Wednesday, September 25, 2013

One Less Mystery and Some Speculation

Earlier today I was browsing through the Royal Jewels of the World Message Board when I saw a photo that nearly made me dance with joy.

You see, in 1963 Grand Duchess Charlotte paid a state visit to the United States at the invitation of President John F. Kennedy. She wore one of the few "mystery tiaras" - and often dubbed the White House Tiara - that have been puzzling royal jewel lovers for decades. Charlotte wore a jewel that we had long theorized to be one of the jewels that Charlotte's aunt Grand Duchess Hilda of Baden (née Princess of Nassau) had left to her Luxembourgish family upon her death. As Hilda and her husband had no children of their own, they generously bequeathed jewelry and estates among their nieces and nephews.

We searched high and low for better photos of the 1963 state visit to confirm our theory. Unfortunately, while we did learn some interesting things about Grand Duchess Charlotte and Prince Felix during our search (we'll save those for another post on another day...) we had been unable to locate photos clear enough to significantly connect the two pieces. When RJWMB user Tamara posted a wonderfully clear photo of Charlotte during the state visit we were overjoyed to finally be able to say with conviction that these two pieces are indeed one and the same.
Photos: AFP / Christian Aschman / Cour grand-ducale / Getty Images
This brings us to a few other theories we have related to the many pieces of floralesque jewels in the Luxembourg collection. It is possible that Hilda included this tiara with the personal jewels that she bequeathed to Charlotte (or the family trust) because it may have originated with her mother Grand Duchess Adelheid-Marie (née Princess of Anhalt-Dessau). Almost all of the floralesque jewelry in the collection is from the 19th century. Adelheid married (Grand) Duke Adolph in 1851. Many of these pieces are known to have entered the family during her tenure as wife of the head of the House, first as Duchess of Nassau and later as Grand Duchess of Luxembourg.

This was a time when it was normal for a royal woman to be given many fabulous pieces of jewelry for her wedding and later by her husband, if he could afford it. Adolph could definitely afford to give his bride jewels. It was also not uncommon for royal women to give each other jewelry already in their possession instead of purchasing new items to gift. For example, a valuable brooch given to Grand Duchess Josephine Charlotte, then Princess of Belgium, as a wedding gift had already passed through the ownership of three different royal women by respective purchase, gift, and inheritance. She owned many gems with history that trailed between different royal women in different countries. Most families have pieces with similar stories.

Photos: PPE / Tom Wagner / Eduard Kutter
The Adelaide Tiara was created between 1865 and 1870 and so it was certainly given to or created for Adelheid, who was its first known wearer. (By the way, Adelaide is simply the French version of her name Adelheid.) The Diamond Vine Leaves Tiara also entered the collection around this time; according to the information provided this week. The Diamond Rose Brooches, parts of which can also be worn as a tiara, are recorded as part of an inventory of the Ducal Collection in 1859 but not the inventory of 1829. This was also a time when floral jewelry was common. Floralesque jewels were not commonly crafted after the 19th century. 

While we don't know the exact date that the Small Floral Tiara entered the collection it is not difficult to imagine that it was among the floral jewels collected by Adelheid. This is especially so since we know that the collection was large enough to merit periodic inventory even before the Dukes of Nassau became Grand Dukes of Luxembourg. Many pieces of jewelry that are now worn by Grand Duchess Maria Teresa can be identified in early photos of Duchess Adelheid. Despite originating during or before Adelheid's marriage to Adolph many of these pieces were not worn often, if at all, before Maria Teresa dusted them off decades later.

Aside from the common theme and time frame, all of these pieces share remarkably similar craftsmanship. Each piece is made of diamonds set in gold and silver with convertible elements. Upon careful examination, the setting of the diamonds in the leaves and flowers and the prong style setting of the berries are so much alike that they may have been created by the same jeweler. The similarities are very remarkable.

Grand Duchess Hilda was first photographed wearing her flower tiara after her wedding in an era when it would have been considered shocking if a princess didn't receive a tiara as a wedding present from her wealthy parents. Her mother's love of flowers was known not only by her apparent preference for floral jewelry but also by the fact that she was a gifted painter whose preferred subject was flowers. It is not out of line to suggest that Duchess Adelheid of Nassau, as she was then, called upon her favorite jeweler to create yet another floral tiara so that it could be given to her daughter. Nor is it out of the question to consider that Duchess Adelheid may have simply given her daughter a tiara that she already owned. 

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