03 October 2013

Tiara Thursday: The Bagration Parure

The Bagration Parure Tiara
Today's tiara holds a stone we don't see often in diadems: the pink spinel. Spinels are interesting stones; the red ones are often confused for rubies (the famous Black Prince's Ruby and the Timur Ruby are both in fact spinels) and indeed there was a time when no distinction between ruby and red spinel was made in jewelry inventories. The pink versions showcased here are framed by diamonds and set in a valuable and old diamond structure. The tiara is highlighted by the pear-shaped spinels, which hang beneath diamond arches and sit on top of a scrolling diamond design studded with more spinels. The tiara's diamond base features oval spinels. The tiara dates from the early 1800s and is attributed to J.B. Fossin, one of the jewelers who shaped the beginnings of the Chaumet firm. The full set includes the tiara, a matching hair comb, a necklace of six pink spinel and diamond plaques with several pendants, and a pair of pendant earrings.
The parure's necklace, earrings, and haircomb
The necklace and earrings are Russian-made and were later additions, dating from the 1870s. They were added by subsequent owners, but the tiara originated with Catherine Bagration (1783-1857). Raised at the Russian imperial court, she married Peter Ivanovitch Bagration, a general in the Russian army and a prince from the Georgian royal Bagration family. She was an intriguing figure - her Wikipedia page is worth a browse - and it was for her the tiara was made, or at least acquired, and for her it is named.
The current Duke and Duchess of Westminster, on their wedding day
The parure might have faded away, lost to history, but a modern sale placed it in a collection of note. The current Duke of Westminster purchased it for his fiancée, Natalia Phillips (who has Russian ancestory herself), and she wore it on their wedding day in October 1978. The set joins the rest of the tiaras in the Westminster collection, and though we don't often see them in use publicly, the family is generous in allowing them to be displayed and so on.
As I said a few weeks ago, the world needs more pink tiaras, and I like this one more every time I see it. The parure isn't just notable because of its stone, but because of its age - many tiaras of this age have been significantly changed since, if they are still in existence at all today. The addition of a hair comb in the set is hint enough, as they are rare inclusions today but were once staples of the great sets of jewels made when the French monarchy was at its most impressive.

Is this one a favorite for you?

Photos: Geoffrey Munn/Their Graces The Duke and Duchess of Westminster/Spokeo