Tiaras are the world’s earliest head ornaments worn by ancient men and women to indicate high status. Persian Kings, Ancient Greeks and Romans used gold to make wreath-shaped head bands. Scythians resembled a stiff halo that would serve as the inspiration for later Russian kokoshniks that were usually made of precious metals and decorated with precious and semi-precious stones.
Today, we often use word “tiara” together with the word “diadem“. The largest collection of this breathtaking beauty belongs to the British royal family. However other royal families are the proud owners of this amazing historical and modern sparklers as well. Royal tiaras are more than just for show. These iconic symbols of power have special meaning and have long, complicated histories.
Let’s look at the stories behind these beautiful antiques.
The Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara
This iconic headpiece is known as Queen’s favourite and most worn tiara.
It was originally owned by Queen Mary of Teck. It was given to her by aristocratic women who called themselves “The Girls of Great Britain and Ireland.” When Queen’s Mary granddaughter Princess Elizabeth married Prince Philip in 1947 she received this tiara as one of her wedding presents. Reportedly now Queen Elizabeth still calls this exquisite diadem ‘Granny’s Tiara’
The Cambridge Lover’s Knot Tiara.
One of the favourite tiaras of the British Royal family was once known as the Grand Duchess Vladimir Tiara. This stunning headpiece was originally created for Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna of Russia. It’s made up of 15 diamonds interlinked with hanging pearls. The pearls can also be swapped for emeralds or diamonds. Following the Russian revolution, the royal tiara was taken from the Vladimir Palace by a British officer and then surrendered to the Grand Duchess’ son. Following her death, her family started to auction her royal jewellery to support themselves. One of the pieces that went under the hammer was the tiara – which was bought by Queen Mary. The Vladimir tiara had been damaged in transit, so Queen Mary elected made it repaired by Garrard, also adding 15 of her own emeralds, plus a mechanism to make it possible to switch from emeralds to the original pearls easily. In 1988, Queen Elizabeth II had it repaired again, this time updating the frame.
The Greville Emerald Kokoshnik Tiara.
This tiara with the rose-cut diamonds in a kokoshnik-style arc with six emeralds was made for the Hon. Mrs. Ronald Greville in 1919. Sometime in the 40s she passed it on to Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. It went unseen for decades until Princess Eugenie of York wore it on her wedding day. The centre emerald is rumoured to weigh 93 carats. The current wearer is Princess Eugenie of York.
This Tiara was a wedding gift from Prince Albert II of Monaco to his bride, Charlene Wittstock, for their wedding in 2011. It was made by Van Cleef & Arpels. A necklace that can be worn as a tiara, it was designed especially for Charlene. In honour of her background as a swimmer. The necklace is composed of circular elements that present the water and foam of the ocean through more than 1,200 diamonds and sapphires and more than 70 carats total.
Princess Charlene first wore it as a necklace to the Red Cross Ball in 2011, just after her wedding. There is also a pair of drop earrings which are clearly part of a set with the necklace/tiara, containing a matching ocean circle at the bottom.
THE CARTIER HALO TIARA
The Cartier Halo tiara’s beginnings go back to 1936 when George VI commissioned Cartier to create something spectacular with the diamonds and platinum he had purchased for his wife three weeks before he became King George VI and she became Queen Elizabeth.
But she was only pictured wearing it shortly after she received it and before she became Queen Consort – after that she chose to wear larger, grander pieces instead as her jewellery collection grew.
There were rumours that Kate Middleton had never planned to wear a tiara on her wedding day. The royal-to-be supposedly had her heart set on wearing a delicate flower crown, a whimsical, boho-style that wouldn’t look out of place at a quintessentially English wedding. However, this was no ordinary wedding, this was a royal one and the bride was the future Queen of England so royal protocol took over and plans were quickly abandoned.
Whether that’s true or not, we know one thing for sure since then this dazzling piece of art has become one of the most iconic royal wedding tiaras in history. Known as the Cartier Halo tiara, it’s made up of 739-brilliant cut diamond and 149 baguette diamonds, and was lent to Kate by the Queen.
THE FIVE AQUAMARINE TIARA
Queen Elizabeth has an entire parure of aquamarines assembled from gifts from Brazil early in her reign, and it is headlined by a tiara she commissioned from Garrard. The last additions to this tiara were the fan-like scroll motifs between the larger stones. Of this last addition, the Royal Collection says: “In 1971 the tiara was adapted to take four scroll ornaments from an aquamarine and diamond jewel given to The Queen by the Governor of São Paulo in 1968.
The Modern Sapphire Tiara
While many royal tiaras were passed down to Queen Elizabeth II, the Modern Sapphire Tiara isn’t one of them.
This tiara traces back to Princess Louise of Belgium (1858-1924), who was the daughter of King Leopold II and the wife of Prince Ferdinand Philipp of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Louise were rearing it as a either a necklace or a dress ornament. Louise was a scandalous figure with a string of lovers, who left her husband and ended up estranged from her family and in serious financial trouble. She had to sell her jewels to recover her debt. Presumably, this is how that necklace ended up in the general marketplace, where it was acquired for the Queen and turned into tiara.
QUEEN MARY’S DIAMOND BANDEAU TIARA
Queen Mary of Teck was rumoured to have had this tiara created to house a brooch she was given (the centre diamond). The tiara is broken up into 11 sections, which make it flexible, and is set in platinum.
Made in 1932, The Queen Mary Diamond Bandeau Tiara has often been seen with a sapphire in the centre stone, but Meghan Markle opted for a diamond on her Royal Wedding day in May 19, 2018, which was lent to her by the Queen. The tiara is formed as a flexible band of 11 sections, pierced with interlaced ovals and pavé set with large and small brilliant diamonds. The centre is set with a detachable brooch of ten brilliant diamonds. When Queen Mary died in 1953, both the tiara and the brooch were passed on to her granddaughter, the Queen.
QUEEN MARY FRINGE TIARA
Another exquisite royal tiara, called Queen Mary Fringe tiara was made up of 47 diamond bars that are divided by smaller diamond spikes to mimic a Russian kokoshnik tiara.
The then-Princess Elizabeth wore it on her wedding day. The tiara actually broke on the Queen’s wedding day. Luckily, the court jeweller was standing by in case of emergency and it was rushed to his workroom under police escort and speedily repaired.
It was also worn by Princess Anne for her wedding in 1973 and by Princess Beatrice for her wedding in 2020. Apart from these weddings, this piece remained out of the public eye for decades as the Queen Mother seemed to prefer two of her other tiaras for her own use in her later years. But then, in a thoroughly uncharacteristic move, Queen Elizabeth brought it out after the Queen Mother’s death.
THE BURMESE TIARA
This tiara was commissioned by Queen Elizabeth II in 1973 using rubies and diamonds taken from dismantled tiaras and necklaces. It has a distinctive floral pattern. This classic diadem was made from dismantled tiaras and necklaces.
It contains 96 rubies,
which were gifts from Burma and is one of the more significant jewels the Queen has added to her collection during her reign. Just another example of how rubies are truly Royals stones.
THE LOTUS FLOWER TIARA
The Lotus Flower Tiara is an example of the royals’ tradition of repurposing their old family jewellery. In 1923, Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon received a pearl and diamond necklace from the Duke of York upon their marriage, which she soon transformed into this delicate piece, featuring lotus flowers topped with diamond arches and pearls.The Tiara was most notably worn by the Duchess for a series of portraits in the 1920s. The following year, the then Queen Elizabeth loaned the Lotus Flower Tiara to her elder sister, Lady Elphinstone, for the Coronation of King George VI at Westminster Abbey. Lady Elphinstone was the mother of the Queen’s famous niece, the Hon. Margaret Rhodes.
In 1959, the then Queen Mother gave the Lotus Flower Tiara to her younger daughter, Princess Margaret, ahead of her wedding the following year. Though not as famous as her Poltimore Tiara, she wore this piece quite regularly for the rest of her life.
In 1993, Princess Margaret loaned the Lotus Flower Tiara to the Hon. Serena Stanhope when she married her only son, then Viscount Linley, at St Margaret’s, Westminster.
The Lotus Flower Tiara was also ‘worn’ by Reginald Wilcock, the Queen Mother’s Page who served in her Household for 40 years, on the wedding day of Viscount Linley.
After Princess Margaret’s death, the Lotus Flower Tiara came into the Queen’s collection, who loaned the piece to the Duchess of Cambridge for the Diplomatic Reception in 2013 and the Chinese State Banquet in 2015. Since then, the Duchess has solely worn Queen Mary’s Tiara. It features a one-of-a-kind lotus design, making it one of the more unique pieces in the royal family’s collection