13 February 2014

Tiara Thursday: The Mountbatten Tutti Frutti Bandeau

Starting around the 1920s, Jacques Cartier took inspiration from Indian design and popularized a style of jewelry design using an interesting combination of colored stones: rubies, emeralds, and sapphires, sometimes accented with white diamonds. The colored stones might be faceted, cabochon, or carved, and the motif was often nature-themed. The distinctive combination of red, green, and blue stones would later become known as 'Tutti Frutti'. Tutti Frutti wasn't huge in tiara design, but one important example is this bandeau tiara which belonged to Edwina Mountbatten, wife of Lord Louis Mountbatten.
The Mountbatten Tutti Frutti Bandeau
Designed by Cartier of course, the Mountbatten bandeau is typical of the Tutti Frutti style. The sapphires, rubies, and emeralds are carved and probably came from India; they act as fruit and leaves on the branches of a diamond-set tree. The platinum tiara can be worn in true bandeau fashion across the forehead, and breaks into two separate bracelets. (It has been photographed used as two bracelets, but I'm not aware of an example of it in use as a bandeau.) It was made in October 1928 and purchased the following month for £900. Edwina Mountbatten (1901-1960), later the Countess Mountbatten of Burma, was known for her fashionable dressing (among many other things), so of course her jewelry was right on trend. She and her husband would later serve as Viceroy and Vicereine of India, adding significance to the Indian inspiration of this design.
Edwina Mountbatten wearing some of her other jewels, and a close up of the bandeau
Proper Tutti Frutti jewelry made by Cartier in the heyday of the style is extremely valuable and routinely grabs high prices at auction today. The value of the Mountbatten Tutti Frutti Bandeau was brought into the news in 2004, when the British government placed a temporary export ban on the piece. The law allows them to do that for items of particular significance to keep them from leaving the country; apparently the bandeau had left the Mountbatten family and was about to change hands again and be exported. This piece is valuable because it is Cartier in this particular style, but also because it was made for Cartier by English Art Works in London. The company was set up by Cartier and staffed exclusively by British craftsmen, providing important jobs for a struggling British industry and allowing British customers to buy without feeling unpatriotic for purchasing from a French company. Thus, the Mountbatten Tutti Frutti Bandeau has great significance to British jewelry making history. A suggested value of £300,000 was set. The ban apparently worked: in 2008, it was loaned to the permanent jewelry exhibit at the Victoria & Albert Museum.
Máxima and her necklace
We don't see a tremendous amount of this style in use by today's royal houses. The best example of tutti frutti style jewelry (likely not Cartier, but the style) we see on the royal beat today is a necklace and bracelet set from Queen Máxima's collection. This is a love it or hate it style, I think, and while I wouldn't want it to see it all the time, as an interesting accent piece I love it. And I'd love to see someone give a tiara like this a try!

Love it, or hate it?

Photos: WikiCollecting/NPG/V&A/CBS