The Greville tiara – also known as the Boucheron honeycomb tiara – is one of The Duchess of Cornwall’s favourite pieces. Since becoming a member of the Royal Family, the Duchess has worn it to almost every white-tie occasion.
We are beginning to document Camilla’s collection of jewellery, to create a database so what better place to begin!
The tiara consists of honeycomb and lozenge design with diamonds set in platinum. Two honeycomb ‘structures’ sit on top of one another, locking into the two pairs either side of them. The gaps beneath and above – where another hexagon should slot – are filled with three brilliant-cut diamonds, the central ones being largest, especially at the front.
At the centre top of the tiara, we see a large marquise cut diamond, held up by three large brilliant diamonds, supported by two smaller ones. This cluster pattern is repeated around the top of the tiara, but with five brilliants; towards the back of the tiara, the ‘gap’ is filled by filing these stones into a line, rather than clustering them.
The edges of the settings around all the stones are ‘millegrain‘ – an almost beaded edge – which gives the effect of even smaller stones (or grains) framing the larger ones.
The tiara first belonged to Mrs Margaret Greville, a British society hostess and philanthropist that was named a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 1922. It was created by Lucien Hirtz, chief designer of Boucheron, for Mrs Greville in 1921; they used diamonds from another diadem the company previously made for her in 1901, which by the 1920’s was considered old fashioned.
The tiara entered the Royal Family in 1942, when Mrs Greville passed away with no children, leaving her jewellery collection to Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, who was a good friend. It was largely expected that Mrs Greville was going to leave Elizabeth and Bertie (George VI) her home of Polesden Lacey in Surrey, but instead left a large bequest of jewellery.
In 1953, The Queen Mother asked Cartier to alter the tiara, increasing its height by rearranging the lines of diamonds into clusters of brilliants at the top; she added a marquise-cut diamond in the top centre, too. Although some believe The Prince of Wales inherited the tiara and gave it to his wife, the truth is when The Queen Mother died in 2002, Her Majesty inherited all of Mrs Greville’s jewellery. It was at The Queen’s disposal to use, and loan, as she liked.
In 2005, after Prince Charles married Camilla, the tiara was loaned to The Duchess of Cornwall on a long-term basis. Camilla wore the piece for the first time in 2006, for the Brazilian State Banquet hosted by The Queen at Buckingham Palace. The then-President of Brazil, Luiz Inacio da Silva and his wife Marisa Leticia Lula da Silva, were on an official visit to the UK.
According to Hugh Roberts, author of The Queen’s Diamonds, the Duchess preference for the tiara is probably due to the fact that this piece is much lighter than the other two tiaras loaned to Camilla, which are the Delhi Durbar tiara and the Teck Crescent tiara.
A replica of the honeycomb tiara was put on display at Polesden Lacey (now a National Trust property) in the Saloon.
Featured image via House of Lords/Flickr