Thursday, March 28, 2013

Focus on... Camilla's Jewels: Boucheron Honeycomb Tiara

The Boucheron Honeycomb Tiara used to be one of the Queen Mother’s signature jewels and has become an equally signature piece of the Duchess of Cornwall.
Boucheron Honeycomb Tiara in its current form
The tiara consists of diamonds set in platinum in a contemporary honeycomb and lozenge design. Originally a strictly symmetrical piece, it was remodelled to add several brilliant-cut diamonds and a single marquise-cut one. 

Boucheron created the original diadem for Mrs Greville in 1901 using diamonds from her own collection. By 1920s, that design of the tiara grew out of fashion and so Mrs Greville commissioned the same firm to make a more contemporary piece using the stone from the old tiara. The work was done by Lucien Hirtz, chief designer of Boucheron in Paris. The new tiara was executed in strict geometrical honeycomb style.
The original diadem belonging to Mrs Greville that was dismantled to create  the (original version of) Boucheron Honeycomb Tiara
The Honourable Mrs Greville was a well-known society figure. She was a close friend of Queen Elizabeth and George VI, as well as that of two previous Queens Consort – Queen Mary and Queen Alexandra. She was also the one who introduces Mrs. George Keppel (better known as Alice Keppel) to Edward VII, beginning their famous “friendship”. She is also connected to the future Queen Consort: Mrs Greville was a godmother of Rosalind Cubitt – Alice’s granddaughter and mother of the Duchess of Cornwall. 

Today, Mrs Greville is mostly remembered for the magnificent collection of jewels she left to “Her Majesty The Queen [Queen Mother], with my loving thoughts”. Among the stunning pieces was also this tiara. 
Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) wearing the Boucheron Honeycomb Tiara in its original setting, as she received it from Mrs Greville
For several years, Queen Elizabeth refrained from wearing any of Mrs Greville’s jewels because George VI was unsure whether it was appropriate to accept such gifts from a private individual. 

Perhaps for that reason the début of the tiara actually took place abroad: Queen Elizabeth wore it for the first time in public during the 1947 State Visit to South Africa. She also wore the piece in its original form (that is, the form she received the tiara in) for several other occasions, including incoming state visit from the Netherlands. 
The original version of the Boucheron Honeycomb Tiara, as received by Queen Elizabeth from Mrs Greville
In 1953, the Queen Mother decided to remodel the piece slightly. To that end, Cartier was commissioned to increase the height of the tiara by rearranging the clusters of the brilliants at the top into triangles, adding diamonds from one of the Queen’s brooches that had been unset by Cartier in 1949, and a single marquise-cut diamond supplied by the firm. In this form, bar for a few minor modifications, the tiara survives to our days. 

The Boucheron Honeycomb Tiara was one of the Queen Mother’s favourite pieces. She wore it for most of her tiara events, as well as most of her formal portraits. It is hardly surprising because although the tiara boasts a large number of diamonds, the clever constriction makes it pretty lightweight. 
The Queen Mother wearing the modified (current) version of the tiara
Along with the rest of her jewellery collection, the Queen Mother left the Boucheron Tiara to her daughter, Elizabeth II. It has since been loaned to the Duchess of Cornwall.

The Duchess of Cornwall has opted to wear the Honeycomb Tiara for virtually all her tiara events bar the very first one and a couple of occasions when she chose to wear the Cubbit-Shand Tiara from her family's collection. As Hugh Roberts points out, it is probably due to the fact this tiara is substantially lighter than the other grand tiara loaned to the Duchess - the Delhi Durbar Tiara. 
The Duchess of Cornwall wearing the Boucheron Honeycomb Tiara, which is on loan to her along with the Delhi Durbar and the Teck Crescent Tiaras
I really do love this tiara both in its original form (the one Queen Elizabeth received from Mrs Greville) and the modified version. If I had to choose, I’d probably go with the original tiara because I happen to like strict geometrical designs. But I do think the modified version suits the Queen Mother and the Duchess of Cornwall much more. 

Credit: Royal Collection, “The Queen’s Diamonds” by Hugh Roberts.

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