|Queen Elizabeth II wearing the Kokoshnik tiara. Image: Reginald Davis/REX/ |
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In 1888, the Prince and Princess of Wales (future King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra) celebrated the silver anniversary of their wedding. For this special occasion, Marchioness of Salisbury (wife the Prime Minister) and the other peeresses of Great Britain, formed a committee known as the “Ladies of Society” to decide what gift would best please Her Royal Highness. Together with Lady Salisbury were three other peeresses: Maria, Marchioness of Ailesbury (who was a supporter of the opposition Liberal Party); the Countess Spencer; and the Countess of Cork. The society raised enough money to buy a tiara that to this day forms one of the most prized jewels of the Royal Family: the Kokoshnik tiara. This tiara is a dream come true for the future queen. She always wanted one that resembled a kokoshnik (cock's comb), a traditional Russian folk headdress. She knew the design so well because her sister, Marie Feodorovna, had a tiara that looks like a kokoshnik. The tiara was made by Garrard for a cost of £4,400.
The Court Jeweller describes the tiara:
Alexandra's kokoshnik featured 77 of these fringe pieces, and the entire tiara was packed with more than 400 diamonds. Even better, it was convertible, able to be taken off of its frame and worn as a fringe necklace. The jeweler also supplied a fitted box for the piece, plus an album with the signatures of each woman who had donated money toward the gift.
It was worn by Princess Alexandra during the wedding of her son, the future King George V, to Princess Mary of Teck in 1893. Queen Mary inherited the tiara upon Queen Alexandra’s death in 1925. When Queen Mary died in 1953, the tiara and the rest of her collection was inherited by her granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II. The Kokoshnik Tiara is one of the most timeless and elegant pieces in the Queen’s collection. She wore it many times during her Commonwealth Tour in 1953-54. The Associated Press described the tiara as "a rather heavy headdress" and "a blaze of diamonds in a sunray pattern."