Friday, February 8, 2013

Iranian Royal Jewels: Princess Fatimeh’s Sunburst Tiara

This magnificent tiara is one of the mysterious pieces in Persian Jewellery collection with little to know information about its history or provenance. The most striking feature of the tiara is the motif of the sunburst, hence its name.
The Iranian Sunburst Tiara
The most eye-catching feature of the tiara is in the middle; it is a beautiful 25-carat cushion shaped pink spinel. The pink spinel is surrounded by a row of diamonds, and each diamond in this row serves as a base for the rays depicting the sunburst arise. There are four pairs of emeralds on either side of the tiara with the ninth emerald in the middle; the middle one is the largest and weighs whooping 20 carats. On either end of the tiara two identical floral motifs are located with a single large diamond in the centre of each. The base of the tiara is covered by a row of diamonds.

Although not much is known about the provenance of this tiara, its general design gives some indication as to when it was created. The design of a sunburst was very popular in aigrettes made in the second half of the 19th century, so the Sunburst Tiara almost certainly originated at the time. 
Princess Fatimeh (at the back of the group) wearing the Sunburst Tiara at her brother's Coronation in 1967
That corresponds to the reign of Naser al-Din Shah Qajar who was known to have commissioned a large number of jewels; he more or less had to since the Crown Jewels of Iran were stolen after the assassination of Nader Shah in 1747. There is even some evidence this tiara might have been worn by his Shahbanou (Queen Consort). 

The first (and only) known person to have worn the Sunburst Tiara is, however, Princess Fatimeh of Iran, the half-sister of Muhammad Reza Pahlavi. She chose to wear the tiara for her brother’s coronation in 1967. Princess Fatimeh had Qajar blood in her veins (through her mother) so it was only fitting she wore a tiara that almost certainly came from the Qajar dynasty’s treasury. 
Princess Fatimeh Pahlavi
Fatimeh Pahlavi was born on 30 October 1928 as Reza Shah’s tenth child and thus Muhammad Reza Pahlavi's half-sister. She was quite an influential figure during her brother’s reign and is said to have amassed a fortune of some $500 million during the time. The Princess was married twice. Her first husband was Vincent Lee Hillyer, a friend of her brother’s; they had three children but soon after the tragic death of their infant daughter they divorced. Her second husband was Muhammad Amir Khatami, the commander of Iran’s Air Force; they had two sons a daughter. She died in London on 2 June 1987, aged just 58. 

The Sunburst Tiara, just as most of the jewels seized after the 1979 revolution, belongs to the state of Iran. It is currently at the Museum of the Treasury of National Iranian Jewels which is open to public.

This is one of my favourite Persian Tiaras; it's just so vivid, full of life and quite different to the more stiff and proper European tiaras. This is a tiara that has a personality all on its own. I wish we could see it worn again instead of accumulating dust in museums though. 


  1. This is the most beautiful tiara I have ever seen, none of the others can take it's place, love the color, just blows my mind, the sparkle, the bling, the vibrantancy, just everything about it is a dream tiara. Thank you so much for posting this, it's really nice to see something so unusual and gorgeous at the same time.

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting on the article, Elizabeth. I am glad you enjoyed the post!

      I agree; this tiara is really beautiful and unique. I'll be posting more tiaras and crowns from the Persian jewellery vault, so stay tuned! :)

    2. Thank you Artemisia, I enjoy reading your blog and will do so every day as I find jewerly to be part of a countries past which is interesting. Being a history buff< I enjoy ancient history, the people, the clothes, the food, the homes, and the jewels.
      Again Thank you