Extraordinary examples of the diamond-set kokoshnik, ‘coxcomb’ – the traditional form of a Russian girl’s headdress, which became virtually mandatory for ladies of the Russian court – were owned by Empress Maria Feodorovna, consort of Emperor Alexander III and by her sister Alexandra, Princess of Wales.
"Silver wedding in the year 1888 at Marlborough House: The principal present in the salon, and one which instantly arrests the eye, is a large diamond tiara, a magnificent and lustrous ornament, presented to the Princess of Wales by ladies of her acquaintance."
The tiara, which is composed of rays of brilliants, graduating in size from large to smaller, and each ray set so closely as to touch the other, is displayed on a background of deep violet velvet, and beneath it is an ivory bound volume containing the names of those who have taken part in the gift — among them the Marchioness of Salisbury, Lady Cork, Lady Cadogan, Lady Spencer,
the Duchess of Wellington, the Duchess of Cleveland, Lady Waterford, the Austrian Ambassadress, Lady Castlereagh, Lady Rosebery, and many others, whose names fill the volume."
"The presentation took place in the Great Hall of Marlborough House, and when all the fair donors were assembled, the doors at the upper end of the room were thrown open, and the Princess entered followed by all her daughters. She wore a light dress, and looked as young and girlish almost as her children. Lady Aylesbury read a short address, to which the Princess tried to reply, but she had not read many words, when her feelings overcame her, and she burst into tears. It was an affecting scene."
"The magnificent tiara of diamonds, the united gift of 365 ladies, personal friends of the Princess is the work of Messrs Garrard, and composed of a multitude of choice stones, graduating in size, set on a background of silver in the shape of the simple old Roman coronet."
The entry in Garrard's Royal Ledger reads: ‘A brilliant graduating Diamond [tiara] in the Russian style and also to form a Necklace’. The tiara was supplied with a fitted case, at a cost of £15, and an album with the signatures of the donors, collected by a Garrard employee, at a cost of £3 18s. Garrard charged £4,400 for the tiara. (Garrard RL51, fol. 90, 10 January 1888)
When photographed for Queen Alexandra as a necklace see above right and as a gift in the sketch, there were 77 graduated bars. Sixteen of the smallest bars have since been removed.
Now formed of 61 graduated bars, rising to the centre and pavé-set with 488 brilliants. Queen Alexandra wore the tiara to the wedding of her son Prince George, Duke of York, and Princess Mary of Teck on 6 July 1893 at the Chapel Royal, St. James's Palace in London.
As well she lent it to her mother Queen Louise of Denmark.
The original tiara frame was altered by Garrard, when a new self-adjusting gold frame was supplied in 1895 (Garrard RL51, fol. 76, 3 May 1895). The reworked tiara was later given to Queen Mary, whom wore it frequently. Upon her death, she left it to her granddaughter Queen Elizabeth II, in 1953.
Sources: Pall Mall Gazette;York Herald;The Graphic;The Queen;Queens Diamonds;The Times;Ulster Echo;
Special thanks to Laura for her great help!
Queen Alexandras Wedding gifts:
more jewels :
English Royal Jewels
Queen Mary Jewels