Not since the Victoria & Albert Museum’s “Tiaras” exhibition curated by Geoffrey Munn 20 years ago with 200 antique to antique head ornaments has there been another large-scale exhibition of tiaras. All that is about to change with Sotheby’s Tiara exhibition in London, which will be held to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee from May 28 to June 15, 2022.
The exhibition will feature around 50 tiaras of royal provenance and some of them will be on public display for the first time.
Tiaras, tiaras and headbands have been in the jewelry news in recent years thanks to series like DoTownon Abbey (the series and the film), The crown, Bridgeton, and other period productions for the small and big screen. They made headlines when celebrities brought them back into style, wearing them to red carpet events; while the last Met Gala secured their place among the best jeweled looks and a trend that is sure to continue.
Brides wear them instead of veils and antique dealers take them out of their safes again. It is the perfect and extremely exciting time for some of the most famous of the noblest and most majestic headgear to be loaned to Sotheby’s from the 18and century in a range of styles from the different periods alongside a small group that will be on sale including the contemporary British designer’s interpretations and commissions.
Kristian Spofforth, Head of Jewelery at Sotheby’s London said in a statement: ‘The Queen’s Jubilee celebrations have given us the perfect opportunity to present to the public an exceptional selection of tiaras of noble and royal provenance, many of which have not been on display for decades. Sourcing these jewels has been a labor of love, resulting in an exhibition that showcases the finest iterations in the tiara style register, through some of its most famous incarnations – including the much-loved and photographed Spencer Tiara. It’s also a wonderful time for us to shine a light on the dazzling craftsmanship provided by generations of mostly British jewelers over centuries of tiaras making.
The reigning star of the display is the Spencer Tiara which has been passed down from 1767 through generations of the Spencer family and was worn by Lady Diana on her much anticipated and legendary wedding day. The Spencer tiara was added and transformed over the years and then in the 1930s crown jeweler Garrard was commissioned for the final iteration which is the one Lady Diana also often wore at high profile events in 1883 to 1992. This will be the first time it has been exhibited in London since the 1960s.
In a statement, Sotheby’s describes the piece with its famous garland-style design, “heart-shaped central motif set with diamonds flanked by continuous scrolls, interspersed with star-shaped and trumpet-shaped flowers – also set with diamonds, mounted in silver and gold.The heart-shaped piece was particularly sentimental for Lady Diana as her grandmother, Lady Cynthia Hamilton, received it as a wedding present for her marriage in 1919 to “Jack”, Viscount Althorp, the future 7th Earl Spencer.
Other exhibition highlights include:
Gold, cameo and enamel tiara by Joséphine Bonaparte, inspired by the head ornaments of ancient Greece and Rome. Sotheby’s reports that “Joséphine Bonaparte reintroduced tiaras through a unique neoclassical style by mixing decorative elements such as intaglios and decorated cameos with more precious elements such as pearls and diamonds”.
This very rare tiara showcases the best of early 19th century French craftsmanship. The gold tiara is adorned with five oval hardstone cameos in layered agate and jasper – originally created between the 16th and 18th centuries – including the head of Medusa and a profile of Zeus, all within a border of blue enamel and connected by two rows of wavy eribbon interlacing patterns, each with a blue enamel diamond pattern in the center. The tiara was made in Paris for Joséphine Bonaparte by artist Jacques-Ambroise Oliveras, circa 1805. This tiara was previously sold by Sotheby’s London last December as part of a set of two that sold in- above estimate at £576,600 (est. £300,000-500,000).
Queen Victoria’s Emerald and Diamond Tiara was designed by Prince Albert in a neo-Gothic style for Queen Victoria in 1845, made by crown jeweler Joseph Kitching. Sotheby’s reports that this tiara is widely regarded as one of the most elegant and lavish colored gemstone tiaras created anywhere in the world. Set in gold, it is adorned with cushion-shaped diamonds interspersed with step-cut emeralds on its base, topped with other diamonds and scroll-shaped emeralds and surmounted by a graduated row of 19 inverted cabochon emeralds pear-shaped. Queen Victoria is known to have worn the tiara on several royal and official engagements, including a state visit to France in 1855.
Several tiaras from the exhibition were worn for the Queen’s coronation in 1953, including the Anglesey tiara believed to have been made around 1890; the Derby Tiara originally created for the Duchess of Devonshire in 1893; and the Westminster Halo Tiara, commissioned from Parisian jewelers Lacloche Frères in 1930 by the Duke of Westminster for his wife Loelia Ponsonby.
The Derby Tiara: designed with diamond-set palmettes and lotus flowers, probably by Skinner & Co., circa 1890
Conceived as a series of stylized buds emerging from an openwork band, from which emerges a sequence of eleven angular palmettes within diamond borders between which rest graduated lotus flowers, set with cushion-shaped, rose-cut diamonds and gold and silver circular, in fitted Carrington & Co. case.
Here are some other tiaras that span from the 19th to the mid-20th century:
A Diamond Tiara, circa 1830 – A Napoleonic style laurel wreath tiara set with diamonds in the shape of a pediment, created circa 1830
Designed as a leaf crown set with diamonds forming a pediment shape, fully set with cushion and pear shaped diamonds.
An early 20th century cultured pearl and diamond bandeau-style fringed tiara (Fringe and Art Deco) Set with circular, rose-cut and cushion-shaped diamonds, Bandeau-style fringed diamond tiara with an Art Deco diamond and a polka dot base between two continuous bands of diamonds, surmounted by a row of round beaded late 19th century points of alternately long and short length.
A silver headband set with foliage and flowers, circa 1920
Designed as an openwork band of foliage and flowers, set in the center with a cabochon emerald and circular-cut sapphires and pink sapphire in the center of the flowers.
A turquoise and diamond set, Van Cleef & Arpels, 1960s (Modern)
The tiara is designed as five large graduated oval cabochon turquoise stones in a border set with brilliant cut diamonds, interspersed with six smaller cabochon turquoise stones, the necklace and earrings conforming in design, the smaller cabochons in the necklace emitting stylized buds set with diamonds, stamped on the clasp with a maker’s mark
And this modern interpretation by Christopher Thompson-Royds, 2022 Designed as two mirrored forget-me-not wreaths set trembling on a gold frame.
Conferences and other events around the exhibition will take place, please visit the website here