Tiara Time! the difference between a Tiara and a Diadem (really!)

Many of you beloved visitors frequent that link up top “Tiara Terminology” and are therefore in the know about the “Tiara vs. Diadem” debate. We must turn to semantics to find the difference because physically We don’t have a lot of rhyme or reason with which to work.

portland antique sapphire diamond and natural pearl tiara

not a diadem

Previously, the best reasons We came upon were “A diadem denotes royalty, a tiara does not.” But then aren’t all tiaras in the royal collections diadems? Then we had “A tiara is higher in the middle & tapers while a diadem goes all the way around the head.” Baloney. The Portland Tiara isn’t the Portland Diadem even though it has a fixed width of 54 cm (just over 24 inches).

So in the end, as always, it comes down to etymology. (You have know idea how this delights Us…We were a Creative Writing/English major and an ESL teacher for 11 years. We love this geeky, OED, morphological stuff. Yes, I’m making the Finger Pyramid of Evil Contemplation right now.) Alright, so in the beginning there were only diadems.

diadem: from the Greek diadein meaning “to bind aroundand thus begins the journey from ancient verb to divine headress!

Long story short, all other terms for royal headgear, tiara, coronet, chaplet, the whole shmear, are simply subcategories or more specific descriptions of a diadem. To put it in SAT terms

tiara : diadem :: sedan : car

I wonder if the SAT still has that bastard analogy section. Talk about square pegs in round holes…and now they have another 1000 points on the damn thing. Gee, We would’ve liked an extra 1000 points in margin for error. In case you’re wondering–yes, your Blog Hostess has a hatred of standardized testing…and number 2 pencils, naturally.

George IV State DiademSo, long story short, that differentiation will be added to the Tiara Terminology page. Conversely, how many famous royal jewels are labelled ‘diadems’? I can only think of one, famous thanks to the UK postage stamp and some profiles on pence coins. The George IV Diadem. Now looking into the future, can you see Charles or Wills wearing the George IV? I didn’t think so. It has a distinctly feminine quality, either that or we’ve all come to associate it exclusively with Queen Elizabeth. There’s a good reason for that.

king george iv state diadem

(left to right) Queen Alexandra, Queen Elizabeth II, Queen Victoria and some stamps

Though it was made for George IV, he did not wear it, though his wife Alexandra did. Since then, only women have worn it. I’m not sure how I feel about that. It doesn’t seem appropriate for Kate…that’s who tiaras, circlets, kokoshniks and aigrettes are intended.

But that’s just my opinion. Who do you think will be the next to sport the George IV Diadem?


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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13 Responses to Tiara Time! the difference between a Tiara and a Diadem (really!)

  1. Brilliant. Brilliant. Brilliant. As always, witty, too. I’m taking notes!! (while adjusting my glittering head gear)!! T.


  2. Angelyn says:

    I’ve been searching for a photo of the George IV diadem–it was supposedly made from his daughter’s diadem–Charlotte, Princess of Wales.


    • Huh…now I’ve gotta dig in & research! I love tales of recycled tiaras or “where are they now?” headgear. I had read (but I didn’t verify with another source) that the GeoIV was made to go over something other piece for his coronation. Somebody deemed it unseemly and the rest is history. He gave it to his wife to wear instead…we should all be so lucky! That thing has serious bling!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Tiara Time: Baby Cambridge’s First Tiara | tiaras and trianon

  4. Barbara Goss says:

    George 4th had a wife called Alexandra?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah no! [thanks for the catch!] George IV was married to Caroline of Brunswick. (Yeesh, bad marriage there!) I searched for some pics but found no proof that Caroline ever wore the diadem.

      Queen Alexandra, however, did enjoy wearing it. She was married to Edward VII.

      I guess the moral here is, don’t believe anything you read on the Internet. But it seems you already knew that, Barbara!

      Thanks again, I always appreciate correction, be they facts or typos. Sometimes editing you own work can be a nightmare! I hope you’ll be a regular here!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Lady says:

    This makes so much more sense now! 🙂 The next to wear that diadem? Probably Camilla when Charles becomes king.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Regarding this part of your article:
    “So in the end, as always, it comes down to etymology. (You have know idea how this delights Us…We were a Creative Writing/English major and an ESL teacher for 11 years.”

    Ummm…did you catch the mistake? Darlin’, how embarrassing! lol IMHO, word meanings change because people don’t KNOW (ah-HEM!) what a word or term means, and they use it incorrectly, and it becomes accepted colloquially, and before you know it, BAM, the meaning has changed through use and acceptance over the years. Just MHO, of course.


  7. Pingback: Tiara versus Diadem – The REAL Difference | Jewelry blog

  8. Pingback: Pudderfarvet garn og en tiara med rhinsten - Vintage AlfienVintage Alfien

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