There is something about the glitter of precious stones, the power of history and any hint of royal provenance that makes tiaras so fascinating. Now, Sotheby’s has gathered 40 tiaras together for a blockbuster exhibition timed for the Platinum Jubilee. The short display (May 28-June 15 in London) makes it the must-see exhibition of the celebration. Yes, I’m biased, but how often does one get to ogle at such exquisite craftsmanship and style?

“Power & Image: Royal & Aristocratic Tiaras” draws together 40 tiaras, many of which have rarely been seen by the public. “As one of the most regal items of adornment short of a monarch’s crown, the tiara is symbolic of social standing and elegance,” explains the auction house.

One of the most famous tiaras is the Spencer Tiara, worn by Lady Diana Spencer at her wedding to Prince Charles in 1981. “The tiara’s symbolism speaks for itself – heart-shaped scrolls and flowers can only mean love – and its flowing garland design is utterly timeless, making this a piece that transcends its famous outings,” says Sotheby’s. The tiara was made in the mid-1930s by Garrard, then the royal jeweller, though its origins goes back much further, to a diamond tiara created in 1767.

Queen Victoria’s emerald-and-diamond diadem (Courtesy Sotheby’s)

The delicacy of the Spencer Tiara provides a nice counterpoint to the historical heft of Queen Victoria’s diadem. It was designed by her husband, Prince Albert, and made by Joseph Kitching to accompany a similarly styled necklace, brooch and earrings. Victoria was entranced by her husband’s gift, given in 1845, writing in her journal about the “lovely Diadem of diamonds and emeralds designed by my beloved Albert,” who had “wonderful taste.” The monarch first wore the tiara for the christening of their son, Prince Alfred. Today, the entire parure along with other royal tiaras are on permanent display at Kensington Palace.

Empress Josephine’s tiara (Courtesy Sotheby’s)

Sometimes, royal provenance is a bit hazy. The gold, cameo and enamel tiara dating from 1805 is presumed to have been in the collection of Empress Josephine of France, and is believed to have been made by Jacques-Ambroise Oliveras. Her affection for that cameo-laden faux “ancient” headdress is well known, and includes the spectacular Cameo Diadem in the collection of the Swedish royal family. The Court Jeweller site has a great article delving into its history. Like many imperial treasures, the tiara on display in Sotheby’s was sold and resold, including last year by the same auction house, along with other related items, for $200,000.