Monday, 30 March 2015

History of Jewellery - Part II

Continuing (Part I) with our lecture by Susan Rumfitt on the History of Jewellery in the 20th Century, we'll talk about tiaras. Of course we got to see loads of photos, but a) the lighting washed out the screen, b) I was sitting nearly under the screen and c) I could either take notes or take photos. I opted for the former.

Accepted practice in the Victorian era about tiaras was that only nobility could wear them, only married ladies and only after 3pm. However, the Astors and the Vanderbilts began wearing tiaras in spite of these 'rules' and the tiara 'laws' began to change. Of course both these wealthy families were American, but off the top of my head I can name Waldorf Astor (married to Nancy Astor, first woman elected to the British Parliament) and Consuelo Vanderbilt (who married the 9th Duke of Marlborough);  these Astors and Vanderbilts lived here in Britain during the reign of George V and Mary.

My notes are a bit scribbled here...'garland style...with swags, pendant...delicate'. I think we may be talking about the Delhi Durbar Tiara owned by Queen Mary. I don't think that much was said about this, but in searching for a photo I found it has had several incarnations. 

It was originally presented to Queen Mary by the Maharni of Patiala on behalf of the ladies of India (!) on the advent of the Queen's first visit to their country in 1911. At her request it included ten of the Cambridge emeralds, more about which later.  In 1922 the emeralds were removed and the following year the tiara was remodeled to include two enormous diamonds. 

One was called Cullinan III (pear cut, 94.4 carots) and the other Cullinan IV (square cut, 63.3 carots). One of my notes might say 'convertable'; the Cullinan diamonds are now most often worn as brooches. It would appear that Cullinan III had been removed by 1947 when the tiara was loaned to the woman we now know as the Queen Mother; she wore it to a tour of South Africa, which was fitting as the Cullinan diamonds are known as the 'lesser' Stars of Africa. More about them later.

The most recent appearance of this particular tiara was in 2005 when it was loaned to Camilla, which was apparently a bit controversial.

In looking up some of the history I discovered that there are a bunch of people who are fascinated by the subject of tiaras! Who knew? If you are one of these people, you might be interested these links:

Moving on from tiaras, Susan showed us a photo of a lovely American brooch in the shape of a ribbon tied in a bow. Between the 'ribbon' ends was a pendant. I sketched it, but you'll just have to imagine it in a honeycomb of platinum studded with diamonds and pearls. I looked, but didn't find anything just like it, but this Pinterest site may give you some ideas!

Platinum was first discovered in the 17th century, but jewellers didn't know how to work with it until after the industrial revolution. She said that platinum as a metal costs less than gold (and a quick look on the internet suggests this may be true); however, it is more difficult to work and so takes longer and therein lies the higher cost of platinum jewellery. 

I found some interesting websites that discuss platinum vs. gold:


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