Saturday, February 22, 2014

Luxarazzi 101: Ruby and Diamond Tiara

Photo: Christie's
Today, we are going to have a look at one of the gems that has apparently left the Princely Family, a ruby and diamond piece that once belonged to Archduchess Elisabeth of Austria, grandmother of the current Prince-Hans Adam II.

Unfortunately for all jewel lovers, the Liechtenstein family doesn't have any tiara events of their own and foreign royal events are about the only chance we get to see the ladies of the family in some bling. (And even then, it's not a guarantee: While in Luxembourg for the pre-wedding ball in 2012, Princess Marie unfortunately went tiara-less.) As a result, nobody really knows how many pieces the tiara collection of the Princely Family still includes. Whenever a tiara is required, Hereditary Princess Sophie sticks to the Habsburg Fringe and the last time Princess Marie wore a tiara publicly anno 1993, she sported the Kinsky Tiara.

Believed to have been made around 1860, today's tiara features five oval-shaped rubies surrounded by ten small diamonds each. These clusters are set on an all-diamond panel of foliate design. All the stones are set in silver and gold. Considering it's Austrian provenance, the tiara might have been made by the famous Viennese jeweller Köchert.

Golden wedding anniversary of Arch-
duchess Elisabeth and Prince Alois
In 1903, Archduchess Elisabeth (1878-1960) received this ruby and diamond tiara as a gift from her uncle Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria (1830-1916) when she married Prince Alois of Liechtenstein (1869-1955). (She was also given an all diamond tiara by her new husband's first cousin once removed, Prince Johann II of Liechtenstein. Oh, those were the days...) Unfortunately, I have not been able to find a picture of  the tiara ever been worn. In fact, I'm not entirely sure, I have ever seen Archduchess Elisabeth wearing any tiara as I can't decide whether it's a tiara or some other kind of head ornamentation she wore at her golden wedding anniversary in 1953.

The tiara, however, remained in the hands of a descendant of the Archduchess until it was put on auction in 2006. Christie's described the tiara as "property of a nobleman", a typical description by auction houses and thus not clear, who the exact seller was. According to my own theory, it likely wasn't the main branch of the family as [insert the usual story of the lost properties after World War II, the financial straits, the fact that you'd likely sell tiaras before da Vinci paintings, the reorganisation of the wealth and them now being one of the richest reigning families out there] and them probably not needing to put up any jewels to make money now.

Archduchess Elisabeth had eight children including two daughters who married fellow noblemen so it's entirely possible (and likely) that she spread her personal jewels between her descendants. The ruby and diamond tiara fetched a price of £16,800 or $33,113 or €20,343 depending on which currency you prefer. At the same auction, a rather nice necklace including some honking diamonds that also was a wedding gift by the Emperor to his niece was sold. And who knows, the main branch has scooped up family jewels at auctions before so maybe it still remains among the descendants of Archduchess Elisabeth.

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