There is one thing I envy about women over and above a preternatural ability to multi-task and instinctive emotional intelligence and that is the exclusive right to wear a tiara. Apart from the occasional diamond bandeau attached to a Maharaja’s turban between the wars, tiaras have always been off-limits for men. More’s the pity say I. There aren’t many problems in this world that don’t look better when viewed from underneath a socking great diamond fender topped by a gallery of perfectly matched natural pearls.
Tiaras are, for me, the Everest of the jeweller’s art: those delicate pieces of scrolled, foliate, looped or garlanded heaven described in diamonds and accented by precious stones or pearls. Less bombastic than a crown or diadem, a tiara is a filigree halo of light.
There is no finer sight than a State Banquet at Buckingham Palace with Her Majesty wearing the Grand Duchess Vladimir tiara, the Duchess of Cornwall carrying-off Queen Mary’s Delhi Durbar fender and the Duchess of Cambridge giving the Lover’s Knot tiara so beloved by Diana Princess of Wales an outing. Tiara envy does, of course, ensue.
I have been fortunate in years writing about the diamond business to see some beauties in my time at Bentley & Skinner, Wartski and Garrard and will never forget the Victoria & Albert Museum’s tiara exhibition curated by Wartski’s Mr Munn. So many tiaras were broken-up after the End of Civilisation (World War One) so the royal and aristocratic survivors at the V&A assumed a heroic as well as regal attitude.
Bearing in mind my lust for tiaras, it may surprise you Rowley that my opportunity to wear one was a complete accident. I’d been invited to lunch by antique jewellery dealer Sam ‘Lucas Rarities’ Loxton attended by his glamorous assistant Francesca and a handsome devil called Andrew Prince. I had no idea that Andrew’s knowledge of antique jewellery was encyclopaedic or that he made the most remarkable reconstructions in crystal.
When we met for lunch in Mayfair, Andrew had just taken delivery of a box of tiaras returned from the set of Downton Abbey. Spontaneously taking them out for a show and tell, each of us put one on. I think mine was worn by Dame Maggie as the Dowager Countess of Grantham. Within minutes people began approaching our table, Prosecco was sent over by the management and passers-by stopped in the street to take pictures.
Thus the annual Tiara Lunch was born. Now here’s the thing with Andrew Prince’s tiaras. They are weighted so cleverly that you forget you’re wearing the little beauties so might go to the gents with diamonds in one’s hair without even second thought. I adored wearing a tiara for lunch in the West End and mourned the fact that you rarely see good jewellery – let alone a tiara – when you’re dining out on the town.
Such a good time was had by all that we organised a second, larger Tiara Lunch on Heddon Street. This week the Tiara Lunch club rose to a dozen and was held at Soho House off Curzon Street. Andrew made sure that the founder members’ tiaras grow incrementally. I can best describe mine as the type Cartier would have set for Princess Marina in the 1930s.
It was noticeable that the hipsters and fashionistas sharing the dining room at Soho House went out of their way NOT to look at our enfilade of tables and studiously ignored the blaze of tiaras. We were the elephant in the room although the staff thought it was all incredibly festive and jolly.
Perhaps a Tiara Lunch should work like a flashmob and appear annually in public where we are least expected. I think morale in London would be vastly improved by a beauteous gathering of ladies and gentlemen wearing their tiaras with pride. Until next time…