We can always count on Queen Mary when it comes to fabulous tiaras. That woman had a penchant for turning something lovely into one heck of a statement piece. And I’m fairly certain she never ran into a jewel she didn’t like. At least for a while. In today’s episode of #TiaraTuesday, we’ll discuss one of her grande dame tiaras: The Delhi Durbar Tiara. Buckle up, Buttercup. We have quite a ride ahead of us.
We all know that Queen Mary’s husband, King George V had his coronation in London. But did you know he basically had a second coronation as the Emperor of India? The Delhi Durbar, which is a ceremonial gathering to pay homage, was held in India to celebrate his new status as King and Emperor. Since it had been deemed that the Crown Jewels were not allowed outside of the United Kingdom on any occasion, a new tiara needed to be created for Mary, of course, for the occasion. Always the jewelry recycler, Mary took an earlier tiara, the Boucheron Loop Tiara, and had it dismantled so that Garrard could use the stones to create this masterpiece in 1911 for the celebration.
Initially, the tiara was topped with ten pear shaped emerald drops, the Cambridge emeralds, which had belonged to Mary’s grandmother (we’ll write about the little scandal in which those jewels were involved at a later date). But Mary loved to mix things up, so in 1922 she had the emeralds removed (so they could be used in the Grand Duchess Vladimir Tiara). Mary decided at that point to go big or go home (I’m quite certain those wouldn’t have been her words), and had the Cullinan III and IV, two massive diamonds cut from the original Cullinan diamond and now worn together by the current Queen as a brooch, set into the tiara. The Cullinan III, a 94.4 carat pear-shaped stone, was placed upright in the top center, while the Cullinan IV, a square 63.6 carat stone was set front and center. In true convertible style, either or both stones could be worn, and also another centerpiece existed for use without the Cullinans (no royal has been seen wearing the Cullinans in the tiara since Mary).
There were reportedly some other minor adjustments made in preparation for Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) to wear the tiara on a trip to South Africa in 1947. That was the one and only time she wore the tiara but it remained in her collection until her death in 2002, when the tiara was passed down to Elizabeth, who has never been seen in it. It continued to languish in the vault (for over SIXTY years) until it appeared on the head of the newly appointed Duchess of Cornwall at her first appearance as a royal, when she attended a dinner for the Norwegian royal family.
Alas, it hasn’t been seen again since. As you can see in the photo above, it’s massive (and it is a full circlet, encircling the entire head). Is it just too heavy? Too ostentatious? What do you think? Should it be taken out of the vaults and put into rotation again? Share your ideas with us in the comments.