On first glance, the Nizam of Hyderabad floral royal brooch looks like a simple floral brooch. But its clever construction is revealed when Queen Elizabeth II moves and the trembling diamond “stamens” in the heart of the brooch throw off flashes of colour of light. It and its two smaller, identical companion rose brooches were once part of a much grander piece of royal jewellery, a tiara.
“One can’t really dance in a tiara,” Chips Channon overheard the future Queen Elizabeth II complain. It was 1947 and Princess Elizabeth, dressed in a black lace gown, was dancing at a ball at Coppins, the home of her widowed aunt, Princess Marina of Kent. The tiara was a glittering diamond bandeau made by Cartier in a rose-and-foliage design. Nestled amid the diamond “ivy” of the tiara were three roses, the largest in the middle, flanked by two matching smaller versions on each side. The three flowers could be detached from the tiara frame and worn as brooches.
“A splendid floral diamond tiara with an English rose set among leafy tendrils,” wrote Leslie Fields in her landmark book, The Royal Jewels. “Like its companion diamond necklace, it had been designed by Cartier in Paris.” In 2014, she loaned the ornate necklace to Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, in 2014 for a gala evening at the National Portrait Gallery.
Duchess Kate wearing the Nizam of Hyderabad, a diamond necklace Queen Elizabeth II received as a wedding gift for her marriage to the Duke of Edinburgh in 1947. Love it when Kate shows up in old royal jewels ❤️ #DuchessOfCambridge pic.twitter.com/W931thlR0j
— PrincessDianaAndKate (@the_Royalist1) December 6, 2017
While the necklace is still intact, the tiara is no more. It was broken up (more on that later.) All that survives are the three Nizam of Hyderabad brooches.
ROYAL BROOCH COMPOSITION
The diamonds of each rose is set in platinum, the larger one is 4.2 cm in diameter, while the two smaller ones are 3.3 cm. Each has a tremblant brilliant centre (designed to tremble when in motion, scattering light from each cut diamond). Their overlapping layers of rose pedals are pavé-set with diamond brilliants.
Having brooches and other pieces of jewellery embedded into a tiara was a common jewellery technique to get more use out of a headpiece. When Princess Margaret’s Politmore tiara sold in 2005, Christie’s auction description revealed that it was “convertible to a necklace, and eleven brooches.”
The brooches, and the tiara they were nestled into, were created in 1939 as general stock for Cartier, and are registered as entering the jeweller’s store in London. According to Hugh Robert’s The Queen’s Diamonds, the tiara was set with 1,033 brilliants, 84 baton diamonds and 17 diamond beads. (Cartier Archive, F.3600)
The tiara stayed on Cartier’s list of stock for the next nine years, until it was chosen as the perfect gift for a royal bride.
The Queen wearing the Nizam of Hyderabad rose tiara, a wedding gift she chose herself. Stunning! pic.twitter.com/c18W0SBDzm
— Victoria Howard (@TheRoyalExpert) December 8, 2015
It was purchased, along with an ornate necklace, by His Highness the Nizam of Hyderabad, as a wedding present for Princess Elizabeth. The Nizam, Osman Ali Khan, was the last ruler of the Indian princely state of Nizam and Berar. So wealthy that Time magazine crowned him the richest man in the world in 1937, the Nizam funded development, education and government institutions. It was the only such state to issue its own currency. The year after Elizabeth’s marriage, his rule ended when a newly independent India annexed his principality of 16 million people. He died in 1967.
The gift is recorded in her official wedding list as No. 1331: “A Diamond Tiara, English Rose and foliage design, and a Diamond Necklace.” According to legend, the Nizam left it to Elizabeth to chose which specific Cartier necklace and tiara she wanted as a gift.
The cost was £5,000, according to an account of January, 8, 1948 (the equivalent of £173,000 in 2017)
While Elizabeth wore the tiara, and its brooches, frequently in the early years of her reign, her use of the tiara trailed off as she turned to larger, more imposing headpieces in her royal jewellery box. After decades of rumours that it had been broken up, its demise was confirmed in Robert’s book. It was dismantled in 1973, so its diamonds could be used in a new Burmese ruby-and-diamond tiara being made by Garrard. Luckily, the three brooches escaped the jewellery chop shop.
In the early years of her reign, the Queen often wore the two smaller ones pinned to the corners of a square. Now she wears them grouped together. The larger royal brooch is more popular, however, and, has been worn a dozen times in the last five years, according to the Queen’s Jewel Vault blog.