Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Gifts of Grandeur: The Manchester Tiara, 1903

The Manchester Tiara
Cartier, 1903
The Victoria & Albert Museum
A dazzling mosaic of gold and diamonds created in 1903 by Cartier, the Manchester Tiara, has been drastically altered since its initial creation. The design of graduated “flaming hearts” and “C scrolls” is said to have been inspired by images of pre-Revolution France. Louis Cartier insisted that his designers replicate the look of Eighteenth-Century French ironwork and assorted architectural masterpieces around Paris and at Versailles in the design.

The tiara was created for Consuelo, Duchess of Manchester. Consuelo was a duchess by marriage. American by birth, she wed into the British nobility in 1876. The vivacious beauty was quickly embraced by high society. The Duke of Portland said of the Duchess that she, “took Society completely by storm by her beauty, wit and vivacity and it was soon at her very pretty feet.”

The Tiara with Paste Adaptations
Her charms notwithstanding, she wasn’t a good steward of her jewelry in my opinion. She had the diamond surmount which forms the centerpiece of the tiara removed so that the largest of the diamonds could be set into a ring. The tiara was rebuilt with paste set in silver, leaving the central heart and surmount to be eternally fake. Boo!

Curiously, this tiara came to the Victoria & Albert Museum in 2007 under unusual circumstances. It was accepted by Her Majesty’s Government in lieu of Inheritance Tax and allocated to the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Reverse showing alterations at center.


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