tiara time! the Manchester Tiara

Manchester Tiara Cartier 1903

The Manchester Tiara was commissioned by Consuelo, Dowager Duchess of Manchester in 1903 and crafted by Cartier, primarily using diamonds which Consuelo had supplied. Cartier’s records note that the Dowager Duchess supplied over a thousand brilliant-cut diamonds and more than 400 rose-cut diamonds, while Cartier supplied further rose-cut diamonds and the paste stones (aka glass) which make up the scrolls at the end of each side.

From the Victoria & Albert Museum Catalogue:

manchester tiara on displayDiamond tiara composed of seven graduated heart-shaped openwork motifs with ‘C’ scroll ends, with detachable collet and scroll surmounts, each centre suspending three diamond drops. The smallest heart motif and the ‘C’ scrolls at each end are set with paste, except the three collet diamonds at the centre of each heart and their two outer borders.

manchester tiara heart closeup

This tiara of graduated flaming hearts and C scrolls was inspired by a vision Louis Cartier had of pre-revolutionary France. He galvanized his designers with sketches of 18th-century ironwork and architectural ornaments found in Paris and Versailles. He further roused their creativity by a study of engraved jewellery designs, also en vogue at the time. I can’t believe the V&A Museum catalogue actually used “flaming hearts” in the description. Now We’ll have “Hearts on Fire” the montage song from Rocky IV stuck in our heads for days. dahh…

to marry an English lord

consuelo (then) dowager duchess of manchesterThe 8th Duchess of Manchester (1858-1909) was the hallmark American heiress who came to England to acquire the ultimate status symbol: a title–We mean, fall in love with an English nobleman.  Remember that book To Marry an English Lord? You know, the one that’s been on my “to read” list forever. Well, it’s like that. Consuelo was the daughter of Antonio Yznaga del Valle, of Ravenswood, Louisiana, New York and Cuba. Consuelo’s mama took her to Paris where her American friends included Jennie Jerome—future mother of Winston Churchill and Alva Smith, whom later married a Vanderbilt. Alva named her daughter after her best friend: the sweet elegant Conzuelo Vanderbilt.

mission accomplished!

Viscount Mandeville Vanity Fair 1882-04-22 8th duke of manchester

Consuelo hit the bull, landing a viscount

New York City 1876. Consuelo married George Victor Drogo Montagu, Viscount Mandeville, the future 8th Duke of Manchester, in Grace Church. Good Lord did she swing for the fence! Look at this spiffy gent, such a big deal he got to be a caricature in April 1882’s Vanity Fair.

British Society fell in love with Consuelo. More flattering quotes include: the Duke of Portland. “[She] ‘took Society completely by storm by her beauty, wit and vivacity and it was soon at her very pretty feet.” Portland’s a foot guy…

The Complete Peerage quotes a contemporary. “No one knows how gloriously beautiful a woman can be who did not see the Duchess when she was thirty.” Makes you neurotic once ya hit 32, doesn’t it?

Consuelo became friends with Queen Alexandra. Queen Alix received a bracelet upon the Dowager Duchess’ death in 1909. A letter to the Times described her as ‘one of the first of the American ladies who married into the great English families, and who brought to this country that rare combination of high intelligence, a sunny nature and uncommon personal charm’.

alva vanderbilt jennie jerome consuelo duchess of manchester

(L to R) Alva Vanderbilt with tiny Consuela; teenage Jennie Jerome; Consuelo shows off her tiny waist; Consuelo as Anne of Austria, Louis XIII’s queen, for the Devonshire House Ball in 1897

so the lady was more history than the tiara

ah well…what do you think? How does it fall in your list of diamond tiaras? Does the scrollwork remind you of Versailles?

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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7 Responses to tiara time! the Manchester Tiara

  1. It’s a little overwrought and looks atrocious on Consuelo in that first picture of her!


  2. Angelyn says:

    It is extremely overpowering but typical of that era. Mary of Teck kind of style.


  3. Titanic Buff says:

    Shame on you! Now I won’t know what to expect when I – one day – get around to reading it. “To Marry an English Lord” has been on my to read list forever too. In fact I downloaded a few times but it always came up due before I got around to it. Isn’t that awful?!


  4. Oh, I haven’t read it yet either. Hello half.com!


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

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