The A-Z of Jewelry: T is for... Tiara

By Sotheby's

A lthough the word tiara is from the ancient Greek (τιάρα), the history of the tiara stretches back in time to the ancient royal Egyptians and Persians. A tiara is simply defined as a crown or jeweled headdress. The ancient Greeks decorated statues of their gods, heroes and victorious athletes with wreaths of laurel leaves, either in plant form or transformed into gold. Roman rulers and high-ranking officials would also wear these sacred symbols of honor at weddings and banquets just as those in lofty positions do today, and their forms borrowed from nature still endure, such as the laurel leaf and wheat sheaf, the honeysuckle, the rose, and the lily.

Silver-Gilt Laurel Wreath of Honor, Formerly in the Personal Collection of Sarah Bernhardt

This silver gilt laurel wreath was commissioned by Maurice Grau of the Metropolitan Opera House as a gift, which was presented to the actress Madame Sarah Bernhardt at a special event held in her honor on 9 December 1896.

Diamond tiara, Hübner, 1912. Sold for CHF 975,000.

Diamond tiaras have appeared in many forms over the last 200 years, and this stately crown from the royal jewels of the Bourbon Parma family is a prime example with its massive fleur-de-lys motifs sparkling with diamonds originally from the plaque of the order of the Saint-Espirit of Charles X, King of France (1757-1836).

Glass, enamel and diamond tiara, 'Pansy', René Lalique, circa 1905. Sold for CHF 225,000.

The styles and forms of tiaras are endless, as made evident by the fanciful examples of Rene Lalique, master jeweler of the Art Nouveau style. Here he chose to transform the tiara into a band of diamonds decorated with glass pansies and enamel leaves.

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