As July draws to a close, we’ve got one more royal ruby jewel to discuss: the magnificent King Edward VII Ruby Tiara, part of the Swedish royal family’s jewelry collection.
The elaborate tiara dates to the spring of 1905. That June, Princess Margaret of Connaught (granddaughter of Queen Victoria and niece of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra of the United Kingdom) married Prince Gustaf Adolf of Sweden (grandson of King Oscar II and son of Crown Prince Gustaf and Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden) at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor. Margaret and Gustaf had fallen in love during a whirlwind royal romance along the Nile earlier that year. Their wedding, the marriage of a future King and Queen of Sweden, drew royal guests from near and far, and the princess in particular received an enormous cache of wedding gift jewelry.
King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra gave their niece a truly grand wedding present: an elaborate, convertible diamond and ruby tiara. The jewel was made on commission by E. Wolff & Co. for Garrard, then the crown jeweler. The design of the jewel was particularly Edwardian. The Daily Mirror described the piece as “a regal crown, composed of the finest diamonds and large pigeon’s blood rubies set square in the new manner.” The Daily Telegraph also weighed in on the design, describing the tiara as “a superb high jewelled coronet, in scroll design, connected by festoons, composed of brilliants, with rubies for the centre of the scroll ornaments and the festoons.”
In the jewelry case with the tiara was another coordinating diamond and ruby ornament: a thin row of diamonds with an attached ruby and diamond cluster. This piece seemed to confuse some of the correspondents writing about the jewelry. The reporter for the Mirror called it “a lovely necklace to match,” while the writer for the Telegraph noted, “A diamond chain bracelet, with ruby and diamond cluster clasp, was enclosed in the same case.”
The Telegraph correspondent is the one who got it right. The diamond jewel with the ruby and diamond cluster clasp is indeed able to be worn separately as a bracelet. (Crown Princess Victoria wears it this way on her right wrist in this photograph, taken during the German state visit to Stockholm in 2021. She’s also wearing another of Margaret’s wedding gifts, the Connaught Diamond Tiara.)
The confusion lies, I believe, in the fact that the bracelet can also be used to convert the tiara into a necklace. It can be attached to the ends of the tiara’s base to form the necklace setting, with the cluster placed at the nape of the wearer’s neck. And, the Mirror reported, the jewel was even more convertible than that. They noted that the piece could also be arranged as a “corsage ornament,” stretched across the bodice of the wearer’s gowns.
Crown Princess Margareta, as she later became known, didn’t have many years to enjoy her royal jewels. Tragically, she died in Stockholm in May 1920, just fifteen years after her marriage, at the age of 38. Her jewelry was divided among her five children, and the ruby tiara was inherited by her second son, Prince Sigvard.
Sigvard, who became a talented industrial designer, had a complicated relationship with his royal family throughout his long life. When he married a commoner in 1934, he lost his royal titles and status. This change would become a major irritation to him, and he and his family disagreed for decades about his title. (In the 1950s, he received a new aristocratic title, Count of Wisborg, from the Grand Duchess of Luxembourg, who was a distant cousin.) The matter was never settled to Sigvard’s satisfaction during his lifetime.
The ruby tiara would also become a bit of a controversial item within his contentious family relationship. Though two of his three wives (Sonja and Marianne) were photographed wearing the jewel as a tiara or necklace, Sigvard apparently decided to sell the piece to his father, King Gustaf VI Adolf. But even that transaction was mired in uncertainty, as Sigvard would later claim he had only loaned the jewel to his father. King Gustaf VI Adolf apparently tried to right the situation by bequeathing the tiara to Sigvard’s only son, Michael, in 1973.
Michael, in turn, later decided to sell the tiara back to the royal family. The purchaser was his cousin, King Carl XVI Gustaf. Since then, the tiara has been worn exclusively by Queen Silvia, both in diadem and necklace form. She made a memorable early appearance in the tiara in November 1995 at the royal wedding of Prince Joachim and Princess Alexandra of Denmark. (It was an apt choice, since Queen Alexandra, born a Danish princess, was one of the original givers of the tiara gift.) She paired the tiara with diamonds, including the Karl Johan Earrings and the necklace setting of the Modern Fringe Tiara.
Over the years, Silvia has often worn the ruby tiara for royal galas and banquets. She generally chooses the tiara for slightly less grand occasions, like birthday celebrations and state dinners. (She has not, for example, worn it at the Nobel Prize banquet.) Here, she wears the tiara for a state banquet at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo in March 2007. She also wore the Karl Johan Earrings and the Diamond Lozenge Brooch for this event, and she used the Bernadotte Ruby Brooch as a pendant on a diamond necklace.
Over the years, this tiara has attended numerous state dinners. Queen Silvia wears the tiara (again with the Karl Johan Earrings, the Diamond Lozenge Brooch, and a diamond necklace) here at the Royal Palace in Stockholm in May 2008 during a state visit from the President of Greece.
During a state visit from the President of Portugal to Stockholm in October 2013, Queen Silvia wore the tiara again for a state banquet at the Royal Palace. This time, she paired the tiara with the family’s lovely diamond floral earrings and a diamond necklace and pendant. She used the Bernadotte Ruby Brooch to secure her order sash.
Though Silvia has most often worn the jewel as a tiara, she’s also worn it in its necklace setting. I think this might be my favorite arrangement of the piece. She wears the necklace here in May 2013 in Wilmington, Delaware, for a special gala dinner celebrating 375th anniversary of the founding of the New Sweden Colony.
Most recently, we’ve seen Silvia wear the piece as a tiara. She wore the jewel in tiara form with a diamond necklace and the Karl Johan Earrings in Copenhagen in May 2018, for a gala dinner celebrating the 50th birthday of Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark.
And just a few months ago, in May 2022, we saw her wear the tiara once more for a state dinner. This time, the banquet was held at the Royal Palace during a state visit from the President of Finland. Queen Silvia wore the tiara with the diamond floral earrings—and if you look closely, you’ll spot the diamond and ruby cluster from the tiara’s coordinating bracelet peeking out from beneath her sleeve on her right wrist.
I think Silvia wears this tiara beautifully, but I’d love to see another member of the family take it out for a spin, too. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see how Crown Princess Victoria would style this Edwardian tiara?