01 December 2011

Tiara Thursday: The Nine Provinces Tiara

The Nine Provinces Tiara
We haven’t yet ventured into the Belgian jewel collection for our Thursday fun, but that’s okay; it's not that big of a collection, we can pace ourselves. I thought the only diadem that the family seems to make a point of passing from queen to queen, so far, would make a fitting start.
Astrid in the original version of the tiara
This tiara was a wedding gift from the people of Belgium to Princess Astrid of Sweden, who married the future King Leopold III in 1926. Created by Belgian jeweler Van Bever, the original version of the diadem is a flexible diamond bandeau in a stylized Greek key motif topped with 11 large diamonds on spikes. These large stones, totaling around 100 carats on their own, symbolize the nine provinces of Belgium and the (now former) Belgian colony of the Congo. I've heard a few different explanations for what the 11th diamond stands for, including Belgium as a whole and the Belgian royal family. Obviously, this is where we get our name: I’m calling it the Nine Provinces Tiara, though in English you could also go with the slightly more imposing Diadem of the Nine Provinces or even the Belgian Empire Tiara.
Astrid, Fabiola, and Paola wearing the full version of the tiara
Princess Astrid, who would be Queen Astrid for just a year before her tragic death in a car accident at the age of 29, later added a set of diamond arches to enclose each of the 11 independent stones – a much-needed improvement, if you ask me. After Astrid’s death the tiara was in the possession of King Leopold, and his second wife Princess Lilian wore parts of the tiara but not the full gem (Lilian never held the title of Queen). Leopold abdicated the throne in favor of his son Baudouin; when Baudouin married, Leopold gave the tiara to the new queen. Fabiola, Belgium’s first queen since Astrid, wore it on her wedding day. She handed the jewel over after Baudouin’s death and it is now worn by Queen Paola.
Astrid and Fabiola wearing the bandeau only; Fabiola wearing the bandeau and arches without center diamonds 
Belgium doesn’t have a huge jewel collection but to their credit, what they do have is usually quite flexible. This tiara can be worn in several different ways: the original bandeau and spike version, the full diadem with arches, just the bandeau worn as a tiara, or the bandeau and arches without the 11 large diamonds inside.
Lilian wearing the bandeau as a bracelet; Paola wearing the bandeau as a choker; Lilian using the stones from the tiara on top of Queen Elisabeth's Diamond Bandeau tiara; Lilian using the stones on her gold necklace
Additionally, the bandeau can be worn as a bracelet or a necklace. In both of the pictures above of Lilian and Paola using the bracelet and choker features, they are also wearing another Belgian tiara, Queen Elisabeth’s Diamond Bandeau (Lilian as a necklace and Paola as a tiara). Though Lilian didn’t wear the full Nine Provinces Tiara, she did take the large diamonds and attach them to the top of that bandeau tiara. She even seems to have attached them to a gold Van Cleef & Arpels necklace.
While I will always appreciate this one on that, you know, wall of diamonds level, I’m afraid I can’t like it on aesthetics alone. It’s awfully…pointy. A strange assessment from someone that would absolutely covet a classic fringe tiara to call her own, but there you have it. I guess I just like a slightly larger dose of conventional pretty in my diadems.

UPDATE: The tiara has now been passed on to the new Queen Mathilde, who wore the bandeau portion alone for her first formal gala portrait as queen consort. She wore the full version with arches for the first time in 2015 while in Denmark for Queen Margrethe's 75th birthday.

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