Queen Sofia of Spain in an official photo wearing one of the three pearl tiaras belonging to the Spanish Royal Family
We've already had a very modern take on pearls with a controversial pearl tiara from Spain and now we're off to Madrid again for another look at June's birthstone. There are three pearl diadems worn by the royal ladies of Spain, all with different characters and histories. This hat trick of headwear includes some unusual pieces and a very grand tiara that never fails to impress. And they could all be contenders for the tiara worn by Queen Letizia during her State Visit to the UK which is due to get under way on July 10th 2017. Here is another set of pearls for June.
We start with a bit of a stunner. There is something effortlessly impressive about this concoction of pearls and diamonds that has been worn by many of the ladies of the royal house of Spain. One of its most famous outings was in June 2010 when the Infanta Cristina wore it to the wedding of Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel in Stockholm. It was one of her last appearances at a big royal event before she and her husband were embroiled in the Noos case and the images have become rather famous.
The tiara originally belonged to her great grandmother, Queen Ena of Spain. Born Victoria Eugenie Julia Ena of Battenberg, she was the daughter of Queen Victoria's youngest child, Princess Beatrice, and she married King Alfonso XIII of Spain in 1906. This was one of the many diadems she acquired while Queen of Spain and it is certainly majestic enough in size to be fit for a consort.
Made by Cartier, it is a huge wall of diamonds arranged in swirling circles of leaves. There are four centrepieces in the swirls filled with huge, round pearls. Despite being seriously outnumbered by the sparklers in this piece, it's the pearls that win in this tiara. They dominate the diadem and the contrast of stones is stunning.
Like several other tiaras on the continent, this pearl effort had the added advantage of being able to swap stones. The pearls could originally be replaced by emeralds but they are long gone. The tiara was left by Queen Ena to her daughter, Maria Cristina, but ended up back with King Juan Carlos in 1996 since when it hasn't been worn a huge amount but always makes an impression when it is taken out of the jewellery box.
But when it comes to pearls, Spain's royal collection is filled with stunning settings that are different but elegant. The Mellerio Shell tiara not only has an unusual name, it has a stand out style all of its own.
It takes its name from its makes, Mellerio, and its shape. Rather than sitting flat, this tiara arches inwards like a shell. Except this casing is made of rows of diamonds. It was designed in 1867 but has more of a look of 1967 about it in many ways.
The shell holds precious pearls dropping all along its length with a huge gem in the middle and smaller ones arranged on either side. It is a fascinating piece of jewellery with a fascinating history. It started off as a wedding gift (don't they all) from Queen Isabella II of Spain to her daughter, another Isabella, who left it to Alfonso XIII and from there it worked its way through to his daughter in law, the Countess of Barcelona. When her son, Juan Carlos, married Sofia of Greece in 1962 Maria de la Mercedes gave it to the bride as a present and it's been well worn ever since.
Yes, it's a wedding present (from Alfonso XIII to Maria Mercedes, Countess of Barcelona) and yes, it's very regal. It's another wall of diamonds but they are much more spaced out in this tiara compared to the Cartier effort above. The stones sit in sparkling loops with pearls at their centre and another row on top. But they are almost lost amongst all that glitz.
This tiara isn't a particular favourite of Spain's royal ladies with Sofia using it occasionally but other than that, a rare treat. And now that Letizia has her own pearl tiara, the question remains whether this will be seen at all in years to come. Whether it is or not, it's still a pretty piece. But that's no surprise - as we've seen, the creamy dream of pearls for June is hard to beat.