Pearls for June: the Swedish Cameo Tiara

It is a tiara fit for a queen and with a romantic history that makes it ideal for weddings. The Cameo Tiara of Sweden is linked to a woman whose royal love story is among the best known in history and it has become indelibly linked with regal romances in modern day Sweden. The Cameo Tiara was worn on June 19th 1976 by Silvia Sommerlath as she said 'I do' and became Queen of Sweden and exactly 34 years later her first daughter wore it for her own wedding as she began a family that will form the basis of the Bernadotte dynasty in years to come. But its history is as fascinating as its unusual appearance.  This is a very special tiara so what better way to start out look at Pearls for June by spending some time with this lovely creation.

It's also believed to have begun its royal journey in the jewellery box of one of the most romantic regal women in history. The Cameo Tiara is thought to have first belonged to the Empress Josephine who received it as a gift from Napoleon and it was designed, so legend has it, to denote power as well as passion.  It was made by Marie-Etienne Nitot and the romance continues - the cameos tell the story of Cupid and Psyche.


It is certainly imperial in scale. The seven cameos rise from almost the back of the wearer's head to a crowning point at the centre of the front of the tiara.  They are different sizes with the largest at the very front. The cameos sit above an intricately woven layer of pearls and gold which rests on a row of seed pearls. Between the cameos are more pearls but it is the richness of the gold that really shows through in this piece - its deep, almost rose like hue, contrasts with the creaminess of the pearls and the light and shade of the cameos.  It was made to impress an empress and it's kept its magic into the 21st century.


We all know that Josephine didn't get a fairytale ending to her royal love story, divorced by Napoleon when he needed an heir of his own. But Josephine had had two children during her first marriage and it is through them that this unusual piece began its journey towards the royal jewellery box of Sweden. 

The tiara was first painted being worn by her daughter, Hortense, who married into Dutch royalty but it actually ended up with her son, Eugene, who passed it to the daughter he had named after his mother. She was known as Josephine of Leuchtenberg and in 1823 she had married Prince Oscar of Sweden. To give an added twist to the tale of this tiara, Oscar's mother was Queen Desiree who had once been engaged to Napoleon. Once they'd got all that awkwardness out of the way, Oscar and Josefina as she now became known settled down to building dynasties. He became King of Sweden in 1844 and the Cameo Tiara suddenly belonged to a queen. 

When weddings dried up. Queen Josefina gave the tiara to her daughter, Princess Eugenie, who never married and who, in her turn, left it to her nephew, Prince Eugen. With no royal wife to show off this stunning setting of cameos, Eugen took to lending it out to the royal women of his dynasty and when Margaret of Connaught married Prince Gustav Adolf in 1905 she went to the top of the list of borrowers. Crown Princess of Sweden from 1907, Margaret was seen in this unusual piece on several big occasions but her early death in 1920 meant it retired into the background again. And thent the wedding bells started to ring out once more. 

Margaret and Gustav Adolf's first son, named after his father as the royals like to do, married a German princess, Sybilla of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, in 1932 and Eugen ended up giving the tiara to her. The new royal couple, who were expected one day to rule Sweden, had four daughters who couldn't succeed to the throne under the laws of the time before they welcomed a son, Carl Gustaf, in 1946.But Prince Gustav Adolf died in a plane crash the following year and his baby son was educated to be king.  The romance of the Cameo Tiara passed to Sybilla's daughters with two of them, Princess Desiree and Princess Birgitta, wearing it on their wedding days.  A royal tradition had begun.  Sybilla left the tiara to her only son when she died in 1972 - just before he became king. Queen Silvia wore it for her wedding and Crown Princess Victoria followed her lead in 2010. Its place as a royal wedding tiara is secure.

The Cameo tiara really is unique. It has a romantic history that takes some rivaling and it is among the most striking and stunning diadems in use right now. It added two more chapters to its royal history on June 19th and it is now linked with two very modern regal love stories as well as one of the most famous romances of all time. From Josephine of France to Victoria of Sweden, the Cameo Tiara has been a consort's coronet and its story has many more chapters to tell.

Photo credit: By Holger Motzkau 2010, Wikipedia/Wikimedia Commons (cc-by-sa-3.0), CC BY-SA 3.0,