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

Tiaras are back - on the catwalk, in the glam clubs, and at Christie's South Kensington, where a unique private collection of 111 of them is to be auctioned on Tuesday.

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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins win the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Hard labour: a woman bears the load in a factory. But equal treatment is causing pension problems

Women to lose benefits from contracted-out pension scheme

Workers were promised that the state would pay inflation increases on parts of their pensions. But now the DWP disagrees
The Budget, says one critic, should have done more to encourage construction of affordable homes

Help for buyers but where are the homes?

A vote-winning Budget promised less tax, greater savings flexibility, and government handouts for first-time housebuyers
'It will be no wonder if people lack the enthusiasm to save taxfree,' says one expert. But there are ways to beat low rates on cash Isas

How to make the most of Isas: You can save more money now, the returns are tax-free and the rules are flexible

Rob Griffin sees how you can surmount the one big obstacle

Growing number of women under the age of 35 are turning to online gambling

Online gaming is changing the profile of victims, who see it as an answer to difficult relationships but sink deeper into trouble

Ethical investments: Lack of awareness means investors are supporting industries they oppose

Many of us have good intentions now but either we don't switch accounts or we back 'nasty' activities without realising
Payday lenders fail to recognise customers in financial difficulty, the FCA said

Payday lenders accused of unfair practices by watchdog

The Financial Conduct Authority found non-compliance in all reviewed firms

Hooray, you're going to live longer! But what should you do to celebrate?

Pension expert John Lawson talks on why improved longevity is something to plan for carefully

Pension freedom: Steve Webb answers your questions on the big shake-up

The new freedoms arrive in April but many of you have told us that you see problems as well as opportunities. The pensions minister Steve Webb responds
Pension Minister Steve Webb

There are 'dark corners' of the investment and pensions industry, says Pensions Minister

The DWP and the FCA have joined forces to investigate transaction charges in occupational pension schemes

Scottish Power was found to have unacceptably long call waiting times

Scottish Power hit with sales ban by regulator

The company was found to have unacceptably long call waiting times

This phoenix rose from the stage at the London Olympics. The insurer grew out of zombie life insurance funds

Phoenix Life: Chance of a refund for overcharged policyholders has risen

A retired adviser got his money back from the insurer after claiming he had been overcharged. Thousands of others may have a strong case
Expect a new wave of fishing expeditions by fraudsters now we can invest our life savings

Cold callers and your pension: watch out for dangerous boiler room scams

Sean O'Grady received a cold call last week that was much more sinister than normal. Yes, someone wants to get their hands on his pension...

Fuel poverty could claim 100,000 lives over next 15 years, warns energy charity

The NHS is currently bearing a yearly burden of approximately £1.5bn treating cold-related illnesses every winter

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Recruitment Genius: Retirement Coordinator - Financial Services

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: To provide a prompt, friendly and efficient se...

    Recruitment Genius: Annuities / Pensions Administrator

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will be the first point of contact for all...

    Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Officer - Altrincham - up to £24,000.

    £18000 - £24000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Of...

    Ashdown Group: Learning and Development Programme Manager

    £35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

    Day In a Page

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor