From the Queen (who is said to have the largest and most valuable collection in the world) to Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Chanel’s catwalk collections: tiaras have had an ubiquitous presence throughout history. “The tiara is the ultimate piece of jewellery,” explains buying manager of Selfridges' Jubilee Tiara Shop Rachel Duffy, “as a piece of decoration as well as a symbol of authority – it shows an extra effort has been made and communicates an air of regality.”
Worn by generations of royals and noble ladies, the tiara was also famously fashioned by various Hollywood style icons, which include Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Catherine Deneuve, Greta Garbo and Elizabeth Taylor. "When [third husband Mike Todd] gave me this tiara, he said, 'You're my queen, and I think you should have a tiara,'" Taylor wrote in A Life in Jewelry. "I wore it for the first time when we went to the Academy Awards. It was the most perfect night, because Mike's film Around the World in 80 Days won for Best Picture.”
"The tiara is a fantasy piece, which enables anyone to become a princess"
More recently tiaras have been worn by Princess Diana and Kate Middleton on their weddings days (replicas of which are included in the Tiara Shop) and punk Queen Vivienne Westwood, Elton John and Victoria Beckham. Featured in Louis Vuitton’s S/S12 saccharine collection, tiaras have also added elegance and opulence to many of Chanel’s collections: in S/S09 couture collection heads were decorated with exquisite paper flower tiara constructions and for pre-fall 2009 hair and pearl adorned tiaras appeared like those of Byzantine empresses.
For their showcase of the tiara, Selfridges highlights such contemporary twists on the headpiece while juxtaposing them with more traditional designs. Sitting amongst the classic 1800s Boucheron tiaras, Tiffany’s one-off £52,000 diamond Grace tiara and the exclusive £750,000 Chrome Hearts tiara (handcrafted from 18 carat gold and colourless diamonds engraved inside with “God Save Steve Jones”); creations by milliner Stephen Jones, architect Frank Gehry, jewelers Butler & Wilson and Tatty Devine offer a more lighthearted and often quirky take on the regal headwear. “It’s important to remember that the tiara can be a fun item as well,” explains Duffy, “Among the high end ones, it’s great to have Stephen Jones’ fashion pieces which offer a stylish but eccentric way to wear a tiara rather than with a big bun. The tiara is a fantasy piece, which enables anyone to become a princess.”
The Tiara Shop is party is part of The Big British Shop in the Concept Store, Selfridges, London and is open until September.
Text by Lucia Davies