05 October 2017

Tiara Thursday: The Bedford/Tavistock Amethyst Tiara

The Bedford/Tavistock Amethyst Tiara
This tiara tends to be referred to by either the Bedford or Tavistock names; the Marquess of Tavistock is the courtesy title for the heir to the Duke of Bedford, so both ultimately refer to the same family, the Russells. The tiara's largest oval Siberian amethyst was set into a diamond honeysuckle motif surround around 1810. That piece later became the center of this tiara, which adds six more oval amethyst stones of graduated size and diamond vine leaves to either side. In his book Tiaras: Past and Present, Geoffrey Munn highlights the cleverness of adding vine leaves to the grape stones, noting that "the word 'amethyst' derives from the Greek amethustos, literally meaning 'not drunken', referring to the belief that an amethyst placed in a glass of wine would allow one to drink without fear of intoxication." (You gotta love a tiara that comes with a built-in wink.)

Lydia, Duchess of Bedford, wearing the tiara and necklace in the 1950s
The tiara has an accompanying amethyst necklace featuring large amethyst stones in diamond surrounds and an amethyst pendant. This type of simple necklace design is a favorite in parures of colored stones. (The Bavarian royal family had a similar amethyst necklace and earrings, a set they auctioned in 2013.)

The amethyst bracelet
There was also an amethyst bracelet, a hinged bangle with three large oval amethysts and approximately 10 carats of diamonds in a leaf and flower design, set in silver and gold and made around 1890. This piece came up for sale in 2009. The bracelet belonged to Mary Russell, Duchess of Bedford (1865-1937), the wife of the 11th Duke. She was a fascinating figure, a vocal suffragette and noted ornithologist who founded four hospitals and decided to take up flying at the age of 63. That passion for aviation ultimately led to her death in a plane crash at sea in 1937.

The tiara is still with the family. It was displayed earlier this year alongside their larger tiara, the Bedford Floral Tiara, in an exhibition for Chaumet in Beijing. The Bedford Floral Tiara is a Fossin design commissioned in 1830 from Chaumet. Both can be seen glittering away at the exhibition in the Instagram video above.

Nicole, Duchess of Bedford at the State Opening of Parliament in 1969 (left, just behind the row of entering ladies of the royal family)
Good amethyst tiaras seem hard to come by (unfortunately, says this ardent fan), but I think this one cracks the code of a great amethyst tiara design. The purple stones are large, they look good enough to eat, and they're nicely complemented by the floral diamond motifs. As a matter of fact, it may just be my current amethyst favorite. 

Is this an amethyst fave for you, too?