13 September 2018

Tiara Thursday: The Countess of Villagonzalo's Meander Tiara

We've covered tiaras that can be necklaces, tiaras that can be brooches, and tiaras that can be reduced in size...but a tiara that's actually two tiaras stacked on top of each other might be a new one for our Thursday spotlight. It's a double decker diadem!

 The Countess of Villagonzalo's Meander Tiara
Spanish jeweler Ansorena crafted this tiara around 1900, just around the time that jewelers were beginning to master the use of platinum. The lightness and strength of the metal allowed for a delicate and intricate Belle Époque design. (Interestingly, Ansorena's archives note the tiara was conceived as early as 1890, just ahead of the rise of platinum.) The tiara includes approximately 33.5 carats of old brilliant, single, and rose-cut diamonds. The construction features millegrain detailing and knifewire tracery.

Top portion of the tiara
Together, the whole diadem is a lot of look - but it separates into two pieces, both of which can be worn on their own as tiaras. The top tiara has a band of meandering Greek key motifs in the center; forget-me-not flowers and trailing laurel leaves representing true love and the triumph of love fill out the rest of the piece.

Bottom portion of the tiara, as a tiara and as a necklace
The bottom tiara can be removed from its frame and worn as a choker necklace. It features a lacework lattice design with a central handkerchief motif.

Esperanza Chávarri Aldecoa, the Countess of Villagonzalo, wearing the tiara in the fashionable low style circa 1920, with an additional diamond tassel at the center
Although not owned by a royal family, this diadem would have seen plenty of royal events courtesy of its owner, Esperanza Chávarri Aldecoa, the Countess of Villagonzalo (1893-1982). The Countess was a lady-in-waiting to Queen Victoria Eugenia, wife of King Alfonso XIII of Spain. Victoria Eugenia was another Ansorena patron; the jewelers created the Fleur de Lys Tiara among other Spanish royal jewels. (And they're still doing so, with the Ansorena Princess Fleur de Lys Tiara as an example.)

The Countess of Villagonzalo's diamond necklace
The Countess' tiara passed down through her family over the years, and is now headed for the auction block. It will be sold at Bonhams London on September 26th. The pre-sale estimate is $100,000 - $160,000. It's not the only Villagonzalo jewel to hit the market this year: Christie's sold a diamond collet necklace - pictured above and worn by the Countess in the portrait above - for around $370,000 in June. A similar necklace was owned by Queen Victoria Eugenia and it is a part of the joyas de pasar, the jewels she left in her will to pass from queen to queen.

A two-for-one tiara: yes or no?