Westminster Tiara Week: the Halo Tiara Tuesday

westminster halo tiara

Well, well, well, Tuesday…it’s day two of Our second theme week, highlighting the Westminster Tiara Collection. (Oooh, who wouldn’t love to have a collection! This parure will really set off my eyes and the dress formy brother’s wedding, this tiara will go nicely when I meet the board of trustees at my husband’s Christmas party, this one’s my grocery store bandeau…could you imagine? *simper*) So as we salute Tuesday’s tiara, the Westminster Halo Tiara (remember We are redundant to avoid confusion with other halo tiaras. The Halo Scroll Tiara, por ejemplo. This belle époque tiara can be filed under the “one that got away” tab. I initially had it in my head that the family had reacquired the tiara, like Monday’s Blue Enamel Kokoshnik, but its whereabouts are unknown. :0 Anyway…remember this guy? At least you remember the pith helmet, right?

Hugh Grosvenor, 2nd Duke of Westminster

A long, long time ago, about fourteen months after Oberon retired as the King of Faeries…just kidding, it was in 1930. The second Duke of Westminster, Hugh Richard Arthur Grosvenor, (yep same guy from yesterday, you did remember him!) commissioned what we now dub the Westminster Halo Tiara from the Spanish jewelers, Lacloche Frères.  I can’t figure out if they were four joyeros who decided referring to their brotherhood in French was more marketable or if they were Frenchmen who set up their shop in Madrid. (The important part is that it amuses me.)

Reminiscent of a Chinese headdress, this Belle Époque style tiara was made for the Duke’s third wife, Loelia Mary Ponsonby. This halo’s aurora radiates thanks to some bewitching brilliants. Framed in baguette diamond banding, the center-stone, the round brilliant George IV diamond (originally believed to be the Harrison diamond) is flanked by the equally abdominous Arcots and no less than 1421 smaller diamonds. The tiara was pieced to form a design of Pavè-set scrolls with arcading. Clusters of marquise-shaped diamonds glint between the sections, tapering gently at the sides. As if challenged to cram more brilliants into the jigsaw corona, the Lacloche brothers managed to disperse baguettes here and there throughout the Halo.

duchess of westminster loelia diamond halo tiara

Loelia Ponsonby: third wife and…ahem

In her memoirs, Loelia griped about the Arcots as if she were draped in a garland of garlic. “Fixed by themselves on the safety-pin they looked extremely bogus, so that a friend who saw me that evening remarked, “What on earth does Loelia think she’s doing, pinning those two lumps of glass on herself?”

What. An. Ungrateful. Bitch.

Unless you kill somebody or cut me off in traffic, We don’t do vulgar name-calling here at Tiaras and Trianon, but COME ON! (Exception warranted.) How spoiled can one person be? You’re a third wife! do you think you’re not replaceable? I woulda replaced you, thankless c—rag. Glad you’re dead.

In June of 1959 the third Duke of Westminster sold the Halo Tiara in order to pay off some of his exorbitant inheritance taxes. (And probably to rid himself of the memory of his pernicious stepmother!) Harry Winston paid £110,000 for the tiara at auction. The sum was a world-record for a piece of jewelry at the time. From this point on, the details of the tiara get a bit hazy.

rose palmer the westminster halo tiara with turquoise

Chicago socialite Rose Movius Palmer wearing over a million dollars worth of diamonds (courtesey Life Magazine.)

Chicago socialite and jewellery enthusiast, Rose Movius Palmer later welcomed it to her collection. The diamonds were replaced with huge turquoise stones, striking a cornflower resplandor that played nicely off of her red hair, don’t you think? Pretty sweet that she happened to have that brooch to go with it, huh? But hey, I’d take those blingity-bling-bling manacles or that huge bib of diamonds if that Halo was off the table. (I’m not a complainer…)

When Rose wore the Halo Tiara with diamonds they were much smaller than those grandiose stones that weren’t good enough for an un-named shrew long before. Unlike the tiara, history tracked the George IV and the Arcot Diamonds with a bit more verve.

the arcot diamonds

the Arcot diamonds appear deceptively uniform in size, (middle) the Arcot I in its Van Cleef & Arpels setting, (right) unknown girl wearing the necklace

Mr. Winston had the two Arcots re-cut for greater clarity and brilliance, the larger to 30.99 carats and the smaller to 18.85 carats. Each was remounted in a ring and sold in 1959 and 1960 respectively. (Guess somebody thought 30 and 20 carat rings were pretty.) The larger of the two, the Arcot I, was later set in a pendant by Van Cleef & Arpels. In November of 1993, it was bought at auction by Sheik Ahmed Hassan Fitaihi, the Saudi Arabian dealer, at Christie’s, Geneva.

The King George Diamond was re-polished to a modern 26.77 carats round brilliant and sold separately. It was last seen in 1970 in New York when it was sold at auction. There is no further information on this fine bauble.

About ♔ la dauphiine ♔

Connecticut-based jewelry monger, history buff, Mets fan. On the hum-drum side, call me a lauded poet, novelist and ghost-writer. (That's right, I haunt prose.)
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9 Responses to Westminster Tiara Week: the Halo Tiara Tuesday

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  6. Lady says:

    It looks like one of those 1920/30’s wedding veil (almost looks like a jewelled baby bonnet). I don’t know how the socialite replaced it with turquoise. I think it looks worse now. 😛

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’d just like to point out that the 3rd Duke of Westminster was a cousin of the second Duke not his son. The 2nd Duke’s had one son with his first wife who died aged 4 either during or after an operation for appendicitis. The 2nd Duke did not have any more children with his 2nd, 3rd and 4th wives. The 3rd Duke of Westminster William Grosvenor never married or had children, he was born brain damaged and spent most of his life being looked after by carers. I think it is highly likely the decision to sell the tiara (which probably wasn’t the only one that got sold) was made for the 3rd Duke as opposed to him making the decision himself.

    I also find it interesting that you have had a little pop at Loelia yes she may sound ungrateful but her marriage to the 2nd Duke was not always a happy one. I think sometimes he maybe thought that buying such opulent gifts for his wives and mistresses was a good way of saying sorry for his behaviour which has been described as being ‘charming and generous one minute, furious and cruel the next.’ He was homophobic (he assisted in having his own brother in law the 7th earl of Beauchamp sent into exile for being homosexual) and anti-semitic and a hypocrite. I have spent a good deal of time researching the Dukes of Westminster and their ancestors and the 2nd Duke is far from my favourite on the long list of Grosvenor’s. He was a man of double standards, while indulging in affairs and being not so nice to his wives he expected very high standards of behaviour from his family members and gave them a hard time if they didn’t.

    Re: The Halo Tiara; I’d just like to say this tiara is a favourite of mine and I’m kinda pissed that it is no longer in the Westminster collection. It is (IMHO) something of a travesty that the Arcot Diamonds were removed and replace with those hideous Turquoise stones which to me ruin the look of this lovely tiara.


it's not just a love-affair with my own voice

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