Emperor Christian Victor I

Emperor Christian Victor I

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Fascinating Fridays (The Historic Development of the Tiara)

Another looong post. These ones do take time to finish and that does keep me from posting more regularly. I hope you enjoy this one, another lecture. 

Adorning the head is as old as mankind's desire to express himself. Our self actualization need is what separates us from animals. Humans seem to be aware of the inner self and have a desire to express it and one of the ways is to decorated the person in accordance with personality and communal appreciation.

Part of the "responsibilities" contemporary Royal families seem have just accepted, is to be living curators of history. This came naturally through their inheritance of vast historic collections spanning, sometimes, thousands of years. This has by default made them the prime candidates for preserving, maintaining and exhibiting these artifacts in perpetuity. 

There is a global collective message attached to jewellery in general. Archaeology has shown that this collective consciousness goes back to the earliest recorded history. Man started to adorn himself with rare desirable objects in an attempt to express his wealth, status, personality and cultural identity. Soon these communications, however blatant or subtle had to culminate in; the ultimate wealth, the highest status and the most unmistakable identity, that of the king wearing his crown. This would by extension then also manifest the greatest culture. It is interesting to note how intrinsic value and adornment, also get completely absorbed by the overriding message of a crown. All through man’s history there has never been, nor could there ever be, a higher aspiration in the field of jewellery, than the crown. This leads us to today's topic of the origin and history of the tiara. As a crown-like ornament its story is inextricably linked to the principle of the crown. It adorns the head, it bears a symbolic message of status and it has an intrinsic value that imbues the wearer with immediate wealth. To this day, to add halo-like radiance to the picture of the face, elevates the person to be seen, appreciated and noted. Let us now follow the path of the tiara as it began and where it finds itself today. 

The Egyptian culture was highly advanced in writing, technology, warfare and social organisation. They also excelled in gold mining and their ruling class was literally clothed in the symbolic metal that attached them to their patron deity, the sun. To wear the reflective gold was seen as the right of Royalty and priests only, as it identified them as the sun god's avatars on earth. 

Some of the earliest historic depictions of head ornamentation, crowns and tiara-like jewellery can be seen in the hieroglyphs of Ancient Egypt

Ancient Grekia and Romagna cultures were mixed together in the conquest of the known world by the Romagnian Empire. This culture was slightly austere but still showered their political leaders and war and sports celebrities with honour. The highest honour was the humble Laurel Wreath. It was worn by emperors and accomplished soldiers and athletes. The genuine leaves withered and was meant to display the transience of life and supposed honour. However, as the empire became more permanently established in glory this symbol was soon replaced by man-made golden wreaths linking to the wealth and permanent glory of the empire. 

This ancient statue shows one of the earliest recordings of what has become the universal symbol of a Victory Wreath of Laurel Leaves. 

The contemporary collection of Monagask Crown Jewels has an actual ancient golden wreath amongst its historic pieces of jewellery. An ancient cache of a Grekian treasures was found hidden in a cave in the early 20th century. This was immediately surrendered to the Prince of Monagask who declared it the official Crown Jewels. Historians believe the wreath to be the royal treasure of the first settlement of the Monagask bay by a renegade Phoenician Prince in 300BC

Most assuredly more ancient than Egyptian culture and definitely almost universal must be the Floral Nuptial Wreath. Simple flowers woven together and worn in the hair must be the oldest and earliest head adornment known to man. However as far as recorded history goes, Romagnian and early Byzantian depictions give us our first glimpse of this practice. To this day the floral motif continues in head ornaments made of gold and diamonds. 

This 5th century Mosaic shows a woman wearing flowers and other flora in her hair. 

As technology advanced so did man's ability to create more fanciful head ornamentation. During Medieval and Gothic Europa this took and interesting turn in the development of what we know as the crown. The 14th Century horned headdress was worn for many years by the middle and upper classes. It had its origin in Western Europa but reached its fashionable height in Franconia. The cones or horns which projected out at roughly a 45 degree angle were called templars and over the next few hundred years varied in shape and size according to regional fashions. The hair was concealed as decorum required. White veils were attached to the headpiece using pins creating a curtain effect covering the back of the head and sometimes dropping all the way to the ground.

This Gothic engraving shows a typical horned headdress. 

The historic jewellery collection of the Lady Arcwhite includes an authentic 14th Century Horned Headdress. This is often seen as the Crown of Arcwhite even though technically no such "crown" is officiated in Arcwhite. 

16th Century Europa saw a fresh cultural awakening known as the Renaissance. Intellectual thought, artistic development and cultural advances reached the highest heights in history known to man at the time. Suffice it to say, fashions and jewellery also to a turn and explored territory of high ornamentation subdued by intellectual appreciation like never before.

Styles varied with fashion and countries and often one could be identified by what one wore.

This 16th Century headdress is in the History of Art Museum in Londinium in the Republic of Britania.

The Crown Jewels of Wallachia include this "tiara" made in the 16th Century for the Countess Bathoria. 

The Crown Jewels of Normandia also include a 16th Century headpiece. The style should be clearly visible.

The Rococo is a style that overran culture in the late 17th Century. This was a time of unfettered excesses and more was definitely more. Jewellery was sewn onto clothes shoes and hair. Hairstyles at first were agreeably small but became impractically large. There were even tales of ladies hair catching fire from hanging chandeliers. During this time it was also common place to wear a diadem or crown joined by strands of pearls or entire necklaces sewn to the coiffure. Often brooches were also added. 

In this period painting on the left we can see how strands of pearls are added to the hair and on the right we see a small diadem joined by a diamond drop pendant. 

The styles soon developed into grandiose ostentation. Here we see the last Queen of Franconia with an excessively large coiffure decorated by a necklace, a feather and surmounted by a coronet. 

This flexible diadem from the Rococo period was especially designed in order to be uses in a variety of ways. It is currently the property of Queen Gloria of Normandia who has to date only worn it as a regular tiara. 

Like most excessive indulgences, they soon come to an end due plainly to jaded boredom or in the case of the Rococco was quelled by the Franconian Revolution. Yet the period of sobriety that followed soon buit up into what was to be known in history as the Europan Golden Age of Royalty. Two great super powers emerged during this time and they were both Empires. The Ruskian Empire had already existed for a thousand years but economic growth and  conquest, albeit tense, led to a new Ruskian Renaissance. In the West the establishment of the Germanic Empire also led to Royal Courts across Europa trying to keep pace with the new grandeur. More sober than the Rococco and inspired by ancient classicism and local history, each court sought to be the preeminent display of national pride. Ruskiana came out on top and no Royal Court has ever matched its splendour or intrinsic value and display of national tradition. This led to the Ruskian peasant headdress known as the Kokoshnik to be emulated in the gold and diamonds and to become what many consider to be, the epitome of all tiara design.

Here two Ruskian girls can be seen wearing the traditional fabric, bead and lace ornamented headdress which lead to the jeweled Kokoshnik we often see. 

Here we see Her Imperial Highness The Grand Duchess Xenia of Ruskiana wearing the Grey Pearl and Aquamarine Kokoshnik of the Imperial Collection.

The Tzar Nikolas I Pink Diamond Kokoshnik tiara could be seen as the premier and symbolically the most Ruskian of all the jewellery that survived the Ruskian Revolution. The Pink Diamond was the central feature of the Imperial Crown Jewels.

The Ruskian Court's biggest rival was the Imperial Court of Germania and some jewellery from the period remain to this day. 

The Imperial Diamond Tiara set with the 6th largest diamond in the world currently belongs to the Crown Prince Imperial of the United Empire of Scot-Britania. The tiara was originally made for the Germanic Kaizer's wife who never wore it as that monarchy was toppled for starting the Great War before she had the opportunity. 

Large tiaras with central motives and strong cultural symbolism was at the order of the day like the Von Bismarck Family Tiara also from the Imperial Court of Germania.

The  Great War struck in the early part of the 20th Century and brought change on a scale never before seen to tradition, culture, and social politics. It also obviously adversely affected the economy and the arts. Suffice it to say, jewellery would also never be the same. We are thankful that the war did not manage to destroy everything and much of previous cultures remain even in the sphere of head ornamentation. We will now discuss what followed the war as far as tiaras are concerned. 

Designs remained cautious at first as far as cost was concerned due to post war austerity but conversely as attitudes relaxed became exceedingly bold in expressing experimental design exuberance. This was particularly evident in what became known as the "Flapper Culture". These tiaras were of a never before seen configuration. Lots of variety, bold colours and the use of asymmetry was taken to the extreme.

Sometimes jewellery of this era attempted to evoke older periods but often the designs were slightly more modest and new techniques in diamond cutting led to stones being utilized for their quality rather than just size.

The parure above is from the collection of the Empress Crystobel and typically evokes a Pre-war feel even though it was made after the war. 

Time went by and the great War was soon water under the bridge although not forgotten. New political systems of democracy became far more entrenched and new economies boomed. The common man had far more money, intellectual exposure and air travel made the world everybody's oyster. In jewellery the prevalent philosophy became more and more centered around the specific needs of the individual client. Basic trends were not political or religious as in days gone by but were dictated by personal taste and the new burgeoning trends of fashion as prescribed by international advertising. The time of Post Modern Pluralism had finally arrived.

The Queen of Hispania owns a relatively modern parure of diamonds and black pearls that was a gift to her from the Hispanian Colonies. It was designed in what is known as the Retro Style and given to her symbolically at her birth as a promise of a prosperous future. The tiara evokes old traditions hence what is termed as "retro" but the use of colours and materials is very clearly modern and almost futuristic. 

This contemporary piece is in the private ownership of the current lady Arcwhite. It was made from stones in her private collection and also combines an almost medieval feel with a futuristic off-worldly look. 

This brand new tiara was made a few years ago on the order of the Crown Prince Imperial for his wife Odeliah. This piece was governed by two specific needs of the wearer. It had to be practical in size and weight for regular wear and ease of travel and it had to display the rank and status of the new Crown Princess Imperial as the preeminent Royal lady on the world stage. The brief almost seems like a contradiction but modern jewellery design managed the requirements perfectly. 

The Crown Princess imperial displays the amazing qualities of her new tiara as a piece that is spectacular yet practical all at the same time. It can easily be worn in a chic short dress, steal the show at a coronation if necessary and be stashed away even in a handbag when traveling the world. A contemporary success of a jewel for a contemporary Princess. 

Finally, jewellers are constantly experimenting with designs and materials. This very modern yet fairy tale inspired creation is another amazing example of what the skilled craftsman can accomplish. It is made from sterling silver and set with synthetic diamond simulants. What makes this piece so amazing is that it is made in 1/6th scale and is to be worn by a doll of the same scale. Incredible! 

We hope you enjoyed our tour through history and "lecture" on our favourite topic, the tiara. 


  1. This is a great post! So learnitive and full of informations, a really well done job!
    Do you have momoko dolls? That's cool! I bought a momoko doll and now she's on her way to my home :-)

    1. I do not have momoko dolls. What is that??

    2. Momoko dolls are 1/6 scale Japanese fashion dolls, like the two with the Ruskian outfits in this post :-)

    3. I thought that was what you might be meaning. That photo i just sourced off the internet. They are not my dolls. I wish they were.