Category Archives: Tiara

Diamond Hair Combs and Tiaras

Tiaras have been an essential part of a woman’s wedding dowry since the Middle Ages.

As early as the 1850’s, aristocratic women bought sets of diamond sprays and brooches. Delicately set in platinum and looking like embroidery, these pieces came with different fittings such as a tiara frame, hinge for a tortoiseshell comb, or pin back. Women could be practical and wear jewelry appropriate for formal and less formal occasions.

In England, agriculture, trade, and industry flourished, so ostentatious costume displays did not ignite envy. However in France, Napoleon III lost the Franco-Prussian War when he surrendered at Sedan on September 1, 1870. This act ended the Second Empire and ushered in the Third Republic.

In a republic, French women dared not appear in tiaras at official receptions. Instead, they took pieces of the tiara and adapted them into hair combs and other items for a parure.

Here are a few examples.

The Poltimore Tiara.
Garrard’s (London jewelers since 1735) made the tiara in the 1870’s for Lady Poltimore, wife of the 2nd Baron Poltimore. Princess Margaret wore it to her wedding to photographer Anthony Armstrong-Jones in 1960. With a screwdriver and different fittings, it can be converted into 11 brooches and a necklace.

Here is Princess Margaret wearing it in the bath!

The Archduchess Maria Anna’s Tiara.
Sets of crescents and pear-shaped diamonds flank two tiers of diamond clusters. A lever behind the tiara can adjust the height, and it can also be taken apart to make a choker, bracelets, and pins. It was made in Vienna by Moritz Hübner in 1903.

Mellerio Floral Tiara.
Diamond and emerald roses proudly rise above the frame, but it is still a practical piece. The diamond sprays can be separated and worn as hair combs or brooches. It was made by Mellerio dits Meller c. 1850 and belonged to the descendants of Eugéne de Beauharnais: the son of Napoleon I’s Empress Josephine, by her first husband. It is so ironic that she had a son by another man, when she was Napoleon’s true love, and he had to divorce her because she could not produce an heir.

Diamond Spray Tiara, c. 1855, The British Museum.
This diamond tiara combines three branches, two oak leaves and one acorn. They are set on a frame of silver and gold. The piece comes in its original case, with two tortoiseshell hair combs, the tiara frame, and brooch fittings. It was made by Hunt & Roskell, 156 New Bond Street.

Elizabeth Taylor Jewelry Sale: The Mike Todd Tiara

In 1957, she gave him a daughter.

Abandoned to love, he gave her this:

Nine scrolls with larger terminals, spaced by latticework motifs, c. 1880. It sold for $4,226,500, but that doesn’t matter to me. Love is still priceless.


Elizabeth Taylor: My Love Affair with Jewelry

Elizabeth Taylor, A Passion for Life: The Wit and Wisdom of a Legend

Sotheby’s Video: 500-Carat Donnersmarck Emerald Tiara

The tiara sold on May 17, 2011, for 11,282,500.00 Swiss Francs, or in today’s currency markets, $14,511,254.51. David Bennett, Sotheby’s Chairman of European and Middle Eastern Jewellery, details the provenance in a video. The emeralds were mined in 16th-Century Columbia and polished in Maharaja style. Contrasted with pale yellow diamonds, they are breathtaking.


For more scholarly research, please examine

The Belle Epoque of French Jewellery, 1850-1910: Jewellery Making in Paris, 1850-1910

Jade Comb – Diamond Tiara

We are a forest goddess with fairy handmaidens who present us with jewelry so we can choose which piece fits our mood. If these two pieces were presented, which would you choose?

First is a beautiful English diamond tiara made from ferns and circular-cut rose diamonds, c. 1890. It sold for $12,165 at Sotheby’s London on July 13.

Our second piece is a white translucent jade bracelet and comb in perfect condition from the Qing Dynasty (18th Century China). In the bracelet, two dragons confront each other grasping a “flaming pearl.” The S-curved dragon shape was popular in comb making at the time, but this one is made of exquisite jade and is in perfect condition. The pair sold for $7,258 at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in 2009.


For more scholarly research, please examine

Tiara by Diana Scarisbrick

Spinach Green and Mutton-fat White: Chinese Jades of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) by Charles Q. Mason

Royal Wedding Tiara

In 1936, the Duke of York (later King George VI) bought this tiara for Queen Elizabeth II’s mother, the Queen Mum. Cartier called it the “Halo” tiara. A fashion journalist also dubbed it the “Scroll” tiara. Both names stuck.

Wedding costume tradition dictates “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.” As her mother gifted the tiara to Queen Elizabeth II on her 18th birthday, so the Queen loaned it to Kate on her wedding day.

That Princess Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, wore a priceless antique is thrilling. That she also has Diana’s engagement ring puts her at the pinnacle of provenance. She looked radiant.

Diamond Thoughts, Old and New

This is a modern replica of a Victorian tiara, made of 5 graduated diamond flowerheads, some have a 2- to 3-carat fancy vivid yellow diamond in the center and 2 or more carats of D flawless white diamonds, which make up the petals. There are also marquise-shaped yellow diamonds on the bandeau. It is part of a parure. This 5-piece set and can either be hooked onto the necklace to make a second tier or worn as the tiara, shown. With earrings, the price estimate is $500,000. It is being auctioned in Dubai on April 20.

But sometimes, artists can have different thoughts about diamonds. Here are graduated diamond studs hooked around rubber to make a bandeau. I have never seen this combination of materials before, and I love it.

Elizabeth Taylor: Tiara Queen

It doesn’t matter that she had La Peregrina, the Taylor-Burton diamond, and the Vera Krupp diamond, Elizabeth Taylor had the royal presence to wear tiaras when all you noticed was her. Alexandre de Paris himself wove strands of pearls through her hair. A queen has died. Bowing my head in reverence, I offer a prayer for her journey into the next world: Sviatoslav Richter playing Ravel’s Pavane pour une Infante Defunte, or in English Pavane for a Dead Princess.


The Innovation of Josephine

As Napoleon’s passionate love, Josephine, kneels before him at his coronation, she introduced two enduring jewelry designs: a woman’s laurel-leaf tiara and a comb with round stones on a stem, forever to be known as the Peigne Josephine. She is wearing the comb in the middle of her head to secure a braid. Napoleon’s laurel-leaf crown imitated Ceasar’s. But Jacques Louis David’s landmark 1804 painting allows us to contemplate Josephine as one of the great jewelry innovators of her time.

Diamond and Aquamarine Tiara

Topped by a pear-shaped aquamarine, this tiara was owned by Princess Olga Valerianovna Paley. She was born Olga Karnovitsch on Dec. 2, 1865, married Erich Gerhard von Pistohlkors in 1884, had an affair with Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich of Russia, married him without the Tsar’s approval, but then got his blessing and became a Princess. After her husband and son were killed by the Bolsheviks in 1920, she fled to Finland with her two daughters. She died in Paris on November 2, 1929. Being a woman, no matter what happened to her, she kept the tiara. It is signed Cartier Paris, Londres, New York, was made c. 1912, and sold for $76,000 at Sotheby’s on May 12, 2009.