21 August 2014

Tiara Thursday: The Leeds Cartier Pearl and Diamond Drop Tiara

The Leeds Cartier Tiara
Today's tiara belonged to Princess Anastasia, wife of Prince Christopher of Greece and Denmark, son of King George I and Queen Olga of Greece. Prior to their 1920 marriage, Princess Anastasia was no princess at all, but rather an American with a past that included two previous marriages. She was born Nonie May Stewart in Ohio and by the time she met Prince Christopher in France in 1914, she was known as Nancy Leeds and was a wealthy widow following the death of her second husband. (Her Wikipedia entry - yes, I know, apply your own Wiki cautions - is full of slightly dubious details. For example, regarding Prince Christopher's claim that he married her for love alone and not for her money: "Whether he ever knew that she was, in fact, a decade older than him and had a living ex-husband is unknown." JUICY.)
Princess Anastasia
Anyway, this tiara actually predates her days of royal intrigue. Mrs. Leeds was a frequent client of Cartier, and ordered the tiara for herself from the famous jewelry firm in 1913. The diadem is composed of intertwining diamond circles outlined by a row of small pearls. The interior of each circle is accented with more small pearls. From each circle hangs a pendant, alternating pear-shaped diamonds and drop pearls around the tiara. The pendant diamonds range in size from 9.85 carats to the largest at a staggering 21.60 carats; the pearls at their smallest are 35 grains and at their largest, 64.60 grains.
Detail of the center of the tiara, and the side view
This is a tiara often confused for the Grand Duchess Vladimir Tiara so famously (and frequently) worn by Queen Elizabeth II, and indeed the design was based off of that very piece. According to Hans Nadelhoffer's Cartier: Jewelers Extraordinary, Grand Duchess Vladimir left her tiara temporarily at Cartier in Paris, and Cartier's close examination of the remarkable piece became the basis for the designs for three more tiaras. These included Mrs. Leeds' tiara shown here, as well as a tiara with large diamond drops made for Princess Paley in 1911 from an existing tiara. Today, we can add the reworked version of Queen Victoria Eugenia's Aquamarine Tiara to the list of similar designs - and, along with the Vladimir Tiara, it is one of this type of design still known to be in existence today. Nancy Leeds/Princess Anastasia died in 1923, and the whereabouts, or even the sheer existence, of her pearl and diamond drop version today remains unknown.

Of the similarly designed loop tiaras, which is your favorite?

Photos: Cartier/Wikimedia Commons