28 July 2016

Tiara Thursday: The York Diamond Tiara

On July 23, 1986, Sarah Ferguson arrived at Westminster Abbey to marry Prince Andrew with her veil covering her face and a large wreath of flowers on top. She departed the abbey as the Duchess of York, wreath and blusher removed to reveal a diamond tiara made of leafy diamond scrolls and diamond collets mounted in platinum. It was a grand introduction for the British royal family's newest member, and for their newest tiara addition.

The York Diamond Tiara
Original reports on the wedding noted that the new Duchess had borrowed the tiara from a family friend, information which was apparently released from Buckingham Palace. Soon enough, however, the tiara was said to have been purchased from Garrard for Sarah by the Queen. (I suppose there are many advantages to having then-crown jeweler as a “family friend”.) The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh also purchased a diamond demi-parure from Garrard for their new daughter-in-law, a set that includes a necklace, earrings, and a bracelet.

Video: The tiara makes its big debut around 5:30.
In her day, Queen Mary gifted her daughters-in-law parures from her own collection; the Queen today prefers to loan gems from the collection to family members as needed. This apparent purchase of a tiara for a new family member is an exception to the rule, and the possible motivation behind it has been the subject of much speculation in the years since. Some have tried to tie that in a negative fashion to the Queen’s personal feelings about the match. It’s a connection implied with the full benefit of hindsight, knowing that the marriage would end in divorce, and one with which I cannot fully agree.

Saudi state visit, 1987. The earrings and necklace are part of the demi-parure mentioned above, a wedding gift from Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh.
Whatever the circumstances, this tiara became the Duchess of York's one and only diadem. She wore it for multiple events during her marriage – and this was a time when it was still the norm to take tiaras along on royal tours, a tradition that has sadly been almost entirely relegated to the past for everyone but the Queen - and the tiara remained with her afterward. She last wore it in 2001, attending Elton John’s White Tie and Tiara Ball.

Canada, 1987. Her ruby and diamond necklace and earrings are speculated to have been a Middle Eastern gift.
I’ve always thought she got pretty lucky on the tiara front, all things considered. It has a great all-purpose type of design, simple and pretty and easy to match with just about anything else. It also suited its wearer wonderfully, nestling in her red curls with just enough height to be seen. It made for a fantastic wedding tiara, and I hope we’ll see it again someday at a York princess wedding.

A favorite royal wedding tiara for you, or not?