18 February 2016

Tiara Thursday: The Cartier Tiara of Imelda Marcos

Making headlines this week, the government of the Philippines has approved plans to proceed with an international auction of jewels that belonged to former first lady Imelda Marcos. Marcos was known for her extravagant spending, and she and her husband, the late Ferdinand Marcos, were accused of stealing billions during his presidency. Her impressive jewelry collection – which includes the Russian Pearl Pendant Kokoshnik, previously covered here - was among property seized by the Philippine government when the Marcos family fled the country in 1986. The jewels were appraised early on for a potential auction, but they've been waiting in the Central Bank of the Philippines ever since.

The Marcos jewels are divided into three parts (the Hawaii, Roumeliotes, and Malacañang collections), two of which are still under legal dispute. The group heading for auction now is the Hawaii collection, the gems seized by U.S. Customs when the Marcos family arrived in Hawaii after leaving the Philippines. In November 2015, officials from Christie’s and Sotheby’s appraised the jewels again in anticipation of a potential auction. Treasures they found in the Hawaii collection include a rare 25 carat pink diamond and this diamond tiara:
The tiara was previously valued at $30,000-$50,000, but is now thought to be worth multiple times that amount (perhaps up to $500,000, depending on the source). The experts identified it as a Belle Époque piece most likely crafted by Cartier, which makes it a rarer find than previously thought.
The swirling garland style of Cartier is written all over this tiara. There are strong hints of other pieces we’ve covered here: the Cartier Essex Tiara and Queen Elisabeth's Cartier Bandeau Tiara which belong to the French jewel house, the Cartier Diamond and Pearl Tiara and Queen Maria Christina's Cartier Loop Tiara from Spain, or the Khedive of Egypt Tiara now with Queen Anne-Marie of Greece. It’s easy to imagine this diamond tiara drawing a high price, and I wonder if Cartier will attempt to get it back. Hopefully the auction will shed some light on the history behind this piece, because its Marcos ownership is most of what we know about it today.

Video: A November news report on the reappraisal of the collection
After decades of storage, the Philippine government is now hoping to move quickly to auction the estimated $21 million collection. They are also planning to exhibit the jewels for the public. The Marcos couple’s son, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., is currently running for vice president, leading to concerns that he could interfere if elected; he has already criticized the actions. For this tiara and these jewels, the story is hardly over.

For more on the proposed auction, see this CNN story.

Photos: via Getty Images, GMA screencap