Yesterday, the Beau Monde and I went to Sotheby’s to see their Platinum Jubilee Exhibition: ‘Power & Image: Royal & Aristocratic Tiaras’, in which over 40 outstanding tiaras of Royal and Noble Provenance are displayed, alongside tiaras from contemporary British jewellers! The exhibition was spectacular, featuring some of the most splendid Aristocratic Tiaras (many of which we have covered here), and also offered two amazing surprises.
The highlight of the exhibition were the Tiaras and Jewels of Noble Provenance that one could identify, since all the labels said ‘on loan from a Noble Family/Private Collection’. They included among others, the Kent Pearl and Diamond Fringe Tiara, Queen Victoria’s Emerald Tiara, Crown Princess Cecilie’s Fabergé Tiara, the Devonshire Coronet and the Devonshire Tiara, the Westminster Halo Tiara, the Anglesey Tiara, the Rosebery Tiara and the Primrose Tiara, and the Mountbatten Diamond Floral Necklace/Tiara. One of my favourite parts of the display was the fact that some of the Tiaras seemed to float in the air, held up by almost invisible wires.
The Kent Pearl and Diamond Fringe Tiara from the collection of the Duke and Duchess of Kent may not have been worn in almost 30 years but it is so instantly recognizable. The Tiara was quite splendid and I can certainly understand why the Diamond Bandeau (which is quite small) was transformed to create this.
Queen Victoria’s Emerald Tiara from the Duke of Fife’s collection is usually at Kensington Palace, and the Tiara was quite lovely to see here, though one could really make out the cracks in the emeralds. I do thing its accompanying Parure is more impressive and look forward to seeing that at Kensington Palace in a few days.
I had just covered Crown Princess Cecilie’s Fabergé Tiara earlier this month and was nicely surprised to see it in person, though my first thought was it is quite smaller than it appears in the photographs, though the central three diamonds are of a decent size.
I expected to see the Devonshire Coronet and the Devonshire Tiara since they have been displayed at Sotheby’s quite often in recent years, but was still struck by how spectacular they are in real life. The Coronet is definitely a whopper, no wonder the Duchesses complained, and the Tiara is quite lovely when the diamonds are all sparkling.
The Westminster Halo Tiara was much smaller in person, and also the central portions, which used to contain the Arcot Diamonds did not match the rest of the Tiara. A nice surprise was the Westminster Bagration Tiara, which was one of the two Tiaras not allowed to be photographed, but the colour of the spinels was splendid when moving in the light.
I loved seeing the Norfolk/Herries Tiara since I had been researching it for years before publishing my article on it last year. It was quite splendid, and the stones of the highest quality.
The Buccleuch Diamond Belt
The most amazing surprise of the entire exhibition was seeing the spectacular Buccleuch Diamond Belt, which was my highlight of the day in the midst of all this splendour. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to photograph the Belt but I must say that the Belt is reason alone to visit Sothebys.
The Zetland Tiara
The Tiara of the Marchionesses of Zetland was one of the larger tiaras on display and certainly stunning in person.
The Anglesey Tiara was on display in the window of Sothebys, and is one fo the few aristocratic tiaras which is on sale during this exhibition. I was most struck by the size of the diamonds in the base.
The Spencer Tiara was also a spectacular sight, and it was much larger in person than it seems in photographs, though the velvet covered base was so poorly done that it ruined the overall affect of the Tiara.
The Derby Tiara
The Derby Tiara is a smaller version of the Devonshire Coronet but still quite lovely.
The Rosebery Tiara and the Primrose Tiara from the Earls of Rosebery were both quite spectacular, with stones of the highest quality which sparkled in the light, and I particularly loved the display of the Primrose Tiara in the floating display.
The Hopetoun Tiara
Not much is not about the Hopetoun Tiara, and while the diamonds may not be the largest, the size of the tiara is big enough to have made a statement of any of the Countesses who wore it.
We covered the Mountbatten Diamond Floral Necklace/Tiara last year soon after it was sold, so it was lovely to see it in tiara form, though I must say I prefer the necklace version. Also a nice surprise was this Faberge of Bolin Aquamarine and Diamond Necklace which was supposedly a gift to Princess Victoria, Marchioness of Milford Haven form her brother-in-law, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia.
The Fitzwilliam Tiara | Laurel Wreath Tiara | Harcourt Diamond Necklace
Other Aristocratic Jewels included the Fitzwilliam Tiara, which was badly lit and badly displayed, this spectacular Laurel Wreath Tiara, which I kept coming back to, and the Harcourt Diamond Necklace, given by George IV, to the 2nd Earl of Harcourt, and one of the few heirlooms to remain in the family.
Since almost all the labels were described as ‘on loan from a Noble Family/Private Collection’, with quite vague information about dates and creators, there were quite a few other Tiaras in the Exhibition that we were not able to identify but seemed quite familiar. There were also a few Tiaras created by contemporary British designers, which were on sale.
In conclusion, ‘Power & Image: Royal & Aristocratic Tiaras’ was a spectacular exhibition. The highlight for me was seeing the Westminster Spinel Tiara and the massive Buccleuch Diamond Belt, the images of which I sadly cannot share with you. I highly recommend you to go see this exhibition before it ends in a few weeks.
‘Power & Image: Royal & Aristocratic Tiaras’ is on Display at Sotheby’s on New Bond St in London from May 28th to June 15th (it has been extended to June 28th now). Entry is Free, and you are allowed to take pictures of all except the two aforementioned Tiaras!