A woman's crowning glory
Any glamour girl worth her salt should head to Christie's where a collection of tiaras is up for grabs. By John Windsor
Saturday 26 July 1997
Until recently, they were unappreciated and undervalued, having slipped out of fashion with the advent of shampoo just before the war. Victorian women must have had hair as greasy as the fleeces of old sheep, but the ideal locks for binding down tiaras.
The items in this collection are not diamond encrusted and are to be auctioned in just five lots - an indication that the auctioneer David Lancaster expects dealers to be the biggest bidders, rather than glamourous young things seeking a tiara for a wedding, or a club night. He expects pounds 1,000-pounds 1,500 for a lot of 35 "antique-cut steel hair ornaments", some with hinged drops, worn on the bun, that would have swayed and sparkled at gas-lit balls. The cheapest lots, including specimens in tortoiseshell, coral, ivory and paste pearls, are estimated to go for pounds 600-pounds 800.
Tiaras are in the form of a complete circle: crescent shaped ones, sometimes attached to a comb, to anchor them - the majority in the sale - are strictly diadems.
But faulty nomenclature is a comparatively minor faux pas. Etiquette dating back to 1800, when they became popular, dictates that only married women may wear tiaras, because they symbolise the effulgence of Venus. At a wedding, the tiara is exposed only when the veil is raised.
No doubt the young women wearing tiaras and see-through dresses at the glittering blue glass and chrome club Legends in Mayfair (or dolled up at the Aquarium in Shoreditch or The Cross in Islington) have discovered less conventional ways of sacrificing to Venus. One bride, 30-year-old Michele O'Callaghan, who was married in a Dublin church this month, did without a veil because it did not suit her Amanda Wakeley ivory and charcoal dress but wore a tiara of moonstone flowers and diamante. "Attitudes have changed," she says, "tiaras are a modern accessory these days. I wanted one to jazz up the dress and create a sense of occasion - as tiaras do."
Geoffrey Munn, managing director of Wartski, the Queen's jeweller, whose "One Hundred Tiaras" exhibition in March helped to ignite the tiara boom, says, "Tiaras are the crowning glory of jewellery. Nothing gives more hauteur to the owner, nothing is more alluring, more flattering. In the 19th century they were the kit and caboodle of every woman from the middle class up."
Mr Munn is quick to dispel the misapprehension that only the nobility is allowed to wear them. "Anybody who buys a tiara is no less a tiara owner than the most noble." He warns of another faux pas. Do not wear your diadem with its base exposed. Twine the hair over it so that the sparklers seem to be springing from the head.
Many tiaras, he points out, come apart to make several brooches and a necklace. "You can have huge fun with these glittering bits of Mecanno." At the height of their fashion, during la belle epoque, up to three tiaras at a time might be worn.
Catwalk stars such as Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Christie Turlington and Linda Evangelista - as well as Madonna and the actress Kate Beckinsale - have all sported the witty creations of today's tyro of the tiara, the young jeweller Slim Barrett. John Galliano has commissioned Barrett, as have Katharine Hamnett, Claude Montana and John Rocha.
It was Barrett who designed the pounds 250,000 Celtic-motif tiara with yellow diamond drops and 6.9 carat yellow rondel that was the contemporary centrepiece of the Wartski exhibition.
It was admired by the Queen Mother, who lent her wedding tiara to the exhibition, and who attended that famous tiara-revival bash, the Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava's 90th birthday ball at Claridge's in January. Tiaras were stipulated. These days they are de rigueur only at the state opening of Parliament and state banquets. In Victorian times, "white tie" invitations always meant that tiaras should be worn.
The Americans are at last beginning to understand that tiaras can be worn by anyone. Barrett's wife and partner, Jules de Bairead, says that when Bennett first displayed a collection of his tiaras at the Plaza, New York seven years ago, the Americans scoffed. "Some were quite shocked. They thought we were trying to introduce the idea of English royalty." One had said mockingly to his wife: "Hey, wanna be a Princess for a night?"
The fact that tiaras are still undervalued is shown by the fact that dealers at auction buy the diamond ones to break up and sell as brooches or pendants. Tiaras are given only glancing references in jewellery textbooks. But Mr Munn is writing a book about them, and so is Britain's biggest collector of tiaras, Jen Cruse. Books tend to give collectors confidence and to push up prices.
So grab some tiaras cheaply, while you can, get your hairdresser to twine them into your hair - and tell him to forget the shampoo.
Christie's South Kensington, 85 Old Brompton Road, London SW7 (0171- 581 7611). Antique and collectable jewellery sale, Tuesday, 2pm.
05 May 2015 02:09 PM
Many Londoners who live in social housing estates are not allowed to switch because their landlord has ‘locked’ them in to buying from one supplier
24 April 2015 07:30 PM
01 May 2015 12:00 AM
More than £60m was paid out to more than 2 million prizewinners this month
28 April 2015 05:20 PM
Why can’t we just have open and honest charges, without all the cross-subsiding?
28 April 2015 03:50 PM
With the pound at a high against the euro, it pays to buy now before uncertainty post-election
17 April 2015 06:00 PM
23 April 2015 12:00 AM
Experts disagree about the 7% increase over the past year
22 April 2015 07:29 AM
Too many mortgages are being sold with misleading gimmicks
21 April 2015 09:54 AM
The firm’s revenues slumped by a third to £217 million in 2014
21 April 2015 12:00 AM
The average quote for a buildings and contents policy has fallen by 3.6 per cent
10 April 2015 07:00 PM
15 April 2015 12:56 PM
Joining Barclays Blue Rewards costs £3 a month but then lets customers in for handouts of up to £15 a month
15 April 2015 07:27 AM
A charity is urging anyone struggling financially to see if they could get help from the state
13 April 2015 11:39 AM
Video: With an election looming, a hung parliament could hit sterling
03 April 2015 08:00 PM
Crowd-to-let: How crowdfunding sites can give investors a slice of the property market for £500
After the election: What will Britain's financial future look like on 8 May?
General Election 2015: How you vote next week could affect your finances
Beware credit card firms’ odious tricks
10 tips for taking out a personal loan
- 2 Italian police 'reveal' what Jesus looked like as a young boy
- 3 General Election 2015: 14-year-old boy asks Nick Clegg – 'can you kill Katie Hopkins?'
In defence of liberal democracy
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils
iJobs Money & Business
£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Can you speak German,...
£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity f...
£215 per day: Ashdown Group: Junior Project Manager (website, web application ...
£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software Engineer / Softw...
Day In a Page
Only a few minutes' drive from the charming town of Marlow, this two-bedroom home sits on the private riverside estate of Harleyford.
This detached four-bedroom home in Middleyard is arranged over two floors, with features that include a wood-burning stove and bespoke oak staircase.
In a row of eight detached Georgian residences, this five-bedroom home offers views of The Sound, Mount Edgcumbe and Cornwall from its impressive veranda and full-length balcony.
If you love cooking for friends this two-bedroom flat - complete with views of the iconic Battersea Power Station and an open-plan kitchen/dining area - will go down a treat.
Located above Grasmere village, this five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors and offers countryside views across Grasmere Lake towards Silver Howe.
Surrounded by the Western fells, this five-bedroom Georgian home retains many original features including panel-plastered ceilings, sash windows and fireplaces.
This six-bedroom home is set amongst three acres of grounds. Currently a large family home, Clift Hill has potential to make a B&B, subject to change of use permissions.
A former period coach house, Glebe Farm Stable is now a three-bedroom cottage with a double car barn, office, kennels and an outbuilding that's currently used as a gym.
Set sail for this four-bedroom farmhouse in Cowes. With five acres of land and an indoor pool, this home oozes character. There is even potential to let a one-bedroom annexe.
Surrounded by woodland, this five-bedroom manor house has plenty of outdoor storage space in the form of three converted loose boxes, two smaller outhouses and a woodstore.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with a double carport, useful workshop, garden and two walkways that offer views of the adjacent countryside.
With space for an equestrian business, a greenhouse for growing your own veg, a wine store and a gym; this five-bedroom home has all the ingredients for a country retreat.
This four-bedroom home has exposed brick chimneys and a vaulted ceiling in a breakfast room that's ideal for summer entertaining - the doors open to the patio and garden.
The decked roof terrace of this two-bedroom flat is perfect for summer drinks while large windows and ample storage space make for a light and spacious interior.
Surrounded by approximately 15 acres of grounds, this six-bedroom grade II-listed home has been extensively refurbished yet retains many period features.
This four-bedroom home comes with a two-bedroom cottage and commercial office, with planning to extend, in a stunning courtyard setting.
In a pretty Norfolk village, this four-bedroom family home is surrounded by landscaped gardens, with even a self-contained annex for guests.
A few miles from the seaside at Perranporth, this four-bedroom farmhouse sits amongst nine acres of idyllic grounds - including a lake and two barns used as holiday lets.
This five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors of a converted Victorian hospital, offering spectacular views of the Pentland Hills - only three miles from the city centre.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with grounds that span to approximately 2.5 acres, as well as two large patio areas and a double garage.
This four-bedroom cottage is a Grade II-listed town house, well-located for the thriving market town of Nailsworth.
A four-bedroom apartment on the ground floor of a stunning period property in North Yorkshire, with two kitchens and a large south-west facing garden.
This high-spec two-bedroom home is part of a smart collection of new flats at Beaufort Park and has a large decked balcony that's perfect for summer drinks.
Capitalise on the fabulous views of Trevone Bay by taking two homes and creating one spacious boutique B&B. Just a cliff-top walk from Padstow.
Overlooking a golf course, this six-bedroom Edwardian detached home spans four storeys and retains many period features including the original, operational servants' bells...
On the edge of the city, this six-bedroom home comes with an outdoor swimming pool and a large garage block that has annexe potential.
In a Grade II-listed manor just outside of Bath, this three-bedroom home is arranged on two floors with a skylight in a vaulted roof line.
Open the living room's bi-fold wooden doors to reveal a retro-style kitchen, and a conservatory leading to a paved garden at this three-bedroom home.
A Grade II-listed, four-bedroom home, in a charming Somerset village, with a two-storey studio that could be converted into a holiday cottage
A modern four-bedroom Victorian home, within walking distance to the high street
A luxury apartment in the Gothic mansion of Wyfold Court in Kingwood, offers six bedrooms spread over three floors and a turret
This school conversion, near Stockwell Tube, oozes New York loft style. The one-bedroom flat features double height ceilings and exposed brick work
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two-oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn
High Crest House covers an impressive 9384sq ft, with almost three acres of grounds including a tennis court and summer house enclosed by electric gates
A six-bedroom farmhouse with separate accommodation in converted stables. Situated in the village of Church Aston, within walking distance to the market town
A two-bedroom flat with under-heated walnut floors and bespoke built-in storage. The Tube and Clapham Common are a short stroll away
A refurbished seven-bedroom townhouse with staff quarters, cinema room, superb gym, steam room and plunge pool
A minimnalist four-bedroom home designed to the highest spec, featuring glass walls and a kitchen space lit by a glass roof
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings