Listen to this article
Ball gowns aren’t the only grand symbol of the aristocracy back in the spotlight, the tiara is also being reinvented for a modern audience. The bridal market for tiaras has always existed but thanks to the Downton Abbey/Duchess of Cambridge effect, head ornaments are now attracting a younger customer.
The new fine jewellery tiaras come in fresh styles and can be converted into necklaces, Alice bands or hair clips that don’t require the pomp and circumstance associated with a formal headpiece.
François Graff, chief executive of Graff Diamonds, says: “A diamond Alice band or brooch worn in the hair provides our clients with an exciting new way to wear fine jewellery.” Graff reports that the company sold more than a dozen “important” (read valuable, since Graff’s hair ornaments start at $100,000) diamond Alice bands over the course of its 2013 summer exhibition in Monaco.
There are many ways to wear fine jewellery in hair: in January, Chanel launched its Camélia Galbé headband in white gold, black ceramic and diamonds, while Piaget has launched a white gold and diamond laurel branch headpiece in an empire style. The jewellery house has offered headbands, such as a twisted gold frame set with diamonds and white flowers, since 2009.
Chaumet reports that in 2013 it sold 60 tiaras and now has more than a dozen different models, from an aigrette with a jaunty feather to a youthful, delicate band with a detachable brooch or a special commission, height-elevating, full-blown tiara.
Beyond the European jewellery houses, US brand Tiffany presents a regal white diamond and pink spinel tiara in its latest Blue Book collection, while last year saw a jaunty pearl and diamond “Savoy” headpiece as worn by Carey Mulligan in Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby. Mikimoto of Japan reports that hair ornaments are popular and has seen an increase in orders for headpieces from the Middle East. “These are very complicated bespoke pieces featuring pearls and diamonds, which can take up to a year to create,” says Jeremy Burbanks, wholesale director in the UK.
Garrard, the world’s oldest jeweller, is famous for producing tiaras and jewels for royal families. Chief executive Eric Deardorff says: “Our tiara business has grown significantly in the past four years and represents approximately 5 per cent of our business. Strong markets for our tiaras are eastern Europe, Indonesia and the Middle East and it is not necessarily all bridal.”
Deardorff, who says that over the past two years every tiara made has sold very quickly, believes that being able to offer a selection to their clients sets Garrard apart from other brands.
Erin Morris, of London jewellers David Morris, has over the past five years designed a collection of hair jewels, including clips, that can be worn in different ways. Price start at £50,000 and Morris says new wealth in countries such as India, Indonesia and Hong Kong has helped revive interest in tiaras. “These people want a piece of jewellery to mark an occasion and to pass down to their children. But they don’t want a tiara that looks like one that the Queen would wear but something that can be worn in a modern way,” says Morris.
Another sign of an appetite for this fairytale accessory came at a Christie’s auction in London last November, which featured seven tiaras. The top lot in the sale was a diamond tiara/necklace (c1860) that fetched £638,500. Keith Penton, head of Christie’s jewellery department, says: “Fifteen years ago I would have been worried about having so many tiaras in a sale but not today. Tiaras are the sort of thing people come to auctions for, they really dress a sale. Europeans and British tend to buy tiaras for weddings but we have had buyers from China, Russia and the Middle East and other countries where ceremonies are still an important part of life.”