In this week’s Magnificent Jewels sale in Geneva, Christie’s is offering a treasure trove of jewelry, including this rather spectacular Chaumet tiara with fascinating historical connections to a Countess and a Kennedy.
Tomorrow, Christie’s will offer the Bessborough Diamond Tiara for sale at their Magnificent Jewels auction in Geneva. In the lot notes for the jewel, the tiara is described as “an impressive Chaumet Art Deco diamond tiara.” The jewel is made of marquise-shaped diamond, single, and old-cut diamonds all set in platinum.
The remarkable tiara was made in 1931. The piece was a commission from the 9th Earl of Bessborough, Vere Ponsonby, for his wife, the elegant French noblewoman Roberte Poupart de Neuflize. Lord Bessborough was a particularly successful businessman from a long line of Anglo-Irish aristocrats. The same year that the tiara was commissioned, King George V appointed Bessborough to serve as Governor General of Canada.
Bessborough turned to Chaumet in Roberte’s native France to create a tiara suited for a viceregal consort. They based the design of the tiara on the large marquise-shaped diamond set as its centerpiece. The diamond had been given to Bessborough as a parting gift by De Beers when he stepped down from an executive position with the company. Lady Bessborough would go on to wear the tiara often, both for official functions in Canada during her husband’s tenure there and for glittering events back in Britain, including the 1937 coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.
The tiara has elegant, swooping lines, and its frame forms a slender, complete circlet. Here’s a photograph of the back of the tiara from the Christie’s advertisement ahead of this week’s sale.
Here’s a closer view of Roberte Bessborough wearing the tiara for the 1937 coronation. You’ll note that she’s carrying her coronet in her hand, and she’s paired the tiara with pearls and a favorite jeweled sautoir necklace.
But Lady Bessborough wasn’t the only prominent lady to wear the tiara at court. In May 1938, Roberte loaned the tiara to a prominent friend: Rose Kennedy, the wife of the then-American ambassador to the Court of St. James, Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. The mother of the future President John F. Kennedy wore the Bessborough Diamond Tiara at Buckingham Palace as she introduced seven American debutantes to King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, including two of her daughters, Rosemary and Kathleen (who later became Marchioness of Hartington).
Rose wore the tiara with pearls. The Daily News described her Molyneux gown as “of gold and silver embroidered lace over a white satin foundation” with “embroidery of gold and silver pailettes” on “her gold lame train.”
The Bessborough Diamond Tiara has remained in the family until now. It will hit the auction block at Christie’s in Geneva tomorrow morning, where it is expected to fetch between 800,000 and 1,500,000 Swiss francs—or something in the range of $895,000 to $1.67 million USD.