31 May 2012

Tiara Thursday: The Burmese Ruby Tiara

Most of the tiaras owned by Queen Elizabeth were inherited, and she’s largely left them alone (as opposed to her grandmother Queen Mary, who liked to redesign her gems on a regular basis). Today’s tiara is a unique look at what she does with gems when the design is not predetermined.
The Burmese Ruby Tiara
The queen commissioned this tiara from Garrard in 1973 using gems she already had on hand: 96 rubies which were a wedding present from the people of Burma and diamonds taken from the Nizam of Hyderabad Tiara, another wedding present. The rubies which give us our name were a symbolic gift: according to traditional Burmese beliefs, rubies are meant to protect their owner from evil and illness, and there are 96 diseases that can affect humans.
The rubies are set in gold and the diamonds in silver. The tiara is a wreath of roses separated by rays of diamonds; each rose has a ruby center with diamonds for petals and each rose is connected by a line of rubies.
With the Crown rubies (including the Oriental Circlet) still in the possession of the Queen Mother, it seems logical that the commission was aimed to fill a ruby tiara hole in Her Majesty's collection. The queen needed something of her own to go along with the ruby jewelry she had accumulated. (She's now inherited the Crown rubies since the Queen Mother's death; below on the right she combines them with this tiara.)
She’s worn the tiara often since its commission, much to my chagrin. Though saying that I hate a tiara is nearly beyond me (come on, we’re still talking about diamonds and rubies, and I’d still take any tiara off anyone’s hands at any time)…this one would certainly make my list of least favorite diadems. It’s just that the interpretation of the floral theme has been done with so much more dimension and sophistication elsewhere. This one’s always fallen so flat to this particular pair of eyes.

What do you say: a misuse of gems, or just perfect?

Photos: Geoffrey Munn/Queen Elizabeth/Daylife//Leslie Field/Suzy Menkes/Corbis/Getty Images/Zimbio