22 May 2014

Tiara Thursday: The Niarchos Rubies

The Niarchos Rubies, in two versions: small bandeau and small necklace
Today's tiara is not really a tiara, strictly speaking, but rather a fantastically flexible set of rubies and diamonds that can be worn in many different ways, including as a bandeau-style tiara of multiple configurations. The set was a gift from billionaire Greek shipping tycoon Stavros Niarchos to Princess Sophia of Greece and Denmark for her wedding to Juan Carlos of Spain in 1962. Of course, Juan Carlos later became King of Spain, and the rubies came to Spain with Queen Sofia.
Sofia, using the rubies in various necklace configurations and two different tiara configurations
The Niarchos Rubies, made by Van Cleef & Arpels, are chains of ruby and diamond clusters that can be configured in a number of ways. The clusters are cabochon rubies surrounded by diamonds, with every other cluster including an extra row of rubies on the outside, and they are separated by small diamond links. We've seen them used as necklaces both short and long and sometimes doubled up and as a tiara that can be one or two rows; Sofia has even mounted a single row on a velvet band to give it a little substance. Really, you get the impression that these can be worn in just about any way you like. A pair of pendant earrings is also included in the set, and Sofia has a matching bracelet as well.
Audrey Hepburn in Harper's Bazaar with a similar set, 1962
It's not a unique design, nor is it a unique set - Audrey Hepburn above models another set from Van Cleef & Arpels, for example - but it has a unique spot in the Spanish collection, being the only colored stone tiara option used by Queen Sofia. Sofia may prefer using her diamond and pearl tiara options over these rubies, but the flexibility of the set comes in handy and she's used them for occasions such as the black tie dinner held before the wedding of the Prince of Asturias. I hope we'll see the double row tiara option resurrected some time, but since the Spanish royals aren't currently holding tiara events at home, I won't hold my breath.

Does this have a place on your list of favorite ruby tiaras?

Photos: Pool/Casa Real/Pinterest/Reuters/Harper's Bazaar