This Week's Obsession: Tiaras

This Week's Obsession: Tiaras

In celebration of the Queen's Jubilee, Sotheby's has put together the most dazzling exhibition of tiaras one could imagine. Close to 50 of the most breathtaking tiaras are assembled in one place for the first time ever. There were well-known tiaras, such as the Spencer Tiara that first came into the public consciousness over 40 years ago when then Lady Diana Spencer married Prince Charles. This tiara was seen by a global television audience of 750 million in 74 countries, as they witnessed the nuptials.  But this is only one of the spectacular tiaras on display, all from private collections.  If you live in London, you have until tomorrow to see this once-in-a-lifetime exhibit.

As one moves around the room of the exhibit, you can not help but wonder what it must feel like to don one of these marvellous creations. Some of them are so jewel-laden that one wonders how one would bear the weight of it upon one's head throughout an important event. Elsa and I spent Friday afternoon at the exhibit revisiting each case over and over as we each tried to pick our favourite one.  Read on to find out which one we each chose. 

Drum roll...true to our styles and personalities, Elsa and I chose two very different tiaras.  

My choice was one of the two Devonshire Tiaras.The Lotus and Palmette Diamond Tiara. The tiara was last worn by Duchess Mary to the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, as she was one of her ladies in waiting.  It is truly fit for a queen.   Devonshire Tiara


We may think ‘up-cycling’ is a modern day phenomenon, but reading about the making of the Lotus and Palmette Diamond Tiara, that’s clearly not the case.

In 1893 in order to create the high all-round crown she so desired, Duchess Louise, married to the 8th Duke of Devonshire, reaped the diamonds from the Chatsworth Parure and raided other historical Devonshire jewels, including the Garter Star to obtain the 1,041 diamonds required. Her intention was clear, she wanted to out-sparkle all other crowns - an ambition which this impressive showstopper successfully achieved.

Elsa chose something more fit for a movie star, which given her former career in Television was quite fitting. A tourmaline and diamond tiara by Charles de Temple circa 1966, reminded us of the Manhattan Skyline. 

Tourmaline and diamond tiara

To see photos of all these exquisite tiaras, visit the Sotheby's Power & Image: Royal and Aristocratic Tiaras. 

There is so much history around many of these tiaras, but one has a particularly interesting history, which is the Westminster Diamond Halo Tiara. It is one of the most famous Westminster tiaras, among the collection held by the Duke of Westminster. It was commissioned in a style reminiscent of Chinese headdresses from Lacloche in 1930 for the third wife of the 2nd Duke of Westminster, and was designed to house three large diamonds: Arcot diamonds on either side and what was thought to be the Hastings diamond in the centre. She is pictured below wearing the initial creation with the three large stones. 

Original Westminster Diamond Halo Tiara

It was sold by the family in 1959 and purchased by jeweller Harry Winston, who removed the large diamonds. It was later worn by Rose Movious Palmer with turquoise stones in place of the large diamonds (right, above) and now has smaller diamonds in place of the removed large ones (center, above).

westminster diamond halo tiara sothebys

Above you see the tiara as it is today. The gaps created in the tiara by the removal of the largest stones were filled by a redesign of the top section and with more small diamonds, echoing the rest of the tiara's design.

They were also memorably replaced at one point in time with three turquoise stones, like robin’s eggs in a diamond nest. While with Harry Winston, the tiara was loaned for wear by several people (see the links for photos): socialite Rose Movius Palmer wore it in the turquoise version, entertainer Carol Channing used it for an event, and rocker Alice Cooper wore it as a necklace for a portrait with Salvador Dali.


alice cooper westminster diamond halo tiara

The tiara was sold again at Sotheby's in 1988. It was last associated with Isi Fischzang jewellers.

To learn more about this tiara, and the three other tiaras featured in our newsletter visit Anatomy of a Tiara