10 November 2011

Tiara Thursday: The Teck Turquoise Tiara

Hello, and welcome back to a Very Gloucester Week on the blog, apparently. Today's tiara is a reader request from the lovely Melissa, who much like myself is a big fan of the current Duchess of Gloucester (talk about your Benjamin Button royals, I'm telling you). It's a very appropriate tiara for us to discuss this week, given our recent chat about personal property. And it's our first foray into the world of turquoise tiaras! A momentous occasion indeed.
The Teck Turquoise Tiara
We'll call this the Teck Turquoise Tiara because it shares provenance with both the Teck Crescent Tiara and the Teck Circle Tiara: they all come from Queen Mary’s mother Princess Mary Adelaide, the Duchess of Teck. This particular piece was made around 1850 and is composed of diamonds and turquoise stones set in a central sunburst motif surrounded by rococo scrolls.
Left to right: the original parure as depicted in the published sketches of the wedding gifts, Mary wearing the tiara in its original high form, and the altered parure when given to the Duchess of Gloucester
The future Queen Mary received this gem and its accompanying parure as a wedding gift from her parents. Never one to leave her jewels alone, Mary played around with the set. Most significantly, she had E. Wolff & Co. lower the top of the tiara in 1912 - you can see that it now longer has a pronounced central point. She gave the altered parure to her daughter-in-law Alice, the Duchess of Gloucester, as a wedding gift in 1935. Alice's wedding gifts were heavy with jewels, in fact. Queen Mary made sure to set everybody up with at least one grand parure, and in the Gloucester's case, even more.
Alice, Duchess of Gloucester
From here, though, the jewel begins a trek that may just lead it straight out of the working royal family for good. Alice passed the parure on to her daughter-in-law, Brigitte (the current Duchess of Gloucester). It is certainly not Birgitte's most worn piece, but that's not really the purpose of a turquoise tiara, I suppose. They're best when included in a substantial collection and used as show pieces every now and then.
Birgitte, the current Duchess of Gloucester
Where it goes next is an appropriate question given our ongoing discussion on jewel ownership. The Gloucesters own this piece privately, and it will presumably pass on to one of their three children some day (please, not for many many years to come). The impressive Gloucester stash of jewels includes somewhere in the neighborhood of six tiaras - an amount that could rival the collections of some entire royal countries. The current Duke and Duchess are full-time royals, but their children will not be. So I am afraid for the future of their collection. As we’ve discussed, lack of tiara events plus looming inheritance taxes is a sad recipe for a jewel sale. (But I’ll say it again: not for a long time. Please.)
Detail of the tiara's central element
Anyway, back to the jewel. It took me a long time to develop an appreciation for a good turquoise tiara. Something about the contrast in the composition of the stones in a diamond and turquoise pairing didn’t appeal to me. Not to mention, good turquoise tiaras are hard to come by, and they’re even harder to accessorize than most of their colored stone tiara friends. But pieces like this have won me over: it’s delicate and lovely, and I’ll be truly sad if it disappears from public life someday.

What do you think will happen to this tiara?
Turquoise tiaras: yay or nay?

Photos: Geoffrey Munn/Tim Graham/Getty Images/British Pathe