27 September 2012

Tiara Thursday: The Dutch Sapphire Tiara

The Dutch Sapphire Tiara
One of the big guns, so to speak, in the Dutch royal collection is their massive sapphire tiara. It includes 655 South African diamonds, now set in platinum. The 33 sapphires are nestled at the bottom of the diadem like stained glass windows beneath Gothic arches in the sparkliest cathedral ever. Adding to the sparkle factor, some of the stones are en tremblant – meaning set on springs, so that they move with the wearer and create the maximum amount of reflection.
Queen Emma (left) and Queen Juliana
The tiara was purchased in 1881 by King Willem III of the Netherlands for his wife, Queen Emma. It seems to have skipped over Emma’s daughter, Queen Wilhelmina, and was next worn by Emma's granddaughter Queen Juliana. Today it is worn by Juliana’s daughter, Queen Beatrix. In the course of its history, the tiara has gained some pieces to make up a parure: a massive necklace and two enormous bracelets were added later, and a brooch also from Emma’s collection is usually named as part of the parure as well.
Queen Beatrix
Today, there are other sapphires in the Dutch collection for mixing and matching with this tiara. Queen Beatrix doesn’t wear the entire parure and has chosen to repurpose some pieces. The large bracelets haven’t been seen in some time, but Princess Máxima may have worn a piece of one of them as a brooch a while back. While Beatrix keeps the full tiara to herself, the necklace has been turned into a smaller sapphire tiara which has been spotted on Princess Margriet and Princess Máxima. She has also allowed a second setting of the tiara to be worn by her relatives.
When Mabel Wisse Smit married Queen Beatrix’s son Prince Friso in 2004, she turned up in an unknown diamond tiara featuring rays of a few large diamonds each graduating in size towards the top and center. It was described as being a second setting of the large tiara, and it is a separate piece that uses some of the large diamonds from the sapphire tiara*. To date, the smaller version has been worn by Princess Mabel and Princess Máxima.
The second setting on Princess Mabel and Princess Máxima (right two)
When viewing the large sapphire version of this tiara today on Queen Beatrix, you’d be forgiven if you missed the fact that it is a sapphire tiara entirely. It’s a curious arrangement, to have the sapphires entirely at the bottom of the piece; they’re so easy to cover up, and Beatrix’s hair often does just that (or at least it creates the impression that only the one large sapphire is present...cyclops style). I find myself eager to see what Máxima can do with this one in the future. (Not that I’m wishing Beatrix’s reign was up or anything. You know what I mean.)

Where does this rank on your list of favorite sapphire tiaras?

UPDATE: This tiara was chosen by Queen Máxima to wear to King Willem-Alexander's inauguration, April 30. 2013. She made a change to the center top of the tiara, to lower the central element. She also wore her hair back, so the sapphires appeared in a way they never did when Beatrix wore the diadem.

*UPDATE 2: This piece was originally called the Mellerio Sapphire Tiara in this entry (and elsewhere on this blog), on the assumption that it was made by jeweler Mellerio. There were always indications that that might not be the case, however, and Vincent Meylan's 2013 book on Mellerio added to that - it is not a Mellerio tiara. The book also clarifies how exactly the smaller diamond tiara is associated with the larger sapphire diadem. This entry was updated and the name was changed.

Photos: ANP/Dutch Photo Archive/Corbis/Getty Images