Tiara Thursday: Princess Marie Bonaparte's Olive Wreath Tiara

Princess Marie Bonaparte's Olive Wreath Tiara
Using wreaths as head ornaments is a tradition dating back long before the creation of the tiaras we know today. But it is a tradition that continues on in the form of the wreath tiara, a classic tiara design category, often depicting laurel or olive branches in diamonds and other precious stones and metals. Cartier's production of floral and foliage design tiaras really kicked in after 1900, and today's tiara is a grand example of the work of that famous French house from the Belle Époque period.
Marie Bonaparte
It was made for Marie Bonaparte in 1907, for her wedding to Prince George of Greece and Denmark. Bonaparte became a psychoanalyst, scholar, and author with close ties to Sigmund Freud later in life, but the trousseau set out at her wedding was geared for a more expected path as a royal bride. The amount of jewelry was lavish enough that Cartier devoted a window to the display, this tiara included. The olive branch design was a perfect fit for this particular situation, being both a symbol heavily linked to Greek history (the groom was the son of King George I of Greece) and bridal history (brides wearing olive wreaths can be found dating back to ancient Greece), and being reminiscent of the styles popular in the Napoleonic era (the bride was the great-grandniece of Napoleon I). In the photographs that exist of her wearing the tiara, she tends to wear it with the branches close to lying flat on the sides of her head - as worn above, she uses it in the fashion that would have been popular in those times.
The window at Cartier displaying Marie Bonaparte's wedding jewels. To the right of the tiara on the top shelf sits a small hair comb of a similar wreath motif, accented with pearls. That comb was eventually placed on a frame as a tiara.
In this tiara, two olive branches of pavé set diamonds in platinum meet to surround a large central pear-shaped diamond pendant. Dotted throughout are large diamonds representing the fruit of the branches. These diamonds can be swapped out for emeralds set in gold (in fact, it was originally displayed in the emerald version), or even possibly rubies. The central pendant can be removed at will; for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, Princess Marie wore the tiara with a diamond star in the central spot. (Marie her husband were in attendance to represent their nephew King Paul, but showing where her true interests lay, she spent the ceremony engaging the man next to her in a round of psychoanalysis. Her seatmate happened to be the future President of France, François Mitterrand.)
With emeralds
Marie Bonaparte passed away in 1962, and the tiara was eventually sold. It was acquired by the Albion Art Collection, which generously loans out their collection for exhibitions around the world. They show it in its diamonds-only version. It was included in Cartier's mega-exhibit, Cartier: Style and History, in Paris earlier this year, and I heard from a few of you that were blown away by its sparkle in person. With this amount of diamond power and this type of tried-and-true design, it would be hard to go wrong.

Are you a wreath tiara fan? Where do you rank this one?

Photos: Albion Art/Cartier


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