03 March 2011

Tiara Thursday: The Cambridge Lover's Knot

And now, for our second installment of Tiara Thursdays, we move to one of the most famous tiaras in the collection, even though it hasn't been seen in years: the Cambridge Lover's Knot Tiara.
This gem was commissioned from Garrard in 1913/1914 by everyone's favorite magpie, Queen Mary. She modeled it off of a tiara owned by her grandmother, Princess Augusta of Hesse, the Duchess of Cambridge. It wasn't a unique design to begin with; several others exist that are quite similar. The piece passed from Princess Augusta to her daughter (also named Augusta), who became Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.
Left to Right: Princess Augusta of Hesse, the Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Queen Mary with upright pearls, Queen Mary without upright pearls.

Swinging pearls hang from 19 diamond arches capped with lover's knots. The piece was composed of existing jewels Queen Mary had in her collection: the dismantled Some Ladies of England Tiara plus the original pearl uprights from the Girls of Great Britain & Ireland Tiara and pearls off of a couple brooches belonging to Mary which were ultimately returned. Originally, the design included upright pearls on top of the arches, but Mary had them removed eventually.

After Mary died in 1953, the tiara passed to Queen Elizabeth II. She wore it with some regularity in the early 1950s, but it eventually went back to storage as she narrowed down her favorite tiaras to the ones we see with regularity today.
Next up, the best known part of our tale: Queen Elizabeth gave the Cambridge Lover's Knot tiara to Diana, Princess of Wales as a wedding present in 1981. Diana famously found the piece to be too heavy and headache-inducing, and often opted to borrow the lighter-weight Spencer tiara from her family instead. (I don't blame her for searching out a second tiara option. With the swinging pearls, this one had to be tricky to wear.) As this was a loan and not a part of Diana's personal property, it is now back in the collection of the Queen.
Now the question is: is this an option for Kate? It's an awfully heavy-handed throwback to Diana, but so was giving her the sapphire engagement ring. (The difference, naturally, is between Prince William giving the gift and the Queen giving the gift.) Personally, I'd like to see Kate wear it, but maybe when she's Princess of Wales. Give the girl a bit of time to develop her own persona first.

It seems people either love this tiara or despise it: which side do you fall on?


Photos: Corbis/Getty/Geoffrey Munn/Leslie Field/Suzy Menkes