09 March 2017

Tiara Thursday: The Bessborough Tiara

The Bessborough Tiara
Noted French jeweler Chaumet applied his graceful touch to Art Deco design in this tiara ordered in 1931 by Vere Ponsonby, 9th Earl of Bessborough. The Earl purchased the tiara for his wife, Roberte, Countess of Bessborough (1892-1979), on the occasion of his appointment as the new Governor General of Canada. The large tiara features a large marquise diamond at the center of a design with curving lines of diamonds set in platinum.

The Earl and Countess of Bessborough
As a countess and the wife of a Governor General, the Countess of Bessborough had plenty of occasions on which to wear her grand new diadem. It was her generosity with the piece, however, that makes it all the more memorable. She loaned it to a friend in 1938; that friend happened to be Rose Kennedy, wife of U.S. ambassador Joseph Kennedy. (The couple came to be at the head of one of America's most prominent political families, of course.)

Kennedy and her daughters Kathleen and Rosemary, ready to be presented at court
Rose Kennedy and her daughters were to be presented at court. She would be expected to wear a tiara, but she hadn't realized she'd need one for her time in the United Kingdom. She recalled the experience in her autobiography, Times to Remember: "My new and sympathetic friend Lady Bessborough lent me hers and it proved to be exactly right, most flattering and magnificent. (It fitted very well and had many brilliant diamonds including a gorgeous marquise diamond in the front. With a few temporary adjustments and arrangements it was perfect. I was so grateful to her for the thought. I remember my children - Bobby and Teddy as well as the girls - were extremely impressed.)" The Countess of Bessborough's generosity continued, as Rose Kennedy was later seen in another of her tiaras.

The tiara shares several similarities with another Chaumet creation, the Mountbatten Tiara, with an airier composition. The lightness and the curves of the Bessborough Tiara also differentiate it from many more architectural Art Deco tiaras. All points, I think, in this tiara's favor.

What say you: Modern masterpiece, or not your taste?

Photos: Chaumet, Library and Archives Canada, Getty as indicated