11 August 2011

Tiara Thursday: The Cut Steel Tiara

It's about time we dipped into the Swedish jewel vaults for our weekly delight; after all, they do hold one of the fanciest (and largest) jewel collections around. To start us off I've chosen the one that has no diamonds at all. I have my reasons.
It was a request, you see. Someone tweeted me that they'd seen a picture of Victoria wearing this gem and wondered why she wore a budget tiara. Mais non! Obviously, a tiara tutorial is in order.

True, there are no gemstones in sight. What we have here is cut steel and gilt brass in a design of feathers, flowers, oak leaves, and acorns. These sorts of pieces became popular in the 1700s, as cut steel was a less expensive way for women to obtain a sparkly piece of jewelry when they couldn't afford the real deal. Less expensive, but still not cheap; it is very time-consuming work to create all the small facets and studs that allow a cut steel piece to shimmer as a diamond would. And it really does sparkle - see it for yourself on Crown Princess Victoria at the 2010 Nobel Prize dinner:

According to the royal court, this Napoleonic era tiara was made for Queen Hortense of Holland. It is popularly thought to have been brought to Sweden by Queen Josephine. Josephine was Hortense's niece. And here is where this tiara's story gets interesting: it is said to have remained hidden away in the palace for years, until it was discovered by Queen Silvia while exploring her way through cupboards and such after she married King Carl Gustaf. (I'm just saying, if the corners of my humble abode promised such treasures, this place would be much cleaner.) 
Silvia had it refurbished, and debuted it in public in 1979 during an Austrian state visit. In the far right picture above, she is also wearing the matching steel earrings and choker, which are seen far less often than the tiara. (That's okay by me: it's a whole lot of metal all together, isn't it?)
The tiara has also been worn by Princess Lilian (above, left), Princess Christina (above, center and right), and Crown Princess Victoria (below).
With a history like that, there's nothing cheap about it. That said, and with much respect to that incredible history, I'm not a fan. And not just because it has no diamonds, but because it's awfully plume-ish. Let's leave the spurts of feathers to military hats and such, I think.

What do you think of this non-gem tiara?
Photos: SVT/IBL/Corbis/Svenskdam