by Angela Magnotti Andrews
Tiaras came into high fashion during Queen Victoria’s reign. Because the larger state crowns sat too heavily upon her young form, she favored the George IV State Diadem as the symbol of her sovereignty for court, for balls, and even for visits to the theater. In lieu of camera-laden paparazzi and a buzzing photographic media, it is supposed that the diadem was her way of alerting people to her sovereignty.
Intimately aware of her love of tiaras, Prince Albert drew inspiration from the Indian jewels presented to Queen Victoria by the East India Company and commissioned R. & S. Garrard and Co., in 1853, to fashion the Oriental Circlet (also called the Indian Ruby Tiara). Victoria wrote in her journal: ‘My dear Albert has such good taste and arranges everything for me about my jewellry.’
Victoria favored the Oriental Circlet and was known to wear it with fresh water lilies in her hair. In addition to the Indian Ruby Tiara, Prince Albert also designed three other tiaras for her, the neo-Gothic diamond and emerald tiara, the stately sapphire and diamond tiara, and the shimmering diamond and ruby strawberry leaf tiara.
In its original state, the Oriental Circlet featured eleven diamond-studded Moghul arches which served as banners over opal-centered lotus flowers. In 1902, Queen Alexandra, who harbored a superstitious fear of opals, replaced the gemstones with Victoria’s rubies from 1876.
Today, the Oriental Circlet remains a beloved British treasure, bequeathed by Queen Victoria to the Crown. In our day, the Indian Ruby Tiara is most closely associated with the Queen Mother, who favored the crown for many public appearances in the last days of her life. Though she could have claimed rights to it far sooner, Queen Elizabeth was happy to abdicate possession of the beloved jewel to her mother until her death in 2002.
1. Internet Stones. “Queen Victoria’s Emerald and Diamond Tiara.” Accessed May 9, 2012. http://www.internetstones.com/queen-victorias-emerald-and-diamond-tiara-designed-prince-albert.html.
2. Ray, Nandita. “Victorian Era—The Love Affair Begins.” Accessed May 9, 2012.http://www.jewelinfo4u.com/The_Jewels_Of_The_British_Monarchs_-_Victorian_Era.aspx.
3. Munn, Geoffrey. Tiaras: Past and Present (London: Victoria & Albert Museum, 2002).
4. Royal Collection, The. “The Oriental Circlet.” Last modified 2010. Accessed May 9, 2012. http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/eGallery/object.asp?exhibition=RT2&exhibs=RT2gems&object=200174&row=22&detail=about.
5. Royal Forums, The. http://www.theroyalforums.com/2208-tiaras-designed-by-prince-albert-for-queen-victoria/.
6. Heathman. “Queen Victoria’s tiara turns up in a Highgate home.” Ham & High (January 25, 2012). Accessed May 9, 2012.http://www.hamhigh.co.uk/news/queen_victoria_s_tiara_turns_up_in_a_highgate_home_1_1186490.
7. “Strawberry Leaf Tiara.” Royal Magazine. Accessed May 9, 2012. http://www.royal-magazin.de/england/queen-victoria/marchioness-carisbrooke-tiara.htm.