With Queen Silvia’s 80th birthday approaching next week, we’re taking a look at eight of her most glittering tiara appearances. Today, we’ve got a closer look at a special set of bejeweled official portraits from the start of her tenure as Sweden’s queen consort.
Shortly after their royal wedding in June 1976, King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden and his new wife, Queen Silvia, posed for their first set of joint official portraits. The images were captured by the famed Swedish photographer Lennart Nilsson, who had been photographing the royal family for generations.
Silvia looks every inch the 1970s queen in the pictures, wearing a blue-green evening dress with a beaded bodice and thin double straps. She’s also wearing the sash and star of the Order of the Seraphim, plus her new husband’s Royal Family Order.
The color of the dress shifts in various photographs from the sitting. Here, it looks more seafoam than light blue. (Overall, I think the images featuring the bluer-toned dress are probably more correct, because they capture the color of the Seraphim sash more accurately.) But the jewels remain equally magnificent in every single image, as Silvia chose some of the most important antique pieces in the Bernadotte collection for her first official portrait. She wore the Braganza Tiara, a grand royal heirloom from the Leuchtenberg family, with the Russian imperial topazes and the Karl Johan Earrings.
Here’s a closer look at the tiara. Made in France around 1830, the diadem is set with diamonds that come from Brazil. The gemstones originally belonged to Empress Maria Leopoldina, a Habsburg princess who was the first wife of Emperor Pedro I of Brazil. She passed away in 1826, and the diamonds were inherited by her children but acquired back by their father. He subsequently gave them his second wife, Princess Amélie of Leuchtenberg, whom he married in 1829. Pedro abdicated only two years after their wedding, but Empress Amélie managed to keep her diamonds in exile. When she died in 1873, she left the tiara and its coordinating parure to her only surviving sibling, Queen Josefina of Sweden. The jewels have been in Stockholm ever since.
The portrait session was one of Silvia’s very first experiences wearing the tiara, which is notoriously heavy and can be difficult to balance. But she carried it off beautifully, aided by the pairing with the necklace and brooch from the beautiful Russian Pink Topaz Suite. The demi-parure of jewels also dates to the first half of the nineteenth century. Made around 1811, the set was commissioned by Empress Maria Feodorovna of Russia as a gift for her daughter, Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach. The suite was a celebration of the birth of Maria Pavlovna’s daughter, Princess Augusta, who later became the first Kaiserin of Germany and is an ancestor of today’s Swedish royals.
Silvia also added a pair of earrings that date to the same era, too. These are the Karl Johan Earrings, so named because they reportedly entered the family’s jewelry collection during the reign of the first Bernadotte king in the early nineteenth century. Silvia also wore them for her very first tiara appearance, at the couple’s pre-wedding gala concert in Stockholm.
Here’s one more look at Silvia wearing all of the magnificent heirloom jewels together for her first official portrait. Nothing says “I’m Queen of Sweden” better than piling on jewelry from centuries past!
Queen Silvia has continued to wear all of the jewelry pieces from her first portrait session regularly over the past five decades. We most recently saw her sparkling in the Braganza Tiara and the Karl Johan Earrings for a particularly big moment: the celebrations of King Carl XVI Gustaf’s Golden Jubilee in September 2023.
Our tiara-filled birthday celebration continues here on Monday! See you then!