A symbol of royalty, tiaras from the British monarchy can now be seen for the first time
This is the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations year marking seven decades of longest reigning British monarch. A year full of events and initiatives celebrates her moments in service with street parties, pageant, a procession and performance in central London.
Also on display will be a selection of tiaras from noble and royal provenance, many of which haven’t been exhibited in decades. Sotheby’s London opens the largest tiara exhibition to be staged in the UK in 20 years. This is being showcased as part of the jubilee season celebrating the Queen’s reign.
The exhibition, until June 15, features some 50 tiaras. Virtually all of the tiaras in the exhibition were made for and owned by British nobility and together they offer a comprehensive review of all major tiara design styles, through some of the genre’s most exemplary exponents. “The sourcing of these jewels has been a labour of love, resulting in an exhibition that showcases the best iterations within the tiara style register, through some of its most famous incarnations, including the much-loved and photographed Spencer Tiara. This is also a moment to shine a special light on the dazzling craftsmanship delivered by generations of mainly British-based jewellers across several centuries of tiara making,” says Kristian Spofforth, head of jewellery at Sotheby’s London.
A number of tiaras in the exhibition were worn for the Queen’s Coronation in 1953, such as the Anglesey Tiara thought to have been made around 1890; the Derby Tiara initially created for the Duchess of Devonshire in 1893 and the Westminster Halo Tiara, commissioned to Paris-based jewellers Lacloche Frères in 1930 by the Duke of Westminster for his bride Loelia Ponsonby. They bring a moving and direct link to this year’s celebrations.
Across nearly 50 items on show, the exhibition features the most established design styles within the tiara genre, including Napoleonic Empire, Romantic Naturalism, Belle Epoque, Art Deco, Modern and Contemporary designs. Among the most special pieces within the exhibition is the historic Spencer Tiara, worn by one of the most influential members of the royal family. Reported to have been initially created in 1767 and passed down generations within the Spencer family, it was worn by Lady Diana, who was known to be fond of the tiara, often wearing it to white-tie events, sporting the dazzling piece at least seven times between 1983 and 1992 on special occasions during royal tours and high-profile events within and outside the UK.
A further highlight is an Emerald and Diamond Tiara designed by Prince Albert in his Gothic Revival style for his wife Queen Victoria in 1845, crafted by crown jeweller Joseph Kitching for £1,150. One of several the Prince conceived for his wife over the years, this was reportedly her favourite of them all, and is widely seen as one of the most elegant coloured gemstone tiaras ever created in the world. Set in gold, it has wonderful symmetry and balance with cushion-shaped diamonds interspersed with step-cut emeralds lined across its base, topped by further diamonds and emeralds shaped in scrolls and surmounted by a graduated row of 19 inverted cabochon pear-shaped emeralds, the largest of which weighs 15 carats.
This tiara is often associated with representations of a younger Queen Victoria with her family — chief among those is the ‘The Royal Family in 1846’ portrait by Franz Xaver Winterhalter, depicting Queen Victoria with Prince Albert surrounded by their children, as well as a number of more intimate portraits by the artist. Queen Victoria is also known to have worn the tiara on several royal and official engagements, including a state visit to France in 1855.