The height and magnificence of a tiara, a jewelled head ornament, reflect the wealth and status of the wearer. Usually semi-circular in shape, tiaras can be worn in many ways. Decorative headpieces have been worn in Britain for 5000 years, but the most exquisite tiaras were made between the reign of Victoria I and World War II, when social gatherings were numerous and travel among the social elite was extensive. Tiaras first became popular in the late 18th century when Europeans rediscovered the ancient world. Ancient tiaras and headpieces were found in excavations in Greece and Italy, and tiaras became favoured accessories for members of the noble classes, especially for women on their wedding day. In the 19th century, tiaras became the crowning symbol of love and status.
Unlike their more formal counterpart, the crown, the tiara is a more delicate piece of jewellery. The tradition of tiaras is still strong today – Queen Elizabeth II never appears in public bareheaded: in the daytime, she wears a hat, and in the evening, a tiara. Today, a tiara is worn by a bride on her wedding day and to formal events and balls. There is no symbol of beauty and status quite like the tiara: it is a magical thing, crowning the wearer in sparkling magnificence.
Bentley & Skinner, jewellers by Royal appointment, known as a leading supplier of antique & period and vintage tiaras and diadems in London, have been selling diamond tiaras since 1880. Perhaps the most famous tiara made by the firm in the days when it was AE Skinner was the Devonshire diamond tiara of 1893. This tiara is held in the collections of Chatsworth House, family seat to the Cavendish family and the current Duke of Devonshire.
Victorian, Belle Époque, and Edwardian tiaras are available for purchase or hire at our jewellery shop at Piccadilly. Three of our period pieces sparkled on the big screen in the 2019 film Downton Abbey, set in 1927, at a time when tiaras were well-established adornments for members of the aristocracy.
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