30 August 2017

Programming Note, and a (New) Old Wedding

The blog is taking a brief break, and will return next week.

I leave you with this little piece of refreshed history, which - if you haven't seen it yet - is well worth a look:

Footage from the 1981 wedding of the Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer is viewable for the first time in high quality 4K video, courtesy of the restoration efforts of the AP Archive. It's a British Movietone documentary on the event, complete with such flowery commentary, you'd think it dates from decades earlier.

Despite having seen many clips of this wedding in lower definition - and despite, to be totally honest, feeling a bit of overload from all these recent Diana features for the anniversary - this felt new. So many little details, so many little sparkles, to appreciate for the first time. I think it's worth a click.


29 August 2017

Royal Birthday of the Week: Danish Royals Celebrate Nikolai's 18th

Prince Nikolai, eldest son of Prince Joachim and his first wife, Alexandra, Countess of Frederiksborg, celebrated his 18th birthday on Monday. He marked the occasion with a new official photo and a family dinner thrown by his grandmother, Queen Margrethe, on the royal yacht. You know, the usual 18th birthday stuff.

© Kongehuset
And so the whole family gathered (minus Crown Prince Frederik, who is in South Korea for IOC business), led by Margrethe in...a muumuu sort of thing? Living her best yacht rock life, in other words.

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Princess Marie, Princess Athena, Prince Henrik, Prince Joachim, Prince Nikolai, Countess Alexandra, Prince Felix
While Alexandra tried her hardest to single-handedly kill my love of statement shoes (too.many.straps., for starters), Marie picked up Margrethe's wavelength and gave it a trendier spin in Erdem, earning herself a nod as my best dressed for the night.

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Princess Isabella, Princess Josephine, Crown Princess Mary, Prince Vincent, Prince Christian
This blerghy Prada dress of Mary's goes all the way back to 2004! I've never loved it. But if you want to wear something that dates from before your four kids just because you can, well then, carry on.

28 August 2017

Monday Tidbits for August 28: Happy Tiara News, Happy Baby News

Three pieces of good news to start your week, how about that?

--A year ago, news broke that Queen Victoria's Sapphire Coronet had been sold to an overseas buyer and been placed under a temporary export ban in the hopes of finding another buyer that would keep this Prince Albert-designed diamond and sapphire tiara in the United Kingdom. On Sunday we finally heard the outcome: the tiara is now a part of the collection at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London! Excellent news, and such a perfectly appropriate home for this gem. It will go on public display in 2019.
Victoria & Albert Museum
Hedge fund tycoon William Bollinger - already the benefactor behind the museum's stunning jewelry gallery, which is named for him and his wife - stepped in, bought the tiara, and gifted it to the V&A. Queen Victoria's Sapphire Coronet was given as a wedding gift to Princess Mary, Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood, and was sold by her descendants to a dealer sometime in the past several years. The tiara's complete story has been updated and you can revisit it here.

--Roll on, Swedish royal baby boom! It was announced on Sunday that Princess Madeleine is expecting her third child with husband Chris O'Neill. The new addition joins Princess Leonor, 3, and Prince Nicholas, 2, and is due in March 2018.

--And finally, furry baby news: Prince Henrik's dog, Tillia, had eight puppies recently and the Danish royal court shared a picture of Henrik, Queen Margrethe, and four of their grandchildren with the new additions. They also shared a video of the puppies playing with at Fredensborg Palace with the crown princely family's dog, Grace. (A+ social media content from the Danish royal court, by the way.) [Instagram]

Tidbits is your spot for topics we haven't covered on the blog. Please mind the comment policy, and enjoy!

25 August 2017

Readers' Favorite Tiaras, The Rematch: #1. The Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara

Some of the entries on your final list of ten favorite tiaras provoked heated competition, but in the end, none could touch the queen of them all. You called it iconic, you called it the epitome of tiara-ness, you called it your best. And it's my best, too:

The Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara
The Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara began as an 1893 wedding gift to the future Queen Mary from the "girls of Great Britain and Ireland" and was passed on to the future Queen Elizabeth II as a wedding gift in 1947. Along the way, the diamond design of festoons and scrolls lost the original top row of pearls and was separated from and then later reunited with its original diamond lozenge base. We revisited its whole history last year, click here to refresh your memory.

Queen Mary, with and without the pearls and the base; Queen Elizabeth II, with and without the base
This design really hits a lot of sweet spots: the scrolls give the tiara interest without being an overpowering motif; the top line isn't solid like a kokoshnik but is still fairly even all around; it's not an enormous diadem but it's far from small. It's almost a tiara designed for universal approval.

Given that, its spot on the top of your countdown (both in 2011 and now) probably doesn't come as a surprise. With countless appearances in action - it is essentially the Queen's favorite tiara; she is said to refer to it simply as "granny's tiara" - and countless appearances in portraits, on stamps, on money, on you name it, the Girls has earned its iconic status. Number one indeed.

And that, my friends, is it! I've loved all the tiara enthusiasm around here this month, and I'm so glad so many of you have joined in. Let's review the results, shall we?

50% British, 20% Dutch, and 30% Scandinavian. Perhaps unsurprisingly, most of these tiaras are represented by families with some of the largest and most famous tiara collections in the world. And most have had active public lives, so to speak, giving us plenty of opportunities to explore their splendor potential. The more we see and the more we know, the more we like.

Any surprises? How'd your faves do? You can go back through all the posts from the rematch by clicking here

One last note, for the curious: here's how your top 10 shook out in our original Readers' Favorite Tiara vote:

24 August 2017

Readers’ Favorite Tiaras, The Rematch: #2. The Fife Tiara

Some of the tiaras on your list get popularity boosts from the fact that they’re worn all the time, often by very famous figures. This tiara, on the other hand, racked up most of its appearances well over a century ago with very little since and hardly any public exposure. That’s not about to stop it from taking home your runner up ribbon:

The Fife Tiara
The Fife Tiara was a wedding gift to Princess Louise of Wales, the oldest daughter of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, for her marriage to the Earl of Fife in 1889. The tiara has diamonds mounted in silver and gold and the design is dominated by a series of pear-shaped diamonds that hang freely in a Gothic-inspired diamond framework. More large pear-shaped diamonds alternate with round diamonds along the top of the tiara. One can only image that this diadem would be blindingly sparkly in action.

Princess Louise
An identical design was shown as part of a display of the work of Paris jeweler Oscar Massin in 1878, and he is thus assumed to be the designer of the Fife Tiara. This is sometimes said to have been a gift from her parents, but contemporary reporting of her wedding gifts attributed it to the Earl (who was made the Duke of Fife by Queen Victoria right after the wedding). Her parents' gift, on the other hand, is described as a classic convertible diamond fringe tiara.

Princess Louise
Princess Louise was given the title of Princess Royal but didn’t play a large role in the royal family and took a backseat to her mother and sister, Princess Victoria, both of whom were considered prettier, and to her more notably married sister, Queen Maud of Norway. Apparently a rather difficult person to make conversation with, she earned herself the title "Her Royal Shyness" and was most known for her talents in the realms of music and fishing. Her marriage to the Duke, who was 18 years older, seems to have done her a world of good - as, no doubt, did the escape from the smothering atmosphere of her parents' home. She was one of the first princesses to marry a subject rather than a prince but Queen Victoria approved of the union, noting that the groom was extremely rich.

Louise, also wearing her fringe necklace/tiara from her parents
Louise had three children: a stillborn son followed by two daughters, Princesses Alexandra and Maud. Because it was known in advance that there would be no Fife son to inherit the title, Queen Victoria made a special dispensation for inheritance in the female line. Accordingly, Princess Alexandra became the Duchess of Fife in her own right when her father died. Later she was also known as Princess Arthur of Connaught through her marriage.

Alexandra, Duchess of Fife
The Fife Tiara passed to Princess Alexandra and she, as Duchess of Fife, wore it to the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1937. Alexandra was predeceased by her own son, so the title – and the tiara - passed down to her nephew, James Carnegie. So far as we know, the tiara is still with the family. It seems the only modern example we have of the Fife Tiara in use is one glimpse of it on the current Duchess of Fife.

The current Duchess of Fife
Several tiaras have been, at one point or another, associated with the Fife branch of the family in addition to this diamond masterpiece: the convertible fringe necklace tiara Louise received from her parents, a diamond floral tiara that (at the very least) bears close resemblance to one made famous by Downton Abbey, Princess Maud was seen wearing Queen Alexandra’s amethysts at the 1937 coronation, and the last known appearance in use of Queen Victoria’s Emerald and Diamond Tiara was on a past Duchess of Fife. So much intrigue in that list, and few answers about what might still be in the collection today.

I can only assume that the Fife Tiara was a favorite of Princess Louise, judging from how often she selected it for portraits, and I can’t blame her one bit. It’s substantial yet light; delicate despite the extreme carat weight that must be present here. Perhaps it’s for the best that we don’t see it in use these days. The sparkle might blind you. (….NAH. Just kidding. It’s in desperate need of a proper outing.)

Did the Mighty Fife earn a spot on your personal list?

23 August 2017

Readers’ Favorite Tiaras, The Rematch: #3. The Dutch Sapphire Tiara

I think it’s fair to say that your third-place tiara owes its recent surge in popularity to its most recent wearer. New user, new fans!

The Dutch Sapphire Tiara  
Shown in the setting used by Queen Máxima for King Willem-Alexander’s inauguration
The Dutch Sapphire Tiara, featuring a row of large sapphires nestled at the bottom of a diamond diadem like stained glass windows beneath Gothic arches in the sparkliest cathedral ever, was commissioned in 1881 by King Willem III as a gift for his wife, Queen Emma. The detachable central large sapphire is a whopping 44 carats and the tiara features en tremblant settings, meaning that some of the stones will tremble and sparkle with every movement. Some of those large top diamonds can also be detached for use with a separate tiara worn by Princess Mabel on her wedding day, a piece often referred to as the sapphire tiara’s “second setting”.

Although the Dutch Sapphire Tiara is often referred to as the Mellerio Sapphire Tiara (including, in the past, on this blog), it was not created by the jeweler Mellerio dits Meller. The Mellerio misunderstanding seems largely due to the existence of an 1867 tiara sketch by Oscar Massin, a frequent Mellerio collaborator, which is similar in design. The Dutch royal collection also includes other Mellerio/Massin pieces, so these royals and those jewelers weren’t strangers.

But evidence that attribution was incorrect has been around for some time and has been further confirmed in recent years. In his book Mellerio dits Meller: Joaillier des Reines, Vincent Meylan confirmed that the famed French jeweler had no record of the Dutch Sapphire Tiara. Research by Dutch gemologist George Hamel, as reported by jewelry expert Erik Schoonhoven (who has in depth accounts of this backstory here and here), found the tiara is highly likely to have come from Maison van der Stichel in Amsterdam, with later alterations by Van Kempen.

Your #3 tiara meets your #8 tiara, in the U.K. in 1972
ANP Archief
By whatever name you know it, the Dutch Sapphire Tiara has been a staple for Dutch queens for generations. Queen Juliana regularly wore it with a large sapphire necklace that has since been turned into the Dutch Sapphire Necklace Tiara, plus other sapphire jewels from the Dutch royal collection. (There are so many sapphire pieces in the collection and the Dutch royal ladies have used those pieces in so many different combinations throughout the years, I’ve taken to just considering them all part of one enormous assembled parure.)

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Beatrix, 2006
Princess Beatrix also used the tiara regularly during her time as queen, although her hair often covered the lower part of the tiara. This was particularly true in the later years of her reign. If you conceal the lower portion of this one, you conceal the sapphires, and that’s a major change to the tiara’s look. It needed a new wearer to give it a new look.

Willem-Alexander's inauguration, 2013
One of the biggest appearances in the tiara’s 130+ year history came in 2013, when Queen Máxima chose to wear it to King Willem-Alexander’s formal inauguration as king following Beatrix’s abdication. Unlike her mother-in-law, Máxima wore the tiara higher and made sure to keep her hair out of the way, revealing the tiara’s full sapphire impact.

Máxima at the inauguration
Máxima also had the top line of the tiara altered and lowered for the occasion to create more of a kokoshnik shape (as shown in the first picture in this post) by removing an element above the central sapphire. This change was temporary, and she has since worn it in the taller format.

Combined with that magnificently regal Jan Taminiau blue dress and cape, this was the Dutch Sapphire Tiara shown off in a way it hadn’t been showcased in decades, or maybe ever. It’s no wonder it gained legions of new fans that day.

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Máxima wears the tiara in the taller version in Denmark, 2015
And it will probably gain even more fans as the years go on. Queen Máxima is converting new Dutch Sapphire admirers, and her mission doesn’t seem anywhere near complete.

Did this one make your list? Is Máxima responsible for your love of this tiara, or were you already there? 

22 August 2017

Readers' Favorite Tiaras, The Rematch: #4. The Dutch Diamond Bandeau Tiara

The fourth spot in our countdown of your favorite tiaras belongs to a tiara that has fallen from its second place spot last time around and has even fallen down in the rankings between your nominations and your final votes. But at the end of the day, you still can't argue with GIANT DIAMONDS.

The Dutch Diamond Bandeau Tiara
We revisited the history of the Dutch Diamond Bandeau Tiara (often called the Rose Cut Bandeau, though the diamonds are not actually rose cut) earlier this year, so click here to revisit its path from a diamond collet necklace, a wedding gift of Queen Emma's, to one of the most frequently worn Dutch tiaras.

Queen Wilhelmina, Queen Juliana, Queen Máxima
ANP Archief/Thai Monarchy
With so many appearances to pick from - seems like it's been Queen Máxima's favorite tiara over the years; Princess Beatrix is also a fan, and other Dutch royal ladies have taken it for a spin as well - we return to the obvious question: Which Dutch Diamond Bandeau Tiara appearance is the best Dutch Diamond Bandeau Tiara appearance?

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Crown Princess Victoria's wedding, 2010
I have three nominations, and they all go to our fair Máx, because no one pays attention to their jewels quite like she does. Her appearance at Victoria and Daniel's wedding gets a nom not because of the dress - this color is neither here nor there in the saddest way - but because of the jewel combination. What should you wear with your tiara of giant diamond collets? A necklace of even more giant diamond collets, OBVIOUSLY.

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Argentina state banquet, 2017
Anyway, for a nomination on dress power alone, I don't need to go any further back in time than March. Heavenly, this. And an excellent use of a "small" tiara to balance a major necklace.

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State banquet in Belgium, 2006
My final nod goes to this one, which I think is kind of a sleeper contender for Máxima's best ever, in any category. Clean lines on the dress, crisp white gloves, even the sleek sash with no stripes or whatever to fuss it up - that's how you highlight the simple design of the Dutch Diamond Bandeau. So very well played.

Which Bandeau appearance gets your vote for best of the best? Did this tiara make your favorites list?

21 August 2017

Monday Tidbits for August 21: Back to Work, Back to School

A few royal appearances in the quiet summer scene, before we stick our heads back into the world of tiaras:

--King Felipe and Queen Letizia returned from Mallorca following last week's devastating Barcelona terrorist attacks and have visited victims at hospitals and attended a service at Barcelona's Sagrada Família. [Sky]

--In happier returns to the royal scene, the annual back to school appearances have started, including several big first days in Denmark: Prince Vincent, Princess Josephine, and (a reluctant) Princess Athena all started school this year and were accompanied by their respective parents. Both moms shared personal snaps on the royal family's Instagram as well. [YouTube, Hello, Instagram]
Kongehuset/HRH Princess Marie
Kongehuset/HRH The Crown Princess

--Some American royal (royal-ish?) news: A legal battle is brewing over control of the $200 million estate of a descendant of Hawaii's royal house. [People]

--And finally, Crown Princess Mary's most princess-y of outfits to open the Odense Flower Festival is a welcome sight in these slow summer days. This is a good repeat.
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Coming up this week: The countdown continues.

Tidbits is your spot for topics we haven't covered on the blog. Please mind the comment policy, and enjoy!

18 August 2017

Readers' Favorite Tiaras, The Rematch: #5. The Cambridge Lover's Knot Tiara (Queen Mary's)

The fifth spot on your favorite tiara countdown goes to another tiara that has held steady through the years, grabbing the same place this time as it did last time:

The Cambridge Lover's Knot Tiara (Queen Mary's)
It goes by the Cambridge Lover's Knot Tiara (the name by which it has been most popularly known for decades) and Queen Mary's Lover's Knot Tiara, but it hardly needs a title at all - it's one of the most famous tiaras in the world. (I tend to use both names, and either is welcome here.) The "Cambridge" part of the whole deal is a reference to the fact that this tiara is not an original; in 1913, Queen Mary had E. Wolff & Co. and Garrard make a copy of a lover's knot tiara once owned by her grandmother, Augusta, Duchess of Cambridge.

Two different tiaras, one design: Augusta, Duchess of Cambridge and her lover's knot tiara (sold in 1981) on the left and Queen Mary and her copy on the right.
Augusta's tiara isn't unique, either; multiple versions of this "lover's knot" design exist. Augusta's original tiara passed down away from the Cambridge name and into obscurity. It went first to her daughter, Augusta, Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, and on down through the family until it was eventually sold at Christie's in 1981. Meanwhile, Queen Mary's continues to capture the public spotlight.

Through generations: Queen Mary (with the original top row of pearls), Queen Elizabeth II, the Princess of Wales, the Duchess of Cambridge.
Queen Mary's version sticks to the basic design common in other lover's knot tiaras, featuring pearl pendants dangling from diamond knots in a diamond framework. Mary originally included the same row of upright pearls on top of the tiara as other lover's knot diadems (including her inspiration) have, but - in true Queen Mary form, never finished fussing with her gems - she later had the top pearl row removed.

Diana in Ottawa, 1983
Queen Elizabeth II inherited the tiara on Queen Mary's death in 1953 and wore it herself earlier in her reign. The tiara gained world fame when she loaned it to Diana, Princess of Wales following her 1981 marriage.

Catherine at the Spanish state banquet, 2017
It's now gaining even more fame as a loan to the Duchess of Cambridge, who first wore the tiara in 2015. (We revisited the complete history of this gem in honor of that debut, click here to refresh your memory.)

So here's the question of the day: Which appearance of this iconic tiara is the best one? Which combo of wearer to dress to hair to tiara really made it sing?

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Diana wears the tiara with the Catherine Walker "Elvis dress" in Hong Kong, 1989
Too obvious? I can't help it. It's just...*chef kiss* The whole thing! The high collar of that bolero jacket is an inspired complement for the tall, proud kokoshnik shape up top. I'd go so far as to say that the "Elvis dress" is solely responsible for my love of this tiara. That's some serious styling power.

What's your favorite CLK appearance? Did it make your favorites list?

17 August 2017

Readers' Favorite Tiaras, The Rematch: #6. The Swedish Aquamarine Kokoshnik Tiara

Your next tiara has made a roaring comeback in the past few years, from a piece that had essentially vanished from the royal scene all the way up to stealing the sixth place spot on your favorite tiara list, mainly thanks to a new wearer and a few high profile appearances.

The Swedish Aquamarine Kokoshnik Tiara
Much like your eighth place tiara, the Swedish Aquamarine Kokoshnik has a solid shape reminiscent of the traditional kokoshnik headdress. This tiara features five large round aquamarine stones with a gorgeous deep aqua color. Aquamarines look spectacular as large stones, but they can be tough to integrate into a successful tiara design - an obstacle this tiara leaps over by using the kokoshnik shape and a delicate diamond trellis between the colorful stones. It can be paired with a matching brooch also featuring a large round aquamarine.

Princess Sibylla
The tiara is said to have come from Margaret of Connaught, first wife of King Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden. Her jewels were divided among her five surviving children when she died tragically young in 1920, while pregnant with her sixth child. Princess Sibylla of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha brought it into the royal spotlight in Sweden when she married Margaret's son, also named Gustaf Adolf. Princess Sibylla and Prince Gustaf Adolf - who also died tragically young, in a plane crash - had five children, the youngest of which is King Carl XVI Gustaf. Princess Sibylla gave the Aquamarine Kokoshnik and brooch to her eldest child, Princess Margaretha.

Princess Margaretha, 2010
Princess Margaretha married British businessman John Ambler and moved to the United Kingdom, leaving behind the majority of her involvement with royal events and thus taking the Swedish Aquamarine Kokoshnik mostly out of the royal game. Her daughter wore it for her wedding day, but it went so unseen for so many years that people began to wonder if the tiara has quietly been sold. She surprised everyone - and proved the sale rumors wrong - by popping up in the tiara and brooch for Crown Princess Victoria's wedding in 2010.

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Princess Madeleine, 2015
And now the tiara has reentered the royal game. Princess Margaretha stores it in Sweden and has allowed her sister, Princess Christina, and her niece, Princess Madeleine, to wear it. Margaretha has also worn it for other family events in Sweden since 2010.

Anna-Lena Ahlström, The Royal Court, Sweden
I think it's fair to say that the tiara's best showcase comes courtesy of Princess Madeleine. Aquamarine stones suit her incredibly well and she has a fair collection of them herself, including her 18th birthday tiara (the Swedish Aquamarine Bandeau Tiara) and a couple pieces inherited from Princess Lilian.

After debuting the tiara at the Nobel Prize Awards Ceremony in 2015, Princess Madeleine used it for one of the greatest tiara events in recent history: a tea party for sick children at the palace, for which she turned up in full on princess gear. Still one of the royal engagements worth revisiting any day. That event alone could give this tiara fairy tale status, although I think it was pretty much there already.

Does the addition of the Swedish Aquamarine Kokoshnik Tiara to your top 10 surprise you? Did it make your personal favorites list?

16 August 2017

Readers' Favorite Tiaras, The Rematch: #7. The Poltimore Tiara

This tiara entered into the Tiara Hall of Fame thanks to just one royal wearer, and even though it has now left the royal spotlight, it's still holding strong as your seventh favorite tiara - both last time and this time.

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The Poltimore Tiara
The Poltimore Tiara, made of diamonds set in silver and gold, with cushion-shaped and old-cut stones in clusters and scroll motifs, was made by Garrard in the 1870s for Florence, Lady Poltimore, wife of the second Baron Poltimore.

The Poltimore in its necklace and brooch formats
It's a thoroughly convertible piece: the large scrolls can be worn individually as brooches, and the long rows of clusters form a necklace when taken off the tiara frame. (The tiara comes in a blue leather case with brooch fittings and a special screwdriver included, of course.)

Lady Poltimore and her tiara
The tiara entered the royal spotlight in 1959, when the fourth Baron Poltimore sold the tiara at auction for £5,500. It was acquired for Princess Margaret and she began wearing it that same year in its necklace, brooch, and tiara formats. She wore the tiara during a state visit from the Shah of Iran in 1959, which may have been its public debut.

Princess Margaret on her wedding day, 1960
The following year, Princess Margaret married Antony Armstrong-Jones wearing a Norman Hartnell wedding gown topped with the Poltimore Tiara. The detail of the tiara was well showcased by the divinely clean lines of her wedding ensemble, and the tall tiara both added inches to the petite bride's height and balanced the width of her veil and skirt. The tiara and the bride, at least, were a match made in heaven. From its iconic bridal outing to the end of Margaret's life, the Poltimore Tiara was the diadem with which she was most strongly associated.

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Wearing the necklace and one of the brooches with the Lotus Flower Tiara
The Poltimore is, of course, no longer with any member of the royal family. Princess Margaret's children, the Earl of Snowdon (then Viscount Linley) and Sarah Chatto staged an auction of her jewels and other possessions at Christie's in 2006 in order to pay the inheritance taxes on her estate following her 2002 death. The sale was headlined by this tiara.

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The press surrounding the sale and the royal addition to the tiara's history worked some serious magic: the Poltimore Tiara had an estimated value of £150,000 - £200,000 but it sold for £926,400 ($1,704,576). It was said at the time that the new owner was a private Asian buyer.

Wearing the Teck Circle Necklace
Princess Margaret wore a few different tiaras in her youth but was down to just three she wore in her later years, including the Poltimore. The second was the Lotus Flower Tiara, which went to the Queen and has been loaned to the Duchess of Cambridge. The third was the Persian Turquoise Tiara, which hasn't been seen since Margaret died. Meanwhile, her children are still set should they have any future tiara needs: the Teck Circle Necklace - which was used as a tiara by the Queen Mother and just as a necklace by Margaret - is with the Countess of Snowdon (who also has a wooden tiara, a playful take on tradition by her husband, whose company makes bespoke furniture and other luxury items), and the brooches that make up the Snowdon Floral Tiara have been worn by Lady Sarah. But as for the Poltimore, it has disappeared. For now.

If the Poltimore was still in the royal family, who would you want to see wear it?
Did it make your favorites list?

15 August 2017

Readers' Favorite Tiaras, The Rematch: #8. Queen Alexandra's Kokoshnik Tiara

A kokoshnik is a traditional Russian headdress. A kokoshnik tiara is a tiara with a kokoshnik-like shape, usually with a fairly straight or solid top line. There can be many versions. But if you're talking about THE Kokoshnik, then you must mean the one, the only:

Queen Alexandra's Kokoshnik Tiara
King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra celebrated their silver wedding anniversary in 1888, when they were still the Prince and Princess of Wales. The Ladies of Society - 365 peeresses of the Realm - wanted to gift the future queen with a tiara for the occasion, so they did the reasonable thing and asked her what sort of tiara she might like to receive. Her request resulted in what I'd say is the most famous kokoshnik-style tiara in the world today.

Queen Alexandra
Alexandra's request was inspired by the jewels of the Russian imperial court, where bejeweled interpretations of traditional kokoshniks were all the rage. She would have had ample knowledge of the Russian splendor; her sister was Empress Marie (Maria) Feodorovna, who had at her disposal a staggering collection of jewelry, and her own kokoshnik fringe tiara served as inspiration.

Queen Mary
The version created for Queen Alexandra is by Garrard and has 61 platinum bars pave-set with diamonds. There are 488 diamonds, the largest two weighing 3.25 carats apiece. The tiara has been altered at least once; it could originally be worn as a necklace and originally included more bars.

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Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Alexandra died in 1925 and this tiara was inherited by her daughter-in-law, Queen Mary. When Queen Mary died in 1953, the tiara was inherited by her granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II. It has been in regular use by the Queen ever since. She wears it with some of her favorite diamond necklaces and earrings, and has also used its simple design as a foil for some of her more complicated colored stone jewel sets.

By Ricardo Thomas - Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library: B0570-24, Public Domain
The design of the Kokoshnik Tiara does indeed seem simple. It can even seem a little too simple in still photographs. (Some of our readers have dubbed it - lovingly, I'm sure - the Popsicle Sticks.) But the magic of this diadem comes when you see it in action. The pavé setting means that diamonds are everywhere, allowing it to capture and reflect every possible ray of light.

In motion, it's a wall of diamonds that dances under the lights. Certainly among the Queen's best diamonds, and just about as regal as it gets, I think.

Did THE Kokoshnik make your list of favorites?

14 August 2017

Royal Event of the Day: Jordan and Luxembourg at Sandhurst

A big royal gathering in Britain - hats and all - and not a Windsor in sight! That's because it wasn't a big royal to-do that brought sovereigns and more to the U.K. on Friday, it was family: Prince Sébastien of Luxembourg and Crown Prince Hussein of Jordan were among the graduates of Royal Military Academy Sandhurst taking part in the Sovereign's Parade. Military training at Sandhurst is a family tradition for both royal families; Princes William and Harry are also graduates of the academy.

Cour grand-ducale/Lola Velasco
The full floppy-brimmed crew from Luxembourg turned up in support (left to right above): Princess Alexandra, Hereditary Grand Duchess Stéphanie, Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume, Grand Duchess Maria Teresa, Grand Duke Henrik, Prince Sébastien, Prince Louis, Princess Claire, and Prince Félix.

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Can it be that our fair MT has uncovered the one purple outfit that I'm just not crazy about? It can. It's that whole thing with the contrast between the pink-toned and blue-toned hues here. Nope.

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Stéphanie has no confusion about which side of her hue she wants to be on. She's as far on the Aqua Express as a person can get. Just not sure about the floaty dress with the heavier tweed jacket. About the only thing I am sure of here is that I need a great deal more information on Claire's shoes.

Queen Rania Facebook
 Jordan's crown prince also had the full support of his family (left to right above): Princess Salma, Queen Rania, King Abdullah II (who represented Queen Elizabeth II, inspecting the parade and giving a speech), Crown Prince Hussein, Prince Hashem, and Princess Iman. No hats in sight for these ladies; Queen Rania plays by her own rule book and formal hats aren't involved.

Queen Rania Facebook
Still, it seemed that she made an effort to go a little more basic than her usual style for the occasion - you can't really get more basic than a coat with a matching shoe, after all. But she had to throw in the asymmetrical waterfall hem for a little Rania touch. How else would we know it's really her?

11 August 2017

Readers' Favorite Tiaras, The Rematch: #9. The Danish Ruby Parure Tiara

Crown Princess Mary and Crown Prince Frederik are delighted to welcome you to the ninth spot on our countdown of your top ten tiaras:

The Danish Ruby Parure Tiara
Your ninth pick shares some heritage with your tenth spot, the Cameo Tiara, because both come from the court of Napoleon and both have spent time in Sweden. The Danish Ruby Parure got its start as a set of jewelry bought by Jean Baptiste Bernadotte for his wife, Désirée Clary, to wear to Napoleon's coronation as Emperor of the French in 1804. The couple later became King and Queen of Sweden, taking the ruby set with them to their new country. The rubies then made their way to Denmark in 1869 as a wedding gift for Queen Louise, who was born a Swedish princess and married the future King Frederik VIII, and passed down until they landed in the hands of Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary. We revisited the complete story of the Danish Ruby Parure earlier this year, so click here to read up on its extensive history.

Queen Ingrid, before and after her alterations to the tiara
As the Ruby Parure made its way through the generations, the tiara began to take shape. It was originally just a set of floral ornaments which were later shaped into a slender wreath tiara. Queen Ingrid, Queen Margrethe's mother and the name primarily associated with the rubies until Mary came along, added a floral brooch from the set into the tiara to create the more substantial piece we know today.

The complete Danish Ruby Parure today
Crown Princess Mary continued the tradition of altering the ruby parure to suit her own needs. She changed the shape of the tiara to suit her better, creating a set of hairpins with the extra pieces. She added a ruby and diamond ring. She also added flexibility to other pieces, allowing pendants to be removed and swapped out across the parure. It's growing hard to catalog all the different ways Mary has used the Ruby Parure since she changed it, so many variations are now possible.

Between today's available variations, the multiple past tiara variations, and the many gowns the set has been paired with so far, one can't help but ask: Which Danish Ruby Parure appearance is the best Danish Ruby Parure appearance of them all?

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Crown Princess Mary in 2004
My nominations for best Danish Ruby Parure appearance begin with some of my very favorite Mary gowns, of course. Mary's not shy about pairing the rubies with a range of colorful gowns, taking full advantage of the fact that the red stone portion of the tiara is pretty small, and yet a red gown can't help but be a dream combo. This Uffe Frank dress was said to have been inspired by Queen Ingrid, who was the master of wearing allllll the rubies, so that fits. It was worn for Mary's second-ever tiara appearance...

In 2004
...and her first-ever tiara appearance also gets a nom from me. Which proves to me that Mary knew what she was doing with these rubies from day one. Impressive. (She later wore the same silvery ice blue Malene Birger gown to the New Year's Court gala in 2009, with much better hair but with only the ruby stud earrings.)

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In 2007
With my third nominee for best Ruby Parure appearance - the original appearance of that now-altered burgundy velvet Birgit Hallstein gown that I never miss a chance to fawn over - my Ruby Parure preferences are clear: the Queen Ingrid version of the tiara, please, and the full earrings and full necklace all worn at one time. I love the flexibility that Mary has added to the set and I love that she wears it so much more often since making her changes, but it means that she no longer wears all of it at one time, and man, I miss seeing the whole shebang. Alas!

What's your favorite Danish Ruby Parure Tiara appearance?
Did this one make your favorites list?

10 August 2017

Readers' Favorite Tiaras, The Rematch: #10. The Cameo Tiara

You voted for your favorite tiara, and the results are in! We're counting down your top ten tiaras, beginning with...

The Cameo Tiara
De Kongelige Juveler screencap
Your tenth tiara has a "love it or hate it" reputation, but apparently the scales have tipped over to the "love it" side! Sweden's Cameo Tiara is memorable, it's historical, and its most recent appearance was a particularly great one, so why not?

The Cameo Tiara on Queen Josephine of Sweden (top, both), Crown Princess Margaret of Sweden (bottom, left), and Queen Ingrid of Denmark (bottom, right)
As one of the oldest tiaras still in regular use, it's seen a long history filled with prominent wearers on its path from Empress Joséphine and the French imperial court to the current Swedish royal family. Click here to read its entire history, which we revisited last year.

Cameo brides: (top, L-R) Princess Birgitta, Princess Désirée, (bottom, L-R) Queen Silvia, Crown Princess Victoria
It's an impressive set of jewelry, grouped together with a necklace, bracelet, brooch, and earrings. And while a tiara like this could easily become a niche selection in a royal collection as large as Sweden's, the Cameo's position as a family wedding tiara has kept it in the spotlight.

It's a statement diadem, and as such, it needs to be carefully styled. I love the Cameo myself, but I also find that my own appreciation varies wildly depending on the appearance. That's the big Cameo question, I think: how exactly should this thing be styled?

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Queen Silvia, 1998
Queen Silvia's most frequent solution to that question is to pair the tiara and its parure with like colors, matching the gold tones and the colors of the cameos with gowns from the bronze, coral, and orange families. That's too much for me, though (which I say as one who rarely likes anything in the coral and orange range in the first place). A dress like the one above has so much going on by itself, the Cameo Tiara and its accompanying jewels don't get a chance to shine.

Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel's wedding, 2010
By Holger Motzkau 2010, Wikipedia/Wikimedia Commons (cc-by-sa-3.0), CC BY-SA 3.0
Perhaps that's one reason why it's so successful as a wedding tiara. I mean, you can't get a much better canvas than a white dress. I have no doubt that Crown Princess Victoria's excellent wedding appearance swayed a good number of you over to #TeamCameo, and I agree. This was also a superior use of the rest of the Cameo set, using just the earrings and the bracelet without overdoing it.

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Queen Silvia, 2005
One strategy I'd like to see used more often: a little bit of contrast. This unexpected pairing with a blue gown is my very favorite non-wedding Cameo appearance. It's certainly one of the best showcases the parure has had.

Mostly, I'd just like to see the Cameo Tiara used more often. As of this writing, its last appearance was Crown Princess Victoria's wedding.
Crown Princess Victoria wearing the rest of the Cameo parure, 2016
SVT screencap
Although Victoria did taunt me at the Nobel Prize Awards Ceremony in 2016 by wearing the whole Cameo Parure - just minus the tiara. (She substituted the Cut Steel Tiara, which is also a Napoleonic piece.) The Cameo Tiara has been reserved for Queen Silvia except for Victoria's wedding, but my fingers stay crossed that it will be added to Victoria's regular tiara rotation.

How would you style the Cameo Tiara?
Does it make your list of favorites?