22 September 2016

Tiara Thursday: Doris Duke's Diamond and Pearl Cartier Bandeau

Doris Duke's Pearl and Diamond Cartier Bandeau
Doris Duke (1912-1993) was the “world’s richest girl”, or so the headlines liked to say. Her father, tobacco magnate James Buchanan Duke, left twelve-year-old Doris and her mother, Nanaline, an estate valued at as much as $100 million when he died in 1925.

Doris Duke with her first husband, James H. R. Cromwell
The fortune funded a wide variety of interests for Doris throughout her life. She was a notable collector of art, wine, real estate, and fine jewelry, just to name a few of those interests. Her mother also had an exquisite jewelry collection, which Doris inherited in 1962. Among those pieces was this pearl and diamond bandeau tiara.

The tiara modeled at a Christie's event before auction in 2004
Cartier made the tiara in 1924, and it was bought by either Nanaline or James B. Duke in March of that year for $23,000. The platinum-mounted tiara has a striking stair-step design created from old European-cut diamonds, and features a single natural pearl at the center and two pear-shaped diamonds on top. It was designed to be worn in bandeau fashion across the forehead, as was the fashion of the time. The tiara is unmistakably Art Deco; at the time of its sale, it was noted as a superb example of early tiara work from that era.

Video: The auction of Doris Duke's jewelry
And sold it was, eventually. Doris Duke was dedicated to philanthropy throughout her life, and the billionaire left much of her estate to the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation when she died in 1993. Her jewelry collection and other items from her estate were auctioned by Christie’s in 2004 to benefit the foundation.


The jewelry auction brought in close to $12 million, setting new records for the sale of a private collection. The Art Deco tiara was bought by Cartier for $298,700. The jeweler added their creation back to their collection and it now makes the rounds at various exhibitions, and even makes the odd photoshoot appearance (as modeled above). I usually love a tiara with a nice architectural feel to it, but this one's geometry seems a little harsh in use today (though I'll note that it's hard to judge this as it was meant to be worn, in the fashion of its time). As a display piece, however, it's a refreshing change.

Too many hard angles for you, or just right?