13 October 2011

Tiara Thursday: Sophie's Wedding Tiara

A tiara mystery was born on June 19, 1999, when Prince Edward married Sophie Rhys-Jones. The bride showed up in a piece that no one had seen before - not that surprising, given the imagined size of the British royal jewel collection, but very interesting nonetheless.
Sophie's Wedding Tiara
At the time of the wedding it was reported that her diamond tiara, made of three open scrollwork motifs (which up close actually appears to be four, as the central element seems to be comprised of one motif on top of another), came from the Queen's private collection and was designed and remodeled by the Crown Jeweller (David Thomas of Asprey and Garrard at the time).
The Earl and Countess of Wessex on their wedding day. Sophie's pearl necklace and earrings were a wedding gift personally designed by Edward.
The exact origins of the tiara are the source of the mystery. Plenty of theories as to its provenance have been tossed around over the years, but the one that seems to have gained the most widespread acceptance among jewel watchers is this: the tiara's elements are actually four detachable anthemions from Queen Victoria's regal circlet.
I don't know that there are any pictures or paintings of the anthemions (that anyone has found, at least); the theory comes from the empty depressions in the circlet's case, which seem to match the basic shapes of the pieces of Sophie's tiara. Of course, this has not been officially confirmed.

Sophie's veil comes back and the tiara starts to sparkle at 4:09
Over the years, many have drawn lines between the history and sentiment behind the jewels the Queen has given to her daughters-in-law and the relative strength of their marriages. Diana, Princess of Wales received the Cambridge Lover's Knot Tiara, a piece created for Queen Mary; we'll call that a medium level of historical importance when you compare it to other pieces in the vaults that are older or have a more significant provenance. Sarah, Duchess of York received a tiara purchased specifically for her; no history happening there at all. And we know how those stories ended.

Sophie, on the other hand, may just have something that was once a mark of Queen Victoria's sovereignty. That's ages ahead in historical value. And lo and behold, her marriage seems to be going strong more than ten years on, and she's become a valuable asset to the family. Interesting to ponder, isn't it?

Sophie all blinged up at foreign royal weddings (left to right: Haakon and Mette-Marit, Märtha Louise and Ari, Frederik and Mary, Victoria and Daniel, Albert and Charlene)
But back to the jewel at hand. Oh, has this tiara drawn some hate. It's just so obviously four separate pieces, plunked together. Personally, I find the attachment of the top element to be particularly clumsy. Its frame is also very visible, which is usually not an attractive feature. But I have to say, this one's growing on me. Now that Sophie has grown her hair out, she has a better base for it. She can cover up that wire frame a bit, which makes the whole thing look a little more cohesive.

And it's a good thing, too, because if you think about it Sophie's one of the Windsor ladies with the most tiara-wearing occasions. She may not be a front page royal, but she and Edward participate in almost all incoming state visits (we just never get to see her, because the photo opportunities are severely restricted). They are also currently the Queen's designated representatives for a lot of foreign royal events, which is where we actually get to see her in her jewels.
Sophie's other tiaras: the floral button on loan, and the aquamarine convertible necklace tiara
The wedding tiara is her signature piece, but it actually isn't her only one. She wore a small diamond floral button-type tiara to Frederik and Mary's pre-wedding gala in 2004 (the first time she was pictured with her royal family order, by the way) - speculation says this might have been a loan from a jeweler, and hasn't been seen since. And in 2005 during the festivities for Albert II's coronation in Monaco, she debuted a second tiara: a diamond setting with a large central aquamarine. It's convertible to a necklace, and she can wear just the aquamarine on a pendant as well. Not much is known about this one, but I love it. I hope to see her add different stones to swap the aquamarine out for in the future - wouldn't that make a divine convertible piece?

How do you rate Sophie's wedding tiara: just right, or just sad?

Photos: Corbis/Hello/Goff