23 March 2017

Tiara Thursday: The Westminster Halo Tiara

The Westminster Halo Tiara, in its original format
The Westminster Halo Tiara, once part of the impressive Westminster tiara collection, is an instantly memorable tiara created to showcase three memorable diamonds. Resting in the center of the original tiara was a large round brilliant thought to be the Hastings Diamond, a gift given from Nizam Ali Kahn to King George III in 1785. The stone bears the name of Warren Hastings, the intermediary asked by the Nizam to convey the gift to the King; he was under trial for corruption at the time, and he managed to get the gem wrapped up in political scandal. The sides of the original tiara held the Arcot Diamonds, two large pear-shaped stones given to Queen Charlotte by the Nawab of Arcot.

The Arcot Diamonds as pendants on a brooch
These famous diamonds were sold to the crown jeweler (Rundell, Bridge, and Rundell) after the deaths of King George III and Queen Charlotte. Rundell loaned the Hastings Diamond back to George IV for use in his coronation crown. All three stones were later acquired by the Marquess of Westminster, and they were used in different settings by the Westminster family for several decades.

Loelia, Duchess of Westminster
Beaton
In 1930, the 2nd Duke of Westminster asked the Lacloche jewelry firm to mount the three diamonds in a new tiara. The resulting design used around 1,400 smaller diamonds to create a halo-style diadem that extends out from the sides of the head in a style reminiscent of a Chinese headdress.

Anne (known as Nancy), Duchess of Westminster
The tiara was worn by Loelia, the Duke's third wife, for portraits shortly after it was made; it was also worn by Anne, his fourth wife, to the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. The 2nd Duke died a month after the coronation and his estate drew then-record death duties. In 1959, while still dealing with the inheritance tax, the family sold the grand tiara at Sotheby's.

Shots of the tiara in motion at the 1953 coronation show how flat it is from the side. See if you can spot the Duchess of Westminster at the front of a sea of sparkly peeresses in these videos: here at 3:17, and here at 8:42 and 9:44.
British Pathe screencaps
Jeweler Harry Winston was the next to own the Westminster Halo Tiara. Under Winston's ownership, the three large diamonds were removed, recut, and resold as individual solitaire rings. After the recut, the alleged Hastings Diamond was 26.77 carats, and the two Arcots were 30.99 and 18.85 carats. The larger Arcot stone was last seen as the pendant on a necklace created by Van Cleef & Arpels.

The gaps created in the tiara by the removal of the largest stones were filled by a redesign of the top section and with more small diamonds, echoing the rest of the tiara's design. They were also memorably replaced at one point in time with three turquoise stones, like robin’s eggs in a diamond nest. While with Harry Winston, the tiara was loaned for wear by several people (see the links for photos): socialite Rose Movius Palmer wore it in the turquoise version, entertainer Carol Channing used it for an event, and rocker Alice Cooper wore it as a necklace for a portrait. The tiara was sold again at Sotheby's in 1988. It was last associated with Isi Fischzang jewelers.

The Westminster Halo Tiara, in its last format
Incorporating large stones into tiaras can pose quite the design challenge for a jeweler. I'd call the Westminster Halo Tiara a success on that front; the design impressively holds up with or without the centerpiece diamonds, though I do prefer the centerpiece of the original design. I think it's a gorgeous and unforgettable piece, but it's also not the kind of piece you can picture being worn today to a state banquet or other tiara event. (In fact, the only regular tiara-wearer I can picture wearing this with aplomb today would be the supremely theatrical Queen Margrethe II of Denmark.) Really, it's unsurprising that it's spent most of its years in the hands of jewelers.

Does any version of this tiara strike your fancy?

22 March 2017

Royal State Visit of the Day: March 22

The Norwegian royal family welcomed the President and First Lady of Iceland for a state visit yesterday. Crown Princess Mette-Marit made some interesting sartorial departures, I guess you could say.

Firstly, she tossed her favored navy/black/white scheme to the wind in favor of a spring-friendly palette. She's got a whole muted Easter egg thing going on. And I'd talk more about that, but I'm too busy trying to figure out if Princess Astrid has a palm tree print on, or what. (Doesn't matter. I have decided that it is the suit version of a Hawaiian shirt. I will not accept any other explanation. This is the best thing happening in this post, and this post includes tiaras.)

Click here for videos from the dinner.
NRK screencaps
The tiaras on parade at the evening's state banquet were Queen Maud's Pearl and Diamond Tiara (Queen Sonja), the Diamond Daisy Tiara (Crown Princess Mette-Marit), and an aigrette (Princess Astrid). I really didn't need to tell you which one goes with which lady, did I? Nope. Standard picks all around.

For her next sartorial departure of the day, M-M's beloved ruffly prairie dresses gave way to...
...THIS. This is a most perplexing frock. I actually love the shape for her. There's a little train on the skirt to take it into definite gala gown territory, perfect for tiaras and orders. So, why select colors that have so much color clashing potential? I mean, they're soft colors, but they don't go with a whole lot. Even the basic dark blue of the Icelandic Order of the Falcon feels jarring. The red of Norway's sash would have been worse. MOST PERPLEXING.

NRK
It's almost as though Queen Sonja - who knows a few things about unexpected color combinations, given her love of pairing an emerald tiara with whatever - knew what was up and picked something extra gentle for our eyes. I have also decided that this is the truth. (Other things I really don't need to tell you: Sonja's Erik Mortensen dress is 25 years old, and is itself a veteran of Icelandic state visits.)

21 March 2017

Tuesday Tidbits for March 21: Farewells and Friends

Whilst we were occupied in Paris and Monaco...

--Sadly, Prince Richard of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg, husband of Denmark's Princess Benedikte, died on March 13th at the age of 82. His funeral will be held today in Germany. The royal guests in addition to the family will include Queen Silvia and Princess Madeleine of Sweden (Benedikte is one of Madeleine's godparents); King Willem-Alexander, Queen Máxima, and Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands (Prince Richard was once the subject of speculation as potential marriage material for Beatrix, when what he was actually doing was helping cover her real relationship with Claus); and Princess Märtha Louise of Norway (representing the Norwegian family, who are occupied with a state visit).
Princess Benedikte and Prince Richard, during their engagement
Dutch National Archives, The Hague, Fotocollectie Algemeen Nederlands Persbureau/CC BY-SA 3.0 nl

--"'London Bridge is down': the secret plan for the days after the Queen’s death" is a long read about what will happen on that inevitable yet unthinkable day when Queen Elizabeth II dies. If you haven't checked it out yet, do. It's logistically fascinating and very well done. [Guardian]

--Let's lighten things up a bit. Crown princes in action: good friends Haakon and Frederik participated in a cross-country ski marathon (Birkebeinerrennet, 54 kilometers or just over 33.5 miles), for reasons unknown to me (she says as she puts her feet up). [Instagram]
Kongehuset/Instagram

--While we're on the topic of princes, Harry sure can wear a sweater. [Zimbio]

--Princess Sofia would like to renew her membership in the Froofy Sleeve Club. She has submitted her annual dues in the form of photos of her boxing in her St. Patrick's Day green version. Payment accepted. [Svenskdam]

--Over at the Jewel Vault: QEII highlights one Commonwealth-themed cluster of diamonds and performs a disappearing act on another. Also, a feature on those fab diamond earrings the Duchess of Cambridge wears.

--And finally, we ran out of time last week to cover Sheikha Mozah's trip to the Sudan and Tunisia, but it did not disappoint. It included one of the best trouser suits seen on the royal rounds in quite some time, I think. (Armani Privé, natch.) [Instagram]
Moza bint Nasser/Instagram

Coming up this week: Tiaras should be out in Norway and Sweden, so you know you'll be seeing those here.

Tidbits is your spot for topics we haven't covered on the blog. Please mind the comment policy, and enjoy!

20 March 2017

Royal Dress of the Day: March 20

Hey, listen...
Princess Caroline attended the 2017 Rose Ball 
in Monaco this weekend. 
I did say that the advanced Chanel-ing should be left to the Monacos.

There's actually a lot more to unpack here, once you get past the initial giggle stage. The Rose Ball always has a theme; this year's, overseen again by Karl Lagerfeld, was a tribute to the Vienna Secession art movement. In keeping with that theme, Caroline's dress is part inspiration and part copy of the style of dress worn by Emilie Flöge.
Emilie Flöge
Flöge was an Austrian fashion designer and the life companion of artist Gustav Klimt, one of the founders of the movement. This was an avant garde style of dress at the time (and it sort of still is, I guess, over a century later). It was also a feminist style of dress, eschewing the use of a corset.
Now, this 2017 version, on its own? That'll be a big no thank you. But I do think it's pretty cute how pleased Princess Caroline seems to be with her tribute dress. She looks like she had fun with it, and really, what's the point of having a theme if you're not going to get into it? (Those enormous diamond floral earrings, which have been worn by Caroline multiple times over the years, can come home with me any time, by the way.)

Pierre Casiraghi and Beatrice Borromeo, who welcomed son Stefano on February 28th, were in attendance, as was Charlotte Casiraghi. Beatrice looked gorgeously old Hollywood with another pair of divine earrings. Charlotte's dress seemed a departure from her style to me, and then I realized that it actually isn't her style, strictly speaking: it's an old dress of her mother's. I love that. I can only imagine what "vintage" treasures lie in some of these royal wardrobes.

17 March 2017

Royal Outfits of the Weekend: Cambridges in Paris (Updated)

Yes, that's right, this is a weekend post; you have not fallen through a time warp, or severely messed up your Daylight Saving Time adjustments. The Cambridges kicked off their official visit to Paris on Friday, so some coverage is in order.

First things first, though, they celebrated St. Patrick's Day with the Irish Guards.
Sgt Rupert Frere/MOD Crown Copyright 2017
A new Catherine Walker coat and a repeated Lock & Co. hat, and that's all lovely. If I'm being honest, the variations on a dark green coat worn to this engagement so far are all starting to blend together. I'm left wondering how large a section the Royal Coat Museum will need to be devoted to this color, should the Duchess keep up this engagement for many years to come (if she ends up taking it on like the Queen Mother did, let's say).
Will she go full Kermit on us one of these years? Or will she go for something really ~*crazy*~ someday, like...blue. I am not critiquing her choice of color here, you understand, just contemplating the potential hilarity of a museum wing's worth of coats in similar subdued hues amassed for a single annual engagement. Anyway...

Then they jetted off to Paris to start their official visit with a greeting from President Hollande.
Kensington Palace
'Twas better with the hat, methinks. Catherine Walker was from France, by the way, for those seeking a connection.

A complete outfit change was in order for a reception at the British embassy.
This! Is also! Entirely fine. It gets a nod. I'm not a fan of the jewelry (the earrings, at least, are Balenciaga), but it's a pretty unassailable Alexander McQueen black cocktail dress.

Friday's third and final outfit came for a black tie dinner at the embassy.
Sparkly from head to toe! Très glittery. I was hoping she'd squeeze in some of the Queen's diamonds, and indeed she has: diamond chandelier earrings and Queen Mary's Diamond Bar Choker Bracelet, both on loan and both worn previously by Kate. Excellent.

Update: Day 2

While not every royal chooses to incorporate nods to the country they're visiting in their sartorial lineup, the Duchess of Cambridge is among those that reliably do, and she followed through on that habit by wearing a French coat and French jewelry for the second day of the trip.
Kensington Palace
She selected a Chanel coat dress that offered a slight dip into the recent bell sleeve trend, and paired it with Cartier jewelry. This is definitely from the shallow end of the Karl Lagerfeld pool, if you will, which was a wise decision for her (advanced Chanel-ing is best left to the Monacos), and it's nice to see her use a purse with a handle for a change. This might be my favorite recent addition to the Royal Coat Museum.
Kensington Palace

The couple then suited up for the RBS Six Nations match between France and Wales.
A team color in the form of a Carolina Herrera coat is my kind of sporty dressing.

And one other update for you: over at the Jewel Vault, we have a feature on those diamond chandelier earrings Kate brought along for this trip. Do click over.