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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.

Embed from Getty Images
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?