Saturday, January 26, 2013

Dutch Royal Jewels: Queen Emma's Hair Ornament (Aigrette)

It is always great to see rarely-worn pieces again. But rarely-worn and unusual? That’s a double dose of happiness for any true jewelaholic.
Queen Emma's Aigrette
Queen Emma's Aigrette worn as a hairpiece
In 1879 Queen Emma of the Netherlands received a beautiful diamond aigrette as a wedding present. The aigrette consists of twelve diamond twigs with leaves, and diamonds set in collet at the end. It’s a pretty versatile piece and can be worn both as a hair ornament and as a brooch: Maxima has worn it both ways, and both times with a stunning result. 

The first occasion in many decades (quite possibly, the first-time in over a century) the aigrette saw the light of the day was on 28 May 2011, for a concert during Princess Maxima’s 40th birthday celebrations. Back then, Maxima paired it with her gorgeous citrine earrings and brooch.

Queen Emma wearing her hair ornament
The second appearance was just a couple of months later, on 11 November 2011, at a première of the film, Nova Zembla in Amsterdam. This time, she accentuated the aigrette with her equally dazzling diamond drop earrings. All jewellery-lovers owe a huge debt to Maxima for digging out these forgotten pieces and wearing them to a great effect. Keep up the good work, Your Highness! 
The aigrette worn as a hairpiece during Maxima's 40th birthday celebrations (left) and as a brooch for a film première (right) 
If you are wondering what an aigrette is in the first place, its initial meaning had nothing to do with jewels: at first, the term referred to head-plumes of the egret which were used for decorating a headpiece. Later, vaguely feather-shaped hair ornaments (usually topped with actual feathers) studded with gems came to be known under the name as well.

Among other notable usages, diamond and rubies-studded aigrettes decorated the turbans of Ottoman Sultans. Quite often, artificial and bejewelled aigrettes were decorated with the feathers of egret; during the late 19th and early 20th centuries there was such a fashion for those feathers that a huge numbered of the poor birds were slaughtered in the name of vanity, until a public outcry put a stop to that.

No comments:

Post a Comment