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Paris, Mayfair, Geneva – a tiara with history makes headlines

Everyone is talking about tiaras. With the Duchess of Cambridge due to attend the State Banquet in honour of President Xi Jinping at Buckingham Palace tonight, there has been much speculation as to which of the sparkling set pieces in the royal jewellery box Kate might be seen wearing this evening. But ahead of that, another tiara has been making headlines.

This one is over one hundred years old and was the star of the show when another big royal event was in the news. And now, as a tiara belonging to the family of the Duke of Westminster comes up for auction, its glittering history is grabbing attention once more.

The tiara was bought in 1911 by the 2nd Duke of Westminster for his wife to wear at the Coronation celebrations for King George V and Queen Mary which took place in June that year. The Duchess of Westminster was famous in society and not just for her beauty – she had taken part in the Olympic Games in 1908.

In the years before the coronation, the Duke and Duchess of Westminster had lost their only son and there were reports that their relationship had become strained. But as the big day approached, the Duke whisked his wife away to Paris to find a tiara suitable for the magnificent party they would hold after the new king and queen had been crowned. And the man chosen to produce this important piece of jewellery was Joseph Chaumet.

Chaumet was a world famous jeweler who had married the daughter of another famous exponent of the art and had ended up running his own establishment from the Place Vendome in Paris. The tiara he chose to produce for the Duchess of Westminster was inspired by Russia and is based on the kokoshnik design, a style based on a traditional Russian headdress. The tiara was made of blue enamel and platinum and features trails of diamond flowers – the design is meant to replicate the fabric used in kokishniks.

The Duchess of Westminster wore the tiara to the ball at her London home, Grosvenor House, held to mark the Coronation and the fame of her diadem was well known. In fact, the piece has always been celebrated – perhaps because of its unusual nature – and while it was known to have left the family for some time it was returned to the Westminster Collection several decades ago.

Now it is being sold by Christies in Geneva on November with an estimate of up to £350,000. It is not known why it is being sold but one thing is sure. As everyone starts talking about tiaras again, this celebrated design of the Belle Epoque is now back in vogue once more.

Featured photo credit: By Diego Albero Román (Flickr: Place Vendome) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons