Tiara Time! the Steel-Cut Tiara

steel cut tiara of Sweden

it sparkles like all hell but nary a diamond in it!

Behold a tiara with no sparkly baubles at all! The Steel Cut Tiara is made of–this is a stretch–highly polished steel and set with golden embellishments in the shape of flowers, feathers, oak leaves and acorns. Feathers and acorns aren’t really common tiara themes, making this baby even more unique. crown princess victoria steel flower tiaraNot a single stone in it, but golly does it glimmer! Don’t believe me? Think steel only has its place in Pittsburgh? Originally designed for candle-lit tiara events, the light dances off the polished facets in a way that suggests the scintillation of diamonds.

Watch the way it glitters when the camera zooms in on the Crown Princess’ head.

You really must see it in motion to truly appreciate the shimmery sparkle. And sparkle is the whole reason we’re here…or at least why I’m here.

steel cut tiara crown princess victoria of sweden postage stamp

A tiara so important that it’s postage-stamp worthy.

Just like cameo tiaras, steel tiaras are pretty unique. Steel tiaras were popular from the First French Empire through the Victorian Era. A modest, yet interesting material, polished steel provided an alternative for those who wanted a tiara but couldn’t necessarily afford something gem-encrusted. On the other hand, the Steel Cut tiara isn’t “slumming it.” It’s nothing at which to turn up your nose. Steel was considered a valuable material in its own right and plus very few artisans who had mastered this time-consuming process to shape and polish the facets to give the brilliance of diamonds.

The Steel Cut Tiara is also know as the Napoleonic Steel Cut Tiara because–you guessed right!–it was brought to Sweden by Josephine II. Like the Cameo, Leuchtenberg Sapphires, the Napoleonic Amethysts, the Steel Cut would appear to be another tiara that originated with Josephine I (aka Empress Josephine). Apparently, this tiara’s story is a bit different; it was made for Queen Hortense of Holland, Josephine II’s aunt. Perhaps Josie’s Aunt Hortense gave it to her as (yet another) wedding gift. I am remiss to wonder whether “How many tiaras does one bride need?” should be a rhetorical question or not.

queen silvia in steel cut tiara

We’ve all lost something in our closets. My favorite hooded shirt, my only clutch purse, or that right sneaker. How does a girl lose only one sneaker? Don’t ask. The Steel Cut Tiara suffered a similar fate. It was off the radar for decades and then appeared on Queen Silvia’s head in 1979 at an Austrian state visit. (See two center pictures above.) Once married to Karl XVI Gustaf, Silvia began rooting around in most-likely cluttered cupboards and cabinets and found the Steel Cut tucked away in a drawer!  Those cupboards had to be a disaster area because who the hell loses a tiara? Who the hell loses one shoe? Touché…

Queen Silvia of Sweden Steel Cut Tiara with necklace and EarringsThe tiara actually has matching earrings and a choker, making it the Steel Cut Demi-Parure technically. The earrings and choker are rarely seen. The left photo is from over 20 years ago, Silvia wore it during a state visit to Iceland. (The right photo, that annoying text across her eyes regardless, is much more recent.)

After its “rediscovery” it was also spotted atop the heads of Princesses Lillian and Christina, King Karl XVI Gustav’s sisters.

princess lillian and princess christina in steel cut tiara

I’ve often read complaints about the Steel Cut, It’s weird-looking. I don’t like the feather motif. (I like it, but to each their own. The feathery overgrowth in the center reminds me of the  Peacock-tail Ruby Tiara of the Netherlands. Only difference is this bouquet of plumes is not removable as it is on the Ruby Peacock.

So we’re mostly accustomed to seeing the Steel Cut Tiara on Crown Princess Victoria. It is very much one of her go-to tiaras, especially at the Nobel Prizes.

crown princess victoria in steel cut tiara

In fact, I’ve heard many complain that they don’t find it to be a flattering tiara on anyone save the crown princess. I’m not sure what causes this phenomenon. I think the shades of brass, steel and gold compliment her skin tone, hair and eyes. Facts are facts: Vicky rocks the Steel Cut.

What do you think? Awesomely original or ugly and outdated. How about just plain weird?

Anyone else tempted to clean out the kitchen junk drawer to see if there’s some antique, Napoleonic jewellery? Stranger things have happened.

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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10 Responses to Tiara Time! the Steel-Cut Tiara

  1. Titanic Buff says:

    Would have to go with “awesomely original”. And should I come across a tiara while rummaging around in my cabinets, you’ll be the first to know. 😉 That really is strange though. Perhaps whoever “lost” it thought the tiara was ugly and “losing” it was a convenient way to avoid wearing the piece.


  2. Angelyn says:

    The Crown Princess has such strong, attractive features that she doesn’t let the tiara overpower her. I mean, it’s a tiara of steel, after all…


    • Hahaha! Now that you bring it up, I wonder how much it weighs. Then again, some of those pile-of-diamond tiaras have to weight more. Maybe the Steel-Cut is more suitable for foundation support beams…
      The observation about Vicky’s features is spot-on; no joke there 😉


  3. aubrey says:

    I like the delicacy and the steel filigree – a charming headpiece, I should think.

    I am wondering – which suits this better: the 19th century hairstyles, with the hair piled up, or Princess Victoria’s sleeker, modern style?


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