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?