12 March 2015

Tiara Thursday: The Rosebery Pearl and Diamond Tiara

The Rosebery Pearl and Diamond Tiara
This striking tiara was once the property of a woman said to have been the wealthiest woman in England, Hannah, Countess of Rosebery (1851-1890), and was an important member of a jewel collection rich enough to rival a royal collection. The Rosebery Pearl and Diamond Tiara has a base of clusters of large button (bouton) natural pearls surrounded by old-cut diamonds and a top of seven natural pearl and diamond drops, all set in silver and gold. It's a versatile diadem with multiple detachable pieces; the top pieces can be removed (in the same fashion as the Londonderry Tiara, also crafted by Garrard) leaving the bottom row as a smaller tiara, and the buttons can also be used to form six brooches with the top pieces as pendants. A bracelet and brooch, each featuring more clusters of button pearls and diamonds, completed the set.
The bracelet, brooch, and tiara close ups
The tiara dates from about 1878, the same year Hannah de Rothschild married the 5th Earl of Rosebery. Born into the famous banking empire, she was the only child of Mayer de Rothschild and when he died in 1874, the fortune she inherited made her the richest woman in England at the time. Her aristocratic marriage did not come without obstacles, caused particularly by religion (she was Jewish, he was not, and there were hurdles to jump on both sides), but they became an influential couple and her money financed her popular husband's rise through the political structure. He eventually became prime minister, but she sadly would not live to see it; she died suddenly at the age of 39 in 1890.
A Christie's employee shows off the tiara, brooch, and bracelet
Following her death, her husband stored her jewels for nearly 20 years, until their eldest son married and the jewels were split between their four children. Harry, Lord Dalmeny (the future 6th Earl of Rosebery), wed in 1909 and this set of pearl and diamond jewelry was given to his bride, Dorothy Grosvenor, granddaughter of the 1st Duke of Westminster and sister to the 3rd Duke. It passed down in the family and was last known to be part of the collection of the current Duke and Duchess of Westminster, because it was included in a magazine feature on their family jewels. It was sold by Christie's in 2011 as the property of a private collector, where the tiara went for $1.9 million and the brooch and bracelet together brought in nearly $950,000.

Video: The tiara modeled prior to auction
The Rosebery Pearl and Diamond Tiara was purchased by the Qatar Museums Authority Collection, as it was marked when included in a recent Victoria & Albert Museum exhibit on pearls. It's an important piece, thanks to its history (Christie's called the set "Victorian ancestral jewels of the first rank") and the large and rare size of its natural pearls, and I'm glad it is with an owner that frequently loans items for display around the world. It is such a curious and theatrical piece when the top row of pearls is installed - those drop pearls would be inverted on most other tiaras, and the triangular effect of this set up is quite dramatic - I can't help but think it would also be right at home on a movie set too.

Too dramatic for you, or just right?

Photos: Christie's, Auctioneers video, Getty Images as indicated