Mellerio, known as Meller, Paris, around 1870,
Gold, silver, diamonds, 55x185x180 mm
Private collection, Courtesy Albion Art collection, Tokyo.
This particular tiara perfectly characterises the naturalist style of jewellery as it was common during this period. The symbolism of the flora and fauna tends to lend these diamond gems a romantic touch, a very fitting tribute since they often represent wedding gifts. Flowers and plants such as the rose, the lily, and the corn ears, set into numerous tiaras, are meant to offer symbolic protection to the wearers or imbue them with their symbolic attributes. The ambitions towards colonial imperialism of some European monarchies will consequently lead to the discovery and exploitation of numerous diamond mines and elevate the diamond to a position of prime importance amongst the so-called ‘haute joaillerie’, the exquisite jewellery, of the turn of the century.
For centuries, it is to be the monarchs who will determine the tone of the fashion and style of the jewellery. Often used as a tool in diplomacy, the splendour of the diamond gemstone was, in its own distinctive way, a representation of power and of wealth. Whenever monarchs met, the competition amongst queens or princesses to be the most elegant presence was fiercely contested. In every period, there are to be certain princesses that will distinguish themselves beyond all others by their elegance, their beauty, or by their outstanding courageous character and charismatic personalities.
Fourteen diamond pieces, each one of them made of laurel leaves and two berries, make up this tiara. The middle part represents a flower with a central diamond of cushion-cut shape. During the Paris World’s Exhibition in 1867, the Jewellery House of Mellerio, known as Meller, will sell this superb tiara to King Victor Emmanuel II of Italy, who ordered it as a gift for his future daughter-in-law, Marguerite de Savoie-Gênes, who will marry the future Umberto I of Italy in 1968. Right until this day, the project designs, as well as the documents pertaining to the order of the tiara, remain in the jeweller’s archives.
The gemstone collection of the Kings of Italy is truly stunning. Fortunately, in contrast with other royal collections, the splendid jewels in this most important treasure trove have survived both events of war and crisis. Even today, members of the royal house are wearing these superb tiaras or necklaces during major events. Queen Marguerite was an outstanding personality and distinguished herself as a modern woman primarily because of her beauty, her elegance and her courage. She was to wear the tiara often, especially when she was attending to her duties as First Lady of the Royal Court, in the company of her father-in-law, widower Victor Emmanuel II. The people of Italy were not unaware of her unique elegance and were wont to call her « the Pearl Queen », because of her passion for pearls. Her jewellery collection of diamonds did not go unnoticed by the other European monarchs. Not only her elegant bearing, but likewise her support and protection of the arts and charitable endeavours, identifies this exceptional royal figure. She will also become known as the first lady of royal rank to love the automobile and she was instrumental in the launch of mountain tourism in the region of Val d’Aoste.