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.

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
people'I hated him during those times'
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleMemoir extracts show iconic designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Life and Style
fashionAlexander Fury's Spring/Summer 2015 London Fashion Week roundup
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late on stage in Brixton show
News
i100
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
News
people''Women's rights is too often synonymous with man-hating'
Finacial products from our partners
Property search

Scottish independence: How will kilt-edged stocks fare?

Scottish companies were caned when the separatists surged in the polls. Is this the future, asks Simon Read, and would they be any better together?

Two million first-time buyers are locked out

The drought in lending to people with low deposits has created legions of frustrated buyers, writes Emma Lunn

Leaving money to charity in your will could help reduce the tax bill for your loved ones

Next week has been designated "remember a charity in your will week", to put the focus squarely on the subject
Money is slipping through our fingers: the UK is falling behind other countries in the amount we put away

How to save money: UK is crashing down the European league table for putting money away

The UK has slipped to 11th in the latest European league table of savers. Rob Griffin checks out the best options

Energy firms found guilty of bad practice could have licences revoked under Labour government

Caroline Flint, the shadow energy secretary, says a Labour government would create a new energy regulator

A student's guide to financial survival: You don't have to drown in debt at university

Fresh from A-level delight, the moment does not have to be soured by students resigning themselves to thousands of pounds worth of debt in three years' time. Rob Griffin sees how to pass the university challenge

'Dismal' eurozone data sparks concerns

European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi is under pressure to launch promised stimulus before the EU slides further
Love but not marriage: property is one area where cohabiting couples are in danger of losing out

How couples can protect their financial interests when cohabiting

People who simply live together cannot assume they have the same rights to each other's assets as spouses or civil partners. Michelle McGagh sees how they can protect their financial interests
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

    Senior BA - Motor and Home Insurance

    £400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...

    Market Risk & Control Manager

    Up to £100k or £450p/d: Saxton Leigh: My client is a leading commodities tradi...

    SQL Developer - Watford/NW London - £320 - £330 p/d - 6 months

    £320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...

    Head of Audit

    To £75,000 + Pension + Benefits + Bonus: Saxton Leigh: My client is looking f...

    Day In a Page

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam