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The evo­lu­tion of the be­jew­elled tiara, from roy­alty to run­ways

Atiara is a jew­elled crown that wraps around, but does not fully en­case, the head – so while it is un­de­ni­ably strik­ing, it lacks re­gal sig­nif­i­cance. The metal base of the or­na­ment is usu­ally set with white di­a­monds and is de­signed so that the gems sit at level with the face of the wearer – all the bet­ter to al­low re­frac­tions of light to il­lu­mi­nate one’s fea­tures.

The word tiara is in­ter­change­able with di­a­dem, and is thought to have orig­i­nated from the Per­sian term for the high-peaked head­dresses worn by kings. The an­cient Greeks and Ro­mans wore gold wreaths, while the Scythi­ans of Iran wore head­pieces that stood high above the head (and resur­faced as the in­spi­ra­tion for the head­piece worn by Natalie Port­man in Star Wars).

By the late 18th cen­tury, the emer­gence of neo­clas­si­cism brought about a re­newed fas­ci­na­tion for tiaras, led by Em­press Joséphine, the wife of Napoleon, who turned to Chaumet to de­sign hers. Since 1780, the Paris-based high-end jew­ellery house has made more than 2,000 tiaras for roy­als and mem­bers of the aris­toc­racy. As with all jew­ellery, the first step is to draw out a de­sign, and Chaumet has an ar­chive of more than 400,000 sketches, which draw in­spi­ra­tions from ro­man­ti­cism, nat­u­ral­ism and belle-époque and art deco styling. Al­though weight and bal­ance are cru­cial for all jew­ellery, they are even more im­por­tant when it comes to tiaras, par­tic­u­larly if the wearer needs to be able to dance with­out mis­plac­ing her gems. To­day, Chaumet es­ti­mates that it takes 500 to 1,500 hours and up to six months to cre­ate a made-to-or­der piece. It’s a mul­ti­fac­eted, en­tirely hand-cra ed process, in which the tiara is first drawn out, then made into a vol­ume model, then shaped, dis­man­tled, en­graved, as­sem­bled and fi­nally pol­ished.

The house of Cartier is an­other name that de­serves a men­tion. In the late 19th cen­tury, founder Louis Cartier was in­spired by the art nou­veau move­ment to cre­ate fluid jew­ellery, pi­o­neer­ing the use of plat­inum, which was prized for its strength and flex­i­bil­ity. This en­abled Cartier to use tiny, al­most in­vis­i­ble set­tings that al­lowed light to play across more facets of each stone. Known as the gar­land,

the style be­came a Cartier sig­na­ture. For her wed­ding to Prince Wil­liam in 2011, Kate Mid­dle­ton wore a Cartier tiara dat­ing back to 1936. Bought by King Ge­orge VI as an an­niver­sary gi for his wife, El­iz­a­beth, it fea­tures close to 1,000 white di­a­monds and was pre­sented to Queen El­iz­a­beth II for her 18th birth­day in 1944.

In­ter­est­ingly, the Duchess of Cam­bridge has worn a tiara only a hand­ful of times over the course of her royal du­ties. An­other piece she’s been spot­ted in was the prop­erty of Princess Mar­garet, the Queen’s sis­ter, called the Lo­tus or Papyrus tiara, and was once worn as a neck­lace by the Queen Mother. In 2017, Kate wore the Cam­bridge Lover’s Knot, a piece cre­ated in 1913 by E Wolff & Co for Queen Mary, a con­sort of King Ge­orge V. It was said to be one of Princess Diana’s favourites.

Con­ven­tion­ally, the tiara worn by a bride on her wed­ding day would have come from her fam­ily’s col­lec­tion, be­fore she moved on to wear­ing pieces owned by her hus­band’s fam­ily. While Kate did not fol­low this tra­di­tion, Diana did. Even though she had been loaned the Lover’s Knot tiara by Queen El­iz­a­beth II, Diana wore her fam­ily’s Spencer tiara for her mar­riage to Prince Charles in 1981. Com­posed of var­i­ous pieces, the cen­tral part of the tiara was orig­i­nally given to Diana’s grand­mother, Lady Cyn­thia Hamil­ton, at her wed­ding to the fu­ture 7th Earl Spencer, while the ends come from a piece that be­longed to the last Vis­count­ess of Mon­tagu. The tiara took its present form in the 1930s, and in ad­di­tion to be­ing worn by Diana, it was also sported on the wed­ding days of both her sis­ters, and by her sis­ter-in-law, Vic­to­ria Aitken, née Lock­wood. Ru­mours abound that Meghan Markle will wear the Spencer tiara when she mar­ries Diana’s younger son later this year.

The tiara has not been re­stricted to roy­alty, how­ever, and has o en found favour among high­pro­file ac­tresses as well. The Mike Todd tiara was orig­i­nally cre­ated circa 1880, and was pre­sented by pro­ducer Mike Todd to his wife El­iz­a­beth Tay­lor in 1957, when his film Around the World in 80 Days won the Os­car for Best Pic­ture. Made with nine mine-cut di­a­mond scrolls and spaced with mine-cut lat­tice­work mounted on plat­inum and gold, it was sold at a Christie’s auc­tion in 2011, as part of the Col­lec­tion of El­iz­a­beth Tay­lor. Al­though es­ti­mated to fetch US$80,000 (Dh293,800), it sold for an as­ton­ish­ing $4.2 mil­lion (Dh15.4m).

Au­drey Hep­burn wore a small tiara with her Givenchy black dress in Break­fast at Tif­fany’s and again in Ro­man Hol­i­day. Ni­cole Kid­man wore one in the Baz Luhrmann film Moulin Rouge; Cate Blanchett wore sev­eral spec­tac­u­lar spec­i­mens for the El­iz­a­beth films, de­signed by Alexan­dra Byrne. In 2013, Cartier made a replica of Princess Grace of Monaco’s tiara for the film about her life. El­ton John, not one to be le out, named his 1997 doc­u­men­tary

Tantrums & Tiaras; and even Princess Aurora donned a golden head­piece in the 1959 Dis­ney car­toon Sleep­ing Beauty.

The fash­ion crowd was not far be­hind, with la­bels such as Louis Vuit­ton, Ro­darte and Miu Miu send­ing sparkling tiaras down run­ways. Of course, a hand­ful of brands bent the rules as only fash­ion can do. Case in point: the grunge tiara made for spring 2016 by Saint Lau­rent, then led by fash­ion rebel Hedi Sli­mane, who wanted to cre­ate a crown in­spired by the al­ter­na­tive rock mu­sic genre, and that could “be worn with any­thing”.

NOT JUST FOR ROY­ALTY Above, a model show­cases Saint Lau­rent’s grunge tiara in 2016. Right, El­iz­a­beth Tay­lor and Mike Todd

FI­NAL TOUCH Top, a 19th-cen­tury Rus­sian di­a­dem made of gold, di­a­monds and ru­bies. Right, an out­fit paired with a tiara as part of Saint Lau­rent’s spring/ sum­mer 2016 col­lec­tion. Above, Cather­ine, Duchess of Cam­bridge, wore a Cartier tiara on her...

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