Today, the Princess Royal celebrates her 72nd birthday, and to mark the occasion, we’re taking a look at one of her most unusual royal jewels: the Aquamarine Pineflower Tiara.
The diamond and aquamarine tiara, set in platinum, was made by Cartier. Pinecone-inspired elements are interspersed with large, emerald-cut aquamarines along the tiara, which swooped low on the sides of the wearer’s head. King George VI, Anne’s grandfather, reportedly commissioned it as a wedding anniversary present for his wife, Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother). I’ve seen various construction dates for the tiara thrown about, but the one that makes the most sense to me is 1938. Bertie and Elizabeth celebrated their 15th wedding anniversary that April. They had been crowned less than a year earlier, and as queen consort, Elizabeth was in need of more tiaras and gala jewels than she’d needed as Duchess of York. The design also fits in well with Cartier’s 1930s aesthetic.
The pinecone (or “pineflower,” as it’s generally called) design seems like an odd choice for a tiara, but I think the inclusion of a tree-related symbol in a wedding anniversary tiara does make some sense. Elizabeth was the strong, unwavering force behind her husband, helping to encourage and steady him during the wild upheaval of the abdication and accession.
Elizabeth had relatively few opportunities to get much use out of the aquamarine tiara before war broke out in 1939. After the war ended, the tiara never rose to the top of her ranking of favorites, though she was photographed in the piece in public. In the picture above, taken in July 1951, she wears the tiara in Covent Garden for a gala performance of Frederick Ashton’s Tiresias, held to benefit the Sadler’s Wells Ballet Benevolent Fund. She paired diamond jewels with the tiara, including Queen Victoria’s Coronation Earrings and Necklace, her own Coronation Necklace, and Queen Victoria’s Diamond Bracelet. Delightfully, if you look closely, you’ll also spot another jewel, her Aquamarine Art Deco Brooch, pinned to her clutch bag. (The brooch and the tiara share some interesting design similarities, and from certain angles, I could almost believe they were made to be worn as a set.)
In November 1973, the Queen Mother offered the aquamarine and diamond tiara to her granddaughter, Princess Anne, as a wedding present. She wears the tiara above at a July 1986 banquet given by President von Weizsäcker of West Germany at the ambassador’s residence in Belgrave Square. She’s also wearing some interesting other jewelry pieces here, including her modern diamond necklace, a pair of earrings that look to be set with aquamarines, a brooch that (I think!) is in the shape of a grasshopper or cricket, and a pearl bracelet with a diamond and topaz (?) cluster clasp.
By this point, you’ll note that Anne—ever practical when it comes to jewelry—had had the sides of the tiara shortened. The central aquamarine and diamond element was removed, and one of the rectangular aquamarines now sits in the center of the piece.
The central element of the tiara was repurposed for wear as a brooch. Anne wears the diamond and aquamarine brooch pinned to her jacket in this photograph, taken at a Buckingham Palace garden party in June 2014. She also wears her diamond and aquamarine pendant, strung on a single strand of pearls. I’ve often thought that the Art Deco-style pendant was also made using elements of the tiara that were removed when it was revised.
Here’s another view of the pendant, worn on the same pearl necklace, taken at a garden party at Buckingham Palace in July 2019. Anne wore diamond and pearl earrings on both occasions as well.
Anne still wears the tiara for gala events on occasion. You’ll glimpse her wearing the tiara at the top of this photograph, taken in April 2014 at Windsor Castle during a state banquet honoring President Higgins of Ireland. (The Queen, pictured below her, is wearing the Vladimir Tiara with additional emeralds.)
And here, during the American state banquet in June 2019, Anne wears the tiara with the brooch and the pendant, again worn on a pearl necklace. This time, though, she appears to also have worn a pair of aquamarine and diamond earrings. These also look to me like they may have been made using leftover elements of the original tiara.