01 March 2013

Tiara Thursday (on a Friday): Queen Margherita's Musy Tiara

Thanks for all your votes for the big gun category! I've closed up the comments so I can tally everything, and I'll have the result next week. In the mean time, here's another big gun - neglected in the voting, but frequently requested nevertheless.
Queen Margherita's Musy Tiara
In 1904, news reached Queen Margherita, the Queen Mother of Italy, that her daughter-in-law Queen Elena had given birth to a son. He was to be called Umberto, after Margherita's late husband King Umberto I, who was assassinated in 1900, and titled the Prince of Piedmont. The delighted Queen Mother decided to celebrate her grandson's birth with a new gem (as you do). She sent a few pieces from her existing personal jewel collection to the jeweler Musy to be crafted into a new diadem. She wore it for her new grandson's christening (yes, some christenings were tiara events, once upon a time) and for the rest of her life.
Queen Margherita
Margherita was a stylish woman whose love of and magnificent collection of pearls earned her the nickname The Pearl Queen, so it's only natural that the tiara features buttons or florets of pearls surrounded by diamonds. The buttons sit on a scrolled base and are crowned by stylized diamond arches. As if the tiara wasn't enough on its own - a whopper, and one of truly fine craftsmanship with delicate arches and buttons set en tremblant so that they tremble with the wearer's movements - it is an incredibly flexible piece.
A few variations with different button options
That's right, friends, for the price of just one Musy tiara, you get no fewer than eight or nine possible settings. The pearls aren't your only button options - you can replace some of them with diamond elements in the form of shells, or you can replace other bits with round diamond elements, and you can mix all three options up as you like.
A few variations removing the arches
But wait, there's more! The top arches are removable - you can remove them all and use it like a proper button tiara, leave the front arch if you prefer, or use all the arches when removed as a bandeau. Put it all together and there's no doubt that this is one of the most convertible tiaras out there.
Queen Marie José - with the full version (the far left shows her on her wedding day), plus a version with no arches and another with just the arches and round elements as a bandeau
When Queen Margherita died in 1926, she appropriately left this tiara to the grandson whose birth inspired its creation. Umberto presented it to his bride, Princess Marie José of Belgium, for their wedding in 1930, and she wore it for her wedding day. Umberto II and Marie José were King and Queen of Italy for only a month before the monarchy was abolished in 1946; this tiara, a personal jewel, was one that went with them into exile. (A group of jewels that could have been claimed as state property were left in an Italian bank with the simple note from Umberto that they should be returned to their rightful owner. They're still there - no one's been able to agree on who that rightful owner might be, or what should be done with them.)
Marina, Princess of Naples
Today, the tiara belongs to their son, Vittorio Emanuele, Prince of Naples, and is worn by his wife, Marina. Her best known outing in the diadem is probably for the wedding of Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark and Mary Donaldson in 2004, where she wore it in its full form and proved that it's still a big gun tiara, even when tilted far back.

Which version of this tiara is your favorite?

Photos: Musy/Stephano Papi/House of Savoy/Getty Images