Oh to have a husband that loves to dabble in amazing jewelry creations and then gift them to me. Alas, I do not have such a husband. Queen Victoria did, however, and good ol’ Albert created gorgeous pieces for her, including what we now call Queen Victoria’s Emerald Tiara, to match some other amazing emerald jewels he’d made for her. Let’s discuss, shall we?
As you may or may not know (if you’ve been following along for at least a few weeks, you should), I was able to go to London earlier this month and took a tour of Kensington Palace, where this gorgeous tiara is on display, along with the Fife Fringe and the Fife Diamond Tiara. It was as close to being in the royal jewelry vaults as I’m ever going to get. My husband was with me and he had to ask on more than one occasion how long we would be in the tiara room (don’t crowd a jewelry lover, buddy!). I just kept walking from tiara to tiara, drooling slightly and dreaming of what it must be like to wear one of the three. But then my non-jewelry designing husband was ready to go and so off we went.
Victoria was luckier in that scenario. Albert was a renaissance man and loved to design many things, including jewelry for his wife. Her engagement ring was of his design with an emerald included (it was her birthstone), and so it seems he went back to the vibrant green stone to have a necklace, earrings and brooch made for her in 1843. She noted in her diary how she loved them and thought him to be very talented in his designs. She wore the set to a banquet at Trinity College Cambridge to celebrate his appointment as chancellor, as well as numerous other occasions, including the christening of their son Prince Alfred where she paired them with lace from her wedding dress.
But Albert wasn’t done with the set just yet. A few years later (1845), he commissioned the creation of the tiara, by working closely with the Queen’s Jeweler, Joseph Kitching. In a press release announcing the Kensington exhibit, Historic Royal Palaces describes the tiara as, “set with cushion-shaped diamonds and step-cut emeralds, and surmounted by a graduated row of 19 inverted pear-shaped emeralds, the largest of which weighs an astonishing 15 carats.” Way to go, Al!
She chose not to include the set in the list of “royal jewels” meaning they would not move on to her son upon her death and then continue from monarch to monarch, but instead she initially loaned at least the tiara to her granddaughter in the 1880’s for a costume. It’s unclear where it went from there exactly, but it was not included in an inventory of the Queen’s jewels in 1896 and was likely passed down to relatives.
Seven decades after being spotted on Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine, the tiara was worn, along with the necklace and the brooch, by Caroline, the wife of the 3rd Duke of Fife (who was the most recent owner, we now know) at the 1960 State Opening of Parliament. Until that point and for a while thereafter until the exhibit, its whereabouts had been generally unknown. The tiara is on loan to the exhibit from the Duke’s executors and will likely go back to the family when the exhibit is over.
This tiara is an emerald lover’s dream! If you have the chance to go see it before the exhibit closes next January, DO IT! Next week we’ll focus on my personal favorite of the three in the exhibit, the Fife Diamond Tiara. Until then, what do you think of this one? Let me know in the comments.