24 April 2014

Tiara Thursday: The Mike Todd Diamond Tiara

The Mike Todd Tiara
Most of the tiaras we cover here are known for their association with royalty or nobility, but this one's a little different: it's known because of its association with Hollywood royalty. It was given to Elizabeth Taylor by her third husband, Mike Todd, in 1957. The tiara dates from around 1880 and is made of old mine-cut diamonds mounted in platinum and gold in a design that includes central scroll motifs topped by single diamonds and separated by latticework.
Mike Todd was a theater and film producer who was married to Taylor for just over a year - from February 1957 to March 1958, when he tragically died in a plane crash in New Mexico. Taylor later wrote that when he presented her with the tiara the year they married, he said, "You're my queen, and I think you should have a tiara." He lavished jewels on Taylor during their time together, from the 29.4 carat diamond engagement ring she referred to as her "skating rink" to the Cartier ruby and diamond set he gave her while she was lounging in the pool wearing this very tiara.
More gifts from Todd: Diamond earrings, and a ruby set from Cartier
She wore them all, sporting the tiara for the first time at the 1957 Academy Awards, where Todd's film Around the World in 80 Days won Best Picture. She also wore it at the Cannes Film Festival that same year and at events after Todd's death as well. It didn't matter that tiaras weren't particularly fashionable at many of the events she would attend - she wore it, and she made it look right at home.

Video: Taylor in the tiara at the Oscars with Mike Todd. At the end, footage from his funeral is shown.
The Taylor jewelry collection was auctioned after her death, with a portion of the proceeds going towards her AIDS foundation. The now-famous auction was held in December 2011, and included the Mike Todd Diamond Tiara. It carried an estimated price of just $60,000 - $80,000, but bidders were enthusiastic throughout the sale and in the end the tiara sold for $4,226,500. Its current whereabouts are unknown.

Would you have sprung for this tiara? Assuming you had a few spare million sitting around, of course...


Photos: Christie's/TimeLife/Art

Royal Outfit of the Day: April 24


Video: The Spanish royal family attended a lunch for the Cervantes Award. Letizia wore a black and white Felipe Varela dress with beaded detail on the skirt.
Here's something I don't get to say very often: the nude shoe is an interesting choice. Most would have gone with a straight black pump. (Me, a Shoe Person, would have gone for something with a little more interest all around, but I can't argue with this.) Another interesting detail: this isn't a skirt plus a top, it's a dress, as you can see clearly in the video above. Which might have pushed me from the Like category into the Ehhhh...Maybe Not category. Your verdict?

Photos: Pool/Getty/Felipe Varela

23 April 2014

Royal Outfit(s) of the Day: April 23


Video: The Cambridges visited Elizabeth (the suburb, named for the Queen) as the Australian leg of their tour continued.
Time for another drive-by peek at the royal tour! Simply put: this is pretty. Soft pink separates, with a v-neck and a bit of fullness in the skirt to add some interest. And McQueen, so obviously impeccably fit. Lovely. Here's a look from the Daily Mail.
The day before, they visited Uluru, where Kate arrived in a Roksanda Ilincic dress hilariously similar - but different - from one she already owns. Later, she brought back a dress from Hobbs that I have always liked and wore a necklace given to her while there. Here's a piece from PopSugar.

Video: Their visit to Uluru.
The fashion news here belongs to William, though - he didn't wear blue! He wore khaki. Big day, kids.

Photos: Reuters

22 April 2014

Royal Outfit(s) of the Day: April 22

The Spanish royal family, celebrating Easter.
For those familiar with the way the Spanish royals mark Easter, this is nothing new. Apart from being one of the occasions during the year when we get to see Leonor and Sofia it remains, sartorially speaking, an everyday occasion. I like Letizia's outfit here, actually; I do like her take on cropped trousers and heels, though I think the skinny belt on the jacket shown on the mannequin might have helped. Anyway, the average-ness of the thing makes Queen Sofia's egg necklace, an Easter standard, an automatic standout. Maybe I'll whip up one with chocolate eggs for myself next year. Never know when you'll need a snack.

Click here for a gallery from the day.

Photos: Felipe Varela/Getty Images/LibertadDigital/Pili Carrera/Nanos

21 April 2014

Royal Outfit of the Day: April 21

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited Brisbane and RAAF Base Amberley during their Australian tour. The Duchess was in an L.K. Bennett dress with a clutch from Australian brand Oroton.
I take back what I said about the banana - this is my favorite one so far. It's not only lovely (why yes, I do love her in a simple shift with a strong color to it), it's exceptionally well chosen: they visited an Air Force base, so blue was appropriate, and it has a poppy print, poppies being a special symbol of remembrance. Loving it from top to bottom.

Other things that have been going on too, though the above was my fave. I was surprised that, despite the elegance at hand, her dove gray Easter service outfit didn't catch my eye. (Was I the only one getting Mathilde flashbacks?) Here's an article and gallery from Hello for that. Also: GEORGE. That's all.

Video: George and his entourage visit the zoo.

Photos: L.K. Bennett and CPL Shannon McCarthy / © Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence

18 April 2014

Royal Outfit of the Day: April 18

The Prince and Princess of Wales at a black tie event during their tour of Australia in 1985.
I really try and use the word "iconic" as sparingly as I can - it's so painfully overdone these days - but I think this is an occasion to drop it, because this is one of the most iconic uses of jewelry in the past few decades of royal history. Emerald jewelry was the choice to complement this green gown from the Emanuels, a one-shouldered, low-waisted silk satin organza dress dotted with sparkles. These were some of Diana's more valuable jewels: the Art Deco Emerald and Diamond Choker (click for a detailed history from the Jewel Vault) which was a lifetime loan from the Queen as a wedding gift, and emerald and diamond earrings which were a 22nd birthday present from Charles.
Video: The event starts at :45.
She opted to use the necklace as a bandeau across her forehead, reportedly because she had a sunburn on her neck, and the appearance instantly became memorable. Memorable, yes, but successful...hmm. It's a strange meeting of the 1980s and the 1920s and 30s, when the bandeau was truly in style. Would you classify this appearance as a success?

Photos: Tim Graham/Getty/Daily Mail/Royal Collection

17 April 2014

Tiara Thursday: The Ocean Tiara

We have mentioned this jewel in passing before, but I wanted to wait until we had good example of it in use as a tiara to give it its Thursday in the sun. And now we finally can…
The Ocean Tiara
The Ocean Tiara was a wedding gift from Prince Albert II of Monaco to his bride, Charlene Wittstock, for their 2011 nuptials. It was made by Van Cleef & Arpels, an official supplier to the Principality. A necklace that can be worn as a tiara, it was designed especially for Charlene. In honor of her background as a swimmer that went from the coasts of South Africa to the coast of Monaco, the necklace is composed of circular elements that evoke the water and foam of the ocean through more than 1,200 gemstones and more than 70 carats total.

Video: The making of the tiara, including a look at how it converts from tiara to necklace by popping each element out of the frame.
The water is depicted with 359 sapphires, chosen in three shades to create a gradation that represents the differences in ocean colors around the world. The sapphires are positioned so that they are at the bottom of the central circle when the piece is worn as a necklace – this seems to be how it is intended to be worn most of the time, as this is how the ocean motif is the most accurate – but they are at the top when worn as a tiara, meaning they stay out of the hair. (A valuable feature, considering the sapphires are pretty subtle overall.) The sea foam is depicted with white diamonds, as is the straight line base of the piece. There are more than 850 diamonds here, with a total weight of 44 carats. In the center of the largest circles sits a pear-shaped diamond representing a water droplet; these 11 stones are the biggest diamonds in the piece, the largest one weighing more than 4 carats alone.
Despite the fact that it was made for her, it has scarcely been seen in use since it was made. It has, however, been on display on several occasions and in different locations. Princess Charlene first wore it as a necklace to the Red Cross Ball in 2011, just after her wedding. She has also been seen in a pair of drop earrings which are clearly part of a set with the necklace/tiara, containing a matching ocean circle at the bottom.
She did wear the necklace as a tiara for an early portrait by Karl Lagerfeld, but it was not widely released. Therefore, our first proper look at the Ocean Tiara comes from the cover of Hola magazine, which has an exclusive interview with Charlene.
Seeing the tiara in use emphasizes just how Charlene this piece is – it is extremely well suited to its owner. Despite all its swirling features, the separation of the elements into distinct circles creates a clean line which suits the lines of the clothing Princess Charlene tends to pick. It is unmistakably modern and off the traditional path, which also happens to suit Charlene’s sartorial selections. In fact, the only rather un-Charlene thing about this is its very nature: it is a grand piece of jewelry, and she has opted out of grand jewels on more than one occasion, tending towards simplicity. It doesn’t top my list of personal favorites (I prefer the traditional, when it comes to tiaras), but I hope in time it will become an often-worn favorite of the Princess.

Does the new picture change your opinion of this jewel?

Photos: Van Cleef & Arpels/Getty Images/Reuters/Hola

Royal Outfit(s) of the Day: April 17


Video: Queen Margrethe celebrated her 74th birthday with her family at Marselisborg Palace.
Here's a coordinated family for you: red on the Queen, carrying through in sweaters for some of the little ones, Frederik's trousers, Joachim's tie, and coordinating neutrals for most everyone else.
While the birthday girl is at her Daisy best, the one that catches my eye is Grandpa Henrik. Yes! While we enjoy the Tour of a Thousand Blue Suits from Prince William, Henrik veers to the total opposite end of the spectrum in his striped tie, checked shirt, and contrasting blazer and trousers. A smorgasbord of standard menswear patterns. And you know what? It works. He's a breath of fresh air sometimes, and I mean that most sincerely.

Click here for a gallery from BT.

(It's been an interesting week in prints for the Danish royal family, by the way. Take, for example, Marie in Missoni...oh, honey. No.)

Photos: Billed-Bladet video

16 April 2014

Royal Outfit of the Day: April 16

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, with Prince George, arrived in Australia for the next leg of their tour.
Yellow - for wattle, for sunshine, for half of the green and gold Australia color combo - was an easy guess for arrival in Australia, but the Duchess might have surprised you with her designer: Roksanda Ilincic, a London-based Serbian designer. She's worn Ilincic before, of course, but we'll have to wait for an Australian designer to take the stage (and it will certainly be only a matter of time). This label has done quite a bit with yellow lately, bright and cheery color blocking all over the place, so perhaps the surprise isn't that surprising after all. As for this dress, yellow with blocks of white at the bottom and on the sleeves - LOVE. Easily my pick for best outfit of the tour. So far.
The retail version available here from Roksanda Ilincic. The colors have been reversed and the bell sleeve reduced (an excellent change!), and the neckline opened up for the Duchess.

Timezones are making this tour hard to follow from my corner of the world and I'm writing this after just the first bit of the day (hence my speedy screencaps above). But for more, click here for rolling coverage from 7News Sydney, here for Hello, or here for pics from the Daily Mail.

Photos: 7News/Reuters/MatchesFashion

15 April 2014

Royal Outfit of the Day: April 15


Video: Crown Princess Mary visited a school last week.
This printed skirt, from Philosophy di Alberta Ferretti, is a few years old and we've seen Mary in it a bunch of times. Each time, she manages to put a new twist on it - but I have to say, this particular version might not be my favorite. I KNOW. She plays up the purple and does up her hair all purty, and I...am not that fond of it? I might be ill. Send tiaras and chocolate.
The previous outing on the far right remains my fave for this skirt.
Click here for a gallery from this visit.

Photos: BilledBladet/Scanpix/Alberta Ferretti/Abaca

14 April 2014

Royal Outfit of the Day: April 14


Video: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge attended church in Dunedin during their New Zealand tour.
Behold, the most New Zealand outfit yet: dress by Emilia Wickstead, who is based in London but was born in New Zealand, plus the Queen's New Zealand Fern Brooch again. Even the Jane Taylor hat looks a little fern-ish. Click here for more pictures.
This dress gives me a bit of déjà vu, and for good reason - we've seen it in pink in the past. My favorite Emilia Wickstead? Nah. But I am in love with this color, and would take it any day over the pink.
What say you: teal version, or pink?

Photos: ITN/Reuters/AP

11 April 2014

Royal Outfit of the Day: April 11


Video: The Prince of Wales married Camilla Parker Bowles on April 9, 2005.
Charles and Camilla are celebrating their wedding anniversary this week, and that means there's no better time to revisit Camilla's excellent wedding wear - both flattering and appropriate. It's also time to coordinate your visits to the V&A Museum in London, because the Duchess of Cornwall has loaned her gown for an upcoming exhibition! I'm absolutely dying to see it for myself, since those subtle gold touches are certainly better appreciated in person.
Wedding dresses 1775-2014 runs from May 3, 2014 to March 15, 2015. If you go, do report back!

Photo: AP

10 April 2014

Tiara Thursday: The Empress Joséphine Tiara

The Empress Joséphine Fabergé Tiara
Though they are well known for making all manner of bejeweled objects, a tiara made by Fabergé is actually a pretty rare thing. They're hard to find, but once identified the delicate detail and high quality craftsmanship is easy to spot. One such example is this tiara of diamonds mounted in silver and gold, made around 1890 by master craftsman August Holmström (1829-1903). Holmström and his son Albert were responsible for much of the Fabergé jewelry made in their time. Graduated arches of old-cut diamonds resting on a diamond band are separated by large individual collet diamonds. Suspended from each arch is a pendant culminating in a large diamond, a pear-shaped stone in the center with a combination of briolette and old-cut diamonds to the sides. The band and the pendants include touches of foliate design, adding just enough flow to soften the hard points of the arches. It's probably best known today as the Empress Joséphine Tiara despite the fact that Joséphine died decades before the tiara was made. It's gone by other names too, such as the Leuchtenberg Diamond Tiara, and it's a hard one to pin down - the tiara has bounced from one owner to the next but didn't really make a mark until it came up for public sale. Nevertheless, the story begins with Empress Joséphine.

Joséphine de Beauharnais (1763-1814) was the first wife of Napoleon I. They divorced in 1810 and Joséphine lived at the Château de Malmaison, where her visitors included Alexander I of Russia (1777-1825). The briolette-cut diamonds that rest today in this Fabergé tiara were given to Joséphine by the Tsar on one of his visits (some say as payment for some artwork, though he was also known to present her with gifts). They were high-quality diamonds, of exceptional clarity and size, and were passed down to her son Eugène de Beauharnais (1781-1824), who became the Duke of Leuchtenberg when he married Princess Augusta of Bavaria.
The tiara in its box, on a model, and one of the briolettes in close up
The briolette-cut diamonds went to Eugène and Augusta's youngest son, Prince Maximilian (1817-1852), who inherited the Duke of Leuchtenberg title. Maximilian married the eldest daughter of Tsar Nicholas I, Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna, bringing the heritage of these diamonds full circle. They were included in the making of this tiara around 1890, and the diadem stayed in the Leuchtenberg family until it was sold in Switzerland after World War I. The sale sent it into the hands of a new royal family: the Belgians. King Albert I and Queen Elisabeth bought it and gave it to their younger son Prince Charles, Count of Flanders (1903-1983). Charles left the tiara to his sister, Queen Marie José of Italy (1906-2001), and she in turn left it to her daughter Princess Maria Gabriella of Savoy. Despite this long history the tiara was fairly unknown and, at least in recent decades, seems to have remained unworn. It's really not so surprising that it next made its way to the auction block.

Video, above
Christie's auctioned the tiara in 2007. Surpassing initial estimates of $788,800 - $1,183,200, it sold for a whopping $2,071,389, the value due not only to the history and the large size and high quality of the individual diamonds, but to the Fabergé mark. As I said before, a Fabergé tiara is rare - and this one was scooped up by a Fabergé collector. The McFerrin Collection, owned by American collectors Dorothy and Artie McFerrin of Texas, is one of the most important private collections of Fabergé objects. They now count this tiara among their treasures, and have placed it (and plenty of other items) on extended loan to the Houston Museum of Natural Science for exhibit. A can't-miss, if you should happen to pass through Houston.

Have you seen this one yourself? Is it a favorite?

Photos: Christie's/Getty/Houston Museum of Natural Science

Royal Outfit of the Day: April 10


Video: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge laid a wreath at the Blenheim War Memorial during their tour of New Zealand.
Hey, look at that - Kate took that coat Sophie wore earlier this year (covered here), and made all the critical changes: removed that top peplum flap thingy, and made it an actual color! Well done. It's definitely a coat that has enough architectural features to stand on its own, so it works quite well at this non-hat occasion. She also added sapphire and diamond earrings, and obviously those make everything better. (And yes, you can actually see them for she has - gasp - worn her hair up. All the way up. Let's call it the Hallelujah Ponytail.)
The coat is from Alexander McQueen, a custom combination of retail styles. She's also wearing a commemorative poppy pin for remembrance on her shoulder, as did others.
So which royal wore it better, do ya think? Going with the Duchess, myself.

Photos: Reuters/Net-a-porter

07 April 2014

Bonus Royal Outfit of the Day: April 7

The Cambridge family tour of New Zealand and Australia has commenced.
More like "Prince George and his entourage arrive in Wellington", amirite? Little scene stealer covered up my favorite part of any outfit - the diamonds - and I can't even be mad about it.
Yes, in addition to the red Catherine Walker coat and oh-so-Jackie-O matching Gina Foster pillbox hat, the Duchess borrowed a very appropriate bit of bling from the Queen's vault: the New Zealand Fern Brooch, which you can read more about at the Jewel Vault. Unlike, say, the Maple Leaf Brooch, this one doesn't have a history of loans, so this is a bit special. The tour doesn't have a lot of opportunities for formal jewelry built in, but it will be nice to see if she brings out any other surprises.

P.S. This is a double post day, keep scrolling!
P.P.S.: This blog is taking a couple days off and returning on Thursday, but the Jewel Vault will still be updated in the meantime.

Photo: @ClarenceHouse/Stuff screencap