Denoting status and influence, tiaras have long been seen as a symbol of wealth. We take a look at the interesting history and evolution of the bejewelled crown.
Once upon a time, tiaras symbolised the transfer of a bride’s allegiance from her family to her husband’s. Traditionally, tiaras were only worn by married women so the first time a woman would wear a tiara was at her wedding. For the occasion, she would wear a family heirloom. Afterwards, she would normally only wear pieces from her husband’s family. The British Royals still observe these protocols, though not as closely. Queen Elizabeth received her first tiara, the Cartier Scroll, for her 18th birthday while Princess Diana wore her Spencer family tiara many times after her wedding.
Surprisingly, it’s not a person’s status but the event that dictates whether a tiara should be worn. Previously it was often the rich and powerful that had the occasion—and money—to wear tiaras. Today, society is a little more relaxed. Still, few women would have the chance to wear these glamorous toppers. But pay attention to the dress code and timings of any event invites you receive. If it’s after 5pm and a white-tie party—perhaps a State Banquet or the Nobel Prize ceremony—it’s a good opportunity to break out a tiara.
Whether they’re made with diamonds and pearls, emeralds and rubies, or any other combination of precious gems and metals, tiaras often reflect the sartorial tastes of the time. The Romanticism of the late 18th century produced tiaras with natural motifs, while the 1920s and 1930s saw society jewellers Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels create geometric bandeaux styles inspired by the Art Deco movement.
Throughout history, tiaras have usually been associated with wealthy, influential personalities and families. Whether it was the Hapsburgs of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Empress Joséphine Bonaparte of France, or more recently, the British Royals, today’s most famous tiaras have links to the most powerful women in history.
CAMBRIDGE LOVER'S KNOT
Created by Garrard in 1914 for Queen Mary, the Lover’s Knot tiara is owned by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, but she’s generous about loaning it out. It was a favourite of Princess Diana’s and is now often seen on her daughter-in-law, Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge.
QUEEN MARY FRINGE TIARA
The Fringe Tiara is something of a wedding tradition within the British royal family. It was most recently seen on Princess Beatrice, who wore it to her 2020 wedding to Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi. Queen Elizabeth II wore it to her own nuptials in 1947—the tiara broke hours beforehand and was frantically repaired in the nick of time—as did Princess Anne in 1973. Created in 1919—again, by Garrard for Queen Mary—it features 47 diamonds taken from a necklace that was given to Queen Victoria as a wedding present and mimics the Russian Kokoshnik tiara.
THE FLORAL TIARA
Commissioned in the 19th century by Spain’s King Alfonso XII as a wedding present for his wife-to-be, the Floral Tiara later fell into the clutches of Spanish dictator General Francisco Franco. It eventually made its way back to the Spanish royals in 1962, when Franco returned it for the wedding of Queen Sofia and King Juan Carlos I.
THE CAMEO TIARA
Perhaps the most unique tiara on this list, this headpiece features nine cameos surrounded by pearls and gold. Originally, it was a gift from Napoléon to Empress Joséphine, but these days, Sweden’s royals wear it to special events. Crown Princess Victoria wore it for her 2010 wedding.
MIKE TODD DIAMOND TIARA
Actress Elizabeth Taylor was an avid jewel collector, so of course she had her own tiara. Originally created in 1880, this diamond tiara was purchased and given to Taylor by her third husband, Mike Todd in 1957. She wore it to that year’s Oscars and Cannes Film Festival. In 2011, it broke records when it sold at a Christie’s auction for GBP2.7 million.