A diamond tiara, 1830s

Designed as a wreath of diamond-set leaves forming a pediment shape, set throughout with cushion- and pear-shaped diamonds. Inner circumference approximately 560mm.

Catalogue Note

Napoleon I as Emperor, also known as Napoleon I in his Coronation Robes, François Gérard, 1805, on display at the Palace of Versailles

Directly influenced by Napoléon’s regime, the wreathed design was aimed to mimic the classical designs of ancient Greece and Rome and can be characterised by its symmetry, simplicity and repeating design. The goldsmiths of Ancient Greece created tiaras to be worn by high priests, statues of the gods and even sacrificial victims. Different design features were employed to reference different gods: wheat for Demeter, goddess of the harvest and prosperity; oak for Zeus, king of the gods; myrtle for Aphrodite, the goddess of love; and ivy for Dionysus, the god of wine and festivity. Tiaras’ sacred associations rendered them wearable signifiers of divine status. The Romans subsequently assimilated tiaras into their own culture, using them as indications of rank, honour and above all, imperial authority.

In the age of Napoleon, tiaras were again harnessed as symbols of sovereignty, representations of the authority of absolute power. As such, the tiaras created for the Bonaparte family strictly conformed to classical design as a means of associating the imperial family with the glories of the ancient power.

With its two mirrored laurel wreaths - the symbol of the sun god Apollo - joining at the front centre and contained within a pediment-shaped diamond-set border, the present tiara is exemplary of the preferred style that emerged during this Napoleonic era. Napoleon himself wore a laurel wreath crown for his coronation - he commissioned the wreath from Biennais and intended each leaf to each represent a victory.