Diamond Stomacher Brooch, crowned by a spray of diamond-set flowerheads, leaves and buds,
suspending a panel of swags, tapering to a point at the base, each with
knife-edge and collet centres, to the detachable pear-shaped diamond
drops, circa 1860
A commissioned work of Joanna Newsom’s “Sawdust and Diamonds”. Each element of the piece references symbols that are used in the song (the white dove, the sparrow, thistles, horns, strings and of course, that damnable bell!).
I absolutely loved working on this piece and am really happy with how it turned out. If you’re interested in commissioned work please email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tiaras like other jewellery are made from precious metals like gold, silver, and platinum. These metals are used because they are less reactive but they are also more expensive. The metals used in tiara making (and most other things) are not 100% pure instead the main metal is alloyed with others to improve the strength, durability, malleability, luster, or resistance to corrosion. Also you asked for “nowadays” so all of the tiaras seen here except for one have been made in this millennium.
Gold is probably the most used metal for tiaras. It’s typically but not always used in combination with silver. The diamonds would be set in silver and any other gemstone in gold. Overwhelmingly the tiaras covered here on Tiara Mania are set with both gold and silver but it can also be combined with platinum or white gold or sometimes just used by itself. I’ve seen people say before that there are not very many gold tiaras anymore but just because it’s not in your face yellow gold doesn’t mean it’s not there. Skilled jewellers can set gemstones in a way that very little of the metal is showing but sometimes they use the metal as an important part of the design and not just as something to hold the gemstones like in Joanna Newsom’s Opal Tiara.
Silver is the longest used of the white metals here. It’s cheaper than the other metals but it also easily tarnishes. I think the only recent tiara I’ve covered here that is made of silver only is Princess Marie of Denmark’s Amethyst Lily Tiara but if you look outside of the world of royals you’re more likely to find tiaras made of just silver. Axenoff is a jeweller that is making great tiaras using silver and semi-precious gemstones meaning they’re cheaper though still above my price range.
Platinum became popular in the early 1900s and continues to be popular
to this day so I was surprised to find that the most recent tiara made
of platinum that I’ve covered was made in 1976. It’s a Diamond Tiara made by Van Cleef & Arpels that has been loaned out to several royals including Princess Grace of Monaco. Platinum is stronger and heavier than gold and silver meaning it is more durable but it also means that it is more difficult for a jeweller to work with. In addition to the extra cost of craftmanship needed, the price of the platinum itself is more expensive than the other metals here meaning a very expensive tiara.
White Gold which is an alloy of regular yellow gold and a white metal like nickel but can include several other metals like silver, palladium, or manganese maybe even with some copper or zinc. The whole thing is then plated in rhodium for added strength and whiteness. Out of the 356 tiaras I’ve covered there are only ten of them that I know for sure use white gold. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of white gold tiaras out there, they’re just not royal ones. As white gold has become more popular, royals have come under more scrutiny for their spending on jewels so they buy less tiaras then they used to. But jewellers are still making plenty of tiaras for non-royals who have the money to buy expensive jewellery and are not in the public eye. Which sadly for us means we don’t get to see all of the new white gold tiaras being made. Queen Letizia of Spain’s Fleur de Lys Tiara is one of the few new royal tiaras and it is made of white gold.
Unless the jeweller makes it known which metal was used, it’s usually impossible for us to tell the various white metals apart from each other. Understandably, the gemstones are considered more interesting so sometimes the jeweller will release information about the gemstones and forget about the metal. For example, when Van Cleef & Arpels made the Ocean Tiara for Princess Charlene of Monaco in 2011, they released all sorts of information about the gemstones but nothing about the metal. It’s clearly a white metal we just don’t know which one.
Personally I like it when jewellers experiment with metals like Crown Princess Mary of Denmark’s Midnight Tiara which uses rose gold, white gold, and black oxidized silver.
Or Boucheron’s Emerald Ivy Tiara which is made with black gold and has been worn by Queen Rania of Jordan and Dita von Teese.
The front of the cross is set with table cut diamonds in plain gold
rimmed settings, and where the arms and upright meet at the centre there
are stylised enamelled lilies, echoing those at the four extremities.
The back is enamelled with a pattern of flowers and leaves in colours on
a white ground. Spain or Austria, c. 1620.