While Queen Mary was known to be a magpie with a large jewellery collection, her mother-in-law also had a strong collection of her own. And amongst the most famous pieces is the gem now known as Queen Alexandra’s Kokoshnik Tiara.
In 1888, the then Prince and Princess of Wales celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary. Lady Salisbury organised a group of 365 peeresses who donated funds to purchase a tiara to gift to Alexandra to mark the occasion (the tiara was accompanied by a pair of floret diamond earrings).
The Princess specifically requested the kokoshnik style. Her sister, the Empress of Russia, was more than familiar with the style that is based on the style of a Russian peasant headdress. It was created by Garrard under the close supervision of the Marchioness of Ailesbury, the Marchioness of Salisbury, the Countess of Cork and the Countess Spencer.
In The Queen’s Jewels, Leslie Field describes the tiara as “formed of sixty-one platinum bars graduating from the centre in the eighteenth-century manner and totally encrusted with 488 diamonds, of which the biggest two are 3.25 carats each.”
After her death in 1925, Alexandra passed the tiara on to her daughter-in-law, Mary. It was given as a personal inheritance, rather than as an Heirloom of the Crown. Although Alexandra did not often wear the kokoshnik-style tiara after her husband became King, Mary did frequently wear it for portraits as Queen.
When her second son took the throne in 1936, Mary had to give much of her jewellery to the new Queen, Elizabeth. However, she did not give the Queen Alexandra Kokoshnik Tiara to Elizabeth, because it was personally hers and one of her favourite pieces.
Queen Elizabeth II inherited this tiara upon her grandmother’s death in 1953. She wore the tiara for countless state banquets and events throughout her entire reign. She wore it for several notable events, including meeting with the Pope in 1959.