tiara time: the Habsburg Beam Tiara

We were shocked and ashamed upon learning there has never been a tiara from Liechtenstien featured on this blog. We’re also proud to anounce we’ve uncover a fairly simple remedy. Ta-da! Yes, it’s a Liechtenstein tiara and it’s called the Hapsburg Beam or Fringe but we’ll get to that.

hapsburg beam tiara

It’s agreed that A.E. Köchert official k.u.k. Hofliferant [translation: official jeweller of the Imperial court] was commissioned to create a fringe tiara by Emperor Franz Josef I. That’s where the agreement ends, even over the term fringe. The style is also referred to as a “beam” or a “sun-ray.” One website even offers the term “solar” but we suspect it’s just a bad translation of sun-ray or vice versa. Facing a deluge of scattered facts, our biggest concern is which term we prefer. All are better than “fringe.” Ugh. That just reminds us of 80s bangs. That Australian hairspray in the purple bottle…Sun ray is more poetic; beam rolls off the tongue, has more comedic boing to it. Which do you prefer? No matter the moniker, this style of tiara was all the rage at the end of the 19th Century, almost every royal collection has at least one of these kokoshnik-inspired halos. It was the “must-have piece” for anyone who was anyone.

hapsburg fringe tiara closeupThis particular setting is apparently Köchert’s signature style. Diamonds set in a gold and silver frame, the base is a no-nonsense row of diamonds. The spike styling is pretty straightforward fringe too, the good ol’ alternater. The wider, taller spires are pavé set diamonds while their shorter, slimmer neighbors are collet diamonds.

The first disagreement arises as to the year the Austrian Emperor ordered the Hapsburg Beam/Fringe/Sun-Ray from Köchert. Some sources claim it was ordered in 1870 for then-Infanta Maria Teresa, daughter of King Miguel of Portugal, in honor of her 1873 wedding to Archduke Karl-Ludwig. Karl-Ludwig was Emperor Franz Joseph I’s little brother, so it’s safe to say nobody stole lil’ Karl-Ludwig’s milk money on the playground. Disagree if you will, but we think a diamond-decked tiara is an indisputably tasteful welcome-to-the-family gift.

The second sources claim it was commissioned in 1890. That’s fine, but the reasoning behind it holds up like a piñata in a hurricane.

maria teresa hapsburg fringe tiara

archducess maria teresa

In 1889, a heartbroken Empress Elisabeth [Franz Joseph’s wife] retired from public life after their son Crown Prince Rudolf killed himself. Archduchess Maria Teresa took over for her sister-in-law during public events alongside Franz Joseph. The “1890-faction” speculates that the commissioning of the Beam Fringe was a result of Maria Teresa’s new de-facto first lady duties. Your Blog Hostess doesn’t think this adds up. Why would the tiara be commissioned 9 years before a suicide? These tragedies aren’t typically announced, planned or penciled in to a calendar. We’re not making light of a tragedy, just the yutzes out there who would think the tiara ordered for that reason. Besides, didn’t Maria Teresa have other tiara events in the 16 years she’d been a Hapsburg?

maria teresa hapsbug beam

a clearer photo of archduchess maria teresa

The 1870 year makes more sense…but just like whether the light really goes off when we close the fridge, we can never truly know.

According to other tiara sites, the most “famous” donning of the Hapsburg Beam is attributed to Archduchess Maria Teresa at the wedding of her step-grandson, future Emperor Karl and Princess Zita of Bourbon-Parma. We’re guessing this is such a memorable donning of diamond headgear because it provides us with the only photograph of the Archduchess wearing the fringe in question.

In 1903, Maria Teresa’s daughter, Archduchess Elisabeth Amelie married Prince Alois of Liechtenstein but the tiara didn’t cross the border until later as the Princely family did not reside in Liechtenstein at the time, rather they took various residencies in Austro-Hungarian empire.

Elisabeth & Alois’ oldest son Franz Josef II became the sovereign prince of Liechtenstein in 1938. It’s uncertain whether the Hapsburg Beam was a wedding gift to Elisabeth or if she inherited it upon her mother’s death in 1944. Regardless of when it became Princess Elisabeth’s property, the Beam tiara made it to Liechtenstein, dubbed with it’s original house of provenance.

princess georgina hapsburg fringe

It was Prince Franz-Josef’s wife Georgina who brought the Beam to the public eye, wearing it for official portraits and tiara events.

princess gina and prince franz josef II

In the 60s and 70s, a wedding tradition was almost established, the incoming brides donned the diamond sun-ray when they wed Princess Gina’s sons.

marie algae prince hans adam wedding

Countess Marie Algaë Kinsky of Wchinitz and Tettau wore it when she married the current Prince Hans-Adam in 1967. And then…

isabelle and prince phillip wedding

Isabelle de l’Arbre de Malander wore the Hapsburg Solar Tiara when she wed Prince Phillip in 1971.

Isabelle in Hapsburg Fringe

Lately, the Hapsburg Beam Fringe has been seen atop Hereditary Princess Sophie’s head for those shiniest of occasions: Crown Princess Victoria’s 2010 nuptials in Sweden, the wedding ball in Monaco and the Queen Beatrix’s gala dinner just before the Dutch Investiture in 2013.

hapsburg tiara sophie

Princess Sophie & Prince Alois in Sweden in 2010 and the Dutch Investiture in 2013, respectively.

The Hapsburg Beam tiara only makes cameos at the most important of royal fetes. It’s a shame…it sticks out in a sea of fringes. Maybe because it’s as high-profile as Batman.

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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15 Responses to tiara time: the Habsburg Beam Tiara

  1. Angelyn says:

    Great post–full of hilarious analogies that manage to be picturesque as well!

    Liked by 1 person

    • and thank you for the promo on Twitter! This post took two months to publish! I clearly remember gathering all the facts & photos before I went back east to my parents’ for Christmas.
      Not that I’m proud of my procrastination but it might explain the half-assed nature of the prose. : /


  2. I side with the 1890 commissioning. Eliz (Sissie) was heartbroken over the suicide of her son and retired from public life. I think by that time she had had enough of the Franz J and the monarchy anyway. Even if the tiara had been commissioned for HER in 1870, I doubt she would have cared who wore it in 1890, as long as she didn’t have to perform the duties required. If it was commissioned for Maria T. in 1870, it certainly came in handy when she had to take over the monarchy duties. Either way, it is a lovely tiara I would enjoy wearing as I sit at my computer!
    Thanks for the interesting post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, the tiara was definitely made for Maria Teresa and not Sissi…Sissi was famous for adorning her long, chestnut hair with bejewelled clips but not really tiaras. Indeed, she did grow tired of being Empress…
      I am currently pondering the good posture required to wear a tiara whilst typing. Might be better than pilates…wonder if my HMO would buy that [insert snort of derison here]
      Thanks for commenting! I was actually just over on Map of Time enjoying the New Jersey Shark Attacks post again. Definitely one of my favorites!


  3. I could so bring tiaras back into fashion 😀 in crystal 😉


  4. I’m with you. Let’s take our tiaras to the streets and the grocery stores. YES. YES. Pick a day.
    I’m really digging the “Beaming Fringe” model. Especially with Princess Sophie’s blue gown with the peek-a-boo shoulder action. Happy New Year! ~Theadora

    Liked by 1 person

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

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