Fringe tiaras, inspired by the style of Russian kokoshniks and also often dubbed as sun(ray) tiaras, can be found in numerous royal collections around the world. This particular piece of diamonds set in silver and gold was made in or around 1890 by Viennese jeweller and k.u.k. Hoflieferant (purveyor to the imperial and royal court) A.E. Köchert.
It is generally believed that it was made for Archduchess Maria Theresa, daughter of King Miguel I of Portugal, who had married Archduke Karl-Ludwig of Austria, younger brother of Emperor Franz Joseph I, in 1873. When Empress Elisabeth retired from public life after the suicide of her son Crown Prince Rudolf in 1889, Archduchess Maria Theresa often stood in for her sister-in-law at official events alongside the Emperor. Her bigger role at the imperial court might be the reason for the commissioning of this particular tiara.
|(From left to right:) Archduchess Maria Theresa, Princess Gina,|
Princess Marie Princess Isabelle and Hereditary Princess Sophie
If it is indeed the same tiara - more on our doubts in just a moment - it was most famously worn by Archduchess Maria Theresa at the wedding of her step-grandson and later Emperor Karl and Princess Zita of Bourbon-Parma. Upon close inspection of the fringe tiara worn at the imperial wedding and the tiara worn by the Liechtenstein ladies, there, however, remain some questions whether it is indeed the same piece. The fringe tiara worn by Archduchess Maria Theresa both seems to have more spikes and a different shape. So either she owned multiple tiaras of the same kind (which wouldn't be totally out of question for one of the leading ladies of the Austrian court, I suppose) or if it is the same one, it has been seriously altered in the past 100 years or so (which also doesn't seem extremely far-fetched).
In 1903, Archduchess Elisabeth had married Prince Alois of Liechtenstein. Despite some initial debate about the equality of the marriage, Emperor Franz Joseph I ruled the marriage to be equal and even attended the celebrations. The Emperor only requested Prince Alois to give up his Austrian citizenship so that his niece would not marry one of his subjects. (The Liechtensteins did not live in Liechtenstein during the time and were based at various places within the Austro-Hungarian empire.) The couple's oldest son Franz Josef, who in 1938 became the sovereign prince of Liechtenstein, was named in honour of the Emperor.
It was Prince Franz Josef's wife, Princess Gina, who often chose to wear the Habsburg Fringe Tiara for official portraits and occasions that requested a bejewelled head. During the late 1960's and early 1970's, the tiara had a short-lived tradition as a wedding tiara for Countess Marie Kinsky of Wchinitz and Tettau, wife of Prince Hans-Adam, and Isabelle de l'Arbre de Malander, wife of Prince Philipp, when they married of Princess Gina's oldest sons. Upon closer examination of the way the tiara is worn by Princess Isabelle on her wedding day, you will see just how flexible the tiara is as it was worn in much narrower fashion by her than by the other members of the family. Although to the best of my knowledge it has never been done, the tiara can also be worn as a necklace.
The tiara has most recently been worn by Hereditary Princess Sophie on a number of occassions, such as the wedding of Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden, the wedding ball in Monaco as well as the gala dinner prior to the Dutch investiture.