Thursday, February 24, 2011

Tiara Thursday: The Nizam of Hyderabad Tiara

Welcome to our new feature, Tiara Thursdays! Created specifically for the indulgence of my inner magpie. (And yours, too!) Every Thursday until Kate and Will's Big Day, I'm highlighting some of the British royal family's tiaras that I'd like to see on Miss Catherine. Pure speculation and crossed fingers, of course. Won't you join in?

The only downside to being an ardent royal jewel fan: the secrecy. Those royal vaults are sealed so tightly, and no one wants to talk about these explicit markers of majesty - particularly not in these sorts of economic times. So we guess, and we hope that our favorite pieces have survived through the years.

This one, I'm afraid, might be pure hope.

On her wedding day, Queen Elizabeth received quite the sparkly avalanche of presents. Among the spoils were a diamond tiara and matching necklace from the Nizam of Hyderabad. Made by Cartier, the design is appropriately based on English roses.
Excuse me while I quietly sob in the corner and long for the days when wedding gifts could be as over-the-top as the sender wanted, without fear of media hoopla and public backlash. Sigh.
Okay, I'm back now, and I'm ready to discuss the fate of this diadem.

(Deep breath.) Queen Elizabeth may have dismantled this tiara. Potentially in favor of assembling this...gem:
Argh, the Burmese ruby tiara. Honestly, I just don't get her taste in jewels sometimes. Excuse me, I need to get my tissues again.

These are the facts, or "facts" more accurately, given the absence of official information:
  • The Queen hasn't worn the tiara publicly since about the early 1950s. (The last public appearance including the Nizam tiara that I've seen was 1952.)
  • Of the Burmese ruby tiara's creation, Leslie Field says in The Queen's Jewels: "The diamonds came from a tiara the Queen had been given as a wedding gift by the Nizam of Hyderabad and Berar." (p.69, 1987 ed.) This statement is the main source of the dismantling rumors.
  • However, in Tiaras: A History of Splendour, Geoffrey Munn does not include that detail in his description of the Burmese ruby tiara. He writes only briefly of the Nizam piece, saying: "There is also a tiara in bandeau form that was a wedding gift from the Nizam of Hyderabad," implying by use of the present tense that the piece still exists. (p. 1965, 2003 printing)
  • The Royal Jewels by Suzy Menkes also neglects to mention the dismantling of the tiara, thus implying it still exists.
  • In honor of the 60th wedding anniversary of the Queen and Prince Philip, Buckingham Palace's 2007 summer exhibition included a selection of wedding gifts. On display: the necklace, but not the tiara.  Indeed, no mention of the tiara was made.
We do know the set hasn't gone away entirely. The Queen still wears the necklace:

Also, she wears pieces of the tiara: one larger rose brooch and two smaller brooches.

I say, if the tiara has been dismantled, let's put it back together. Though they may have removed the original diamonds, I'm going to make a leap of faith and assume the frame is still knocking about somewhere. It'd be rude to totally throw a wedding gift away, right? One doesn't want to be rude.
I think this would be a great choice for Kate. Based on her past tiara-giving behavior, the Queen opts to gift pieces that haven't been seen in a long time (or ever), rather than her favorites. It's got some heft without being overly large and ostentatious, and heaven knows Kate's got the hair to display it right. This one comes with options, which is perfect for a royal that probably won't have a large jewel collection to start out with: the three brooches within the tiara, and the necklace which has a detachable pendant. Also, it's nice and neutral. All diamond and floral, which is easily matched with lots of gowns.

Your thoughts, dear readers? The Nizam of Hyderabad Tiara for Kate: Yes or No?