sleeves.
With the gown, Sonja wore King Harald’s Royal Family Order (the ribbon and badge on her left shoulder) and sparkling diamonds. She chose the bandeau base of the family’s Maltese Cross Circlet for the occasion. The small bandeau was perfect for a black-tie event, but its size is deceptive: it’s part of a much larger jewel that was originally a crown worn by a British queen consort.
The bandeau began its bejeweled life as the base of Queen Alexandra’s Regal Circlet. The diamond crown, which had both Maltese cross and fleur-de-lis topper elements, was commissioned by Alexandra from Carrington around 1910, after her husband’s death, for her personal use. Here, in a portrait taken at the wedding of Prince Arthur of Connaught and Princess Alexandra, Duchess of Fife in October 1913, Queen Alexandra wears the circlet with Queen Victoria’s Small Diamond Crown set inside of it. (She is also, of course, wearing numerous other pieces of jewelry, including her eye-catching diamond collier résille.)
When Queen Alexandra died in 1925, the diamond circlet was inherited by her youngest daughter, Queen Maud of Norway. Maud, pictured above, wears the circlet with just the Maltese cross ornaments in a portrait taken ca. 1928. The fleur-de-lis elements are no longer with either the British or Norwegian royals. According to Vincent Meylan in his excellent Christie’s: The Jewellery Archives Revealed, the fleur-de-lis ornaments had likely “already been unmounted when Queen Maud inherited the jewel” in 1925. One of those fleur-de-lis elements (listed as a “diamond brooch, designed as a fleur-de-lys”) was offered for sale at Christie’s in May 1937 by the Dowager Lady Glenarthur. Meylan speculates that Alexandra may have presented the fleur-de-lis ornaments as gifts to friends.
The base of the circlet and the Maltese cross ornaments have remained with the Norwegian family up to the present day. Queen Sonja usually wears just the base of the circlet as a bandeau tiara, but on occasion, she has worn the crosses on the circlet as well. Here, in Slovenia in May 2011, she arranges three of the crosses at the front of the circlet, forming a more traditional tiara shape. The fourth cross is pinned as a brooch on her order sash.
For the gala in New York in October 2002, Sonja paired the bandeau base of the circlet with a pair of diamond necklaces, diamond earrings with gorgeous amethyst briolette drops, and a diamond tennis bracelet, as well as her signature stack of thin gold bangle bracelets.