Meghan Markle hasn’t said whether she shall be wearing a tiara at her upcoming royal wedding, but she definitely has a a huge and enviable collection to choose from.
That’s because Queen Elizabeth II, the grandmother of her husband-to-be Prince Harry, has hundreds of tiaras squirreled away in locked vaults, and royal tradition holds that the queen will let Markle borrow one of these sparkly heirlooms.
There’s no shortage of diamonds in the queen’s collection, to say nothing of rubies, sapphires and emeralds. One tiara is designed so that its emeralds can be replaced by pearls – depending on the rest of the outfit, of course.
The bride’s actual choice probably won’t be known until May 19 when she walks down the aisle of St. George’s Chapel to marry Harry and officially join the royal family. But some of London’s most exclusive jewellers are devoutly hoping she won’t turn her back on tiaras in favour of a more egalitarian look.
Markle, a 36-year-old American actress, is known for her contemporary fashion sense and could surprise everyone by skipping the tiara in favour of a less stately, more accessible look. But Omar Vaja, sales director at the renowned Bentley & Skinner jewelry shop in London, thinks she will follow tradition.
Her style of dress is quite modern and casual,” said Vaja. “So she’ll probably go for something that’s small and modest. There’s quite a lot to choose from. I think we’re talking about hundreds of tiaras.”
He says tiaras often have been kept in aristocratic families for generations, passed down to wear on special occasions.
Vaja and other jewellers in London’s tony Mayfair district have a vested interest in seeing Markle carry forward the tiara tradition. He expects this royal wedding – like earlier ones – to spur interest in tiaras and other vintage treasures that his shop is known for.
Tiaras were the height of fashion in the 1920s and 1930s, when affluent British women would often wear them to royal galas or fancy banquets, but British society changed drastically after the destruction wrought by World War II.
The grand court life that preceded it was never fully revived, said Christopher St. James, who designed many of the tiaras worn by the fictional Grantham family in the popular Downton Abbey TV series.
“Elizabeth II stopped doing the great big court balls where debutantes would come and be presented to the queen and they had to wear a tiara and their mothers would wear a tiara,” he said. “That was all gone after the war.”
The ‘50s in Britain was a time of rationing and scarcity, not the best time for opulent displays of jewelry worth more than a small house.