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16 August 2012

Tiara Thursday: The Congo Necklace Tiara

As we approach the October wedding of Luxembourg's Hereditary Grand Duke, tiara speculation will be running high. We might as well chat about this one first and foremost, as it is the best known wedding tiara the family has:
The Congo Necklace Tiara
This necklace, convertible to a tiara, features rows of large round diamonds attached to a row of baguette diamonds. It was made by Van Cleef and Arpels and was a gift to Princess Joséphine-Charlotte of Belgium on her marriage to Hereditary Grand Duke Jean of Luxembourg in 1953. It's often said to have been given by the Belgian colony of the Congo, though others report it as a gift of Congo diamonds from another source, perhaps the bride's father.
Left to Right: Joséphine-Charlotte, Maria Teresa, Marie Astrid, Margaretha
Joséphine-Charlotte wore the tiara on her wedding day (she also wore the Belgian Scroll Tiara for wedding portraits) and the tiara continued to be part of the Luxembourg wedding tradition when it was worn by Joséphine-Charlotte's daughter-in-law Maria Teresa (now the Grand Duchess) as well as her daughters Princesses Marie Astrid and Margaretha for their respective weddings. Apart from weddings, Joséphine-Charlotte used the piece mostly as a necklace, which makes sense. It's very much a bandeau in tiara form, best backed by a veil I'd say.
As a necklace on Joséphine-Charlotte
When she died in 2005, this piece was among the personal possessions left to divide up among her five children. Apparently they had some trouble with the dividing, because in 2006 this tiara was included in a selection of her jewels and personal property offered for sale at Sotheby's. The auction caused outrage and all sorts of questions regarding the reasons behind the possible need for a sale. In light of the controversy, Grand Duke Henri ended up cancelling the auction. (The Belgian Scroll Tiara was another notable piece from that almost sale.)
As a necklace with bracelet, on auction display
The question now is, will this tiara be used as a family wedding tiara in the future? It hasn't been used as such since the early 1980s. (Other brides have not worn tiaras; when Marie Astrid's daughter married, she borrowed one of the Luxembourg floral tiaras instead.) And something about offering it for sale doesn't scream a desire to keep this particular tradition alive to me. We will see come October, I suppose.

Would this be your pick for a wedding tiara?

Photos: Sotheby's/Point de Vue/Corbis