Tiaras were originally made using leather or fabric, decorated with jewels, and would have been very uncomfortable to wear. The tiara would in those times have been lavishly decorated to signify the wealth and status of the wearer, and their widespread use would have been precluded by both status and cost.
Queen Elizabeth II is understood to hold the most valuable tiara collection in the world, with many considered to be priceless. Perhaps the best known tiara is the George IV State Diadem (also known as the Diamond Diadem). This tiara has been worn by British monarchs (male and female!) since it was made in 1820 for the crowning of George IV. Comprising of some 1333 diamonds and 169 pearls, this diadem is part of the British Crown Jewels kept at The Tower of London. The diamonds alone comprise some 325 carats.
More recently, the tiara has evolved into a simpler (and significantly cheaper!) accoutrement, normally comprised of a metal band with crystals and pearls used to adorn and decorate. A tiara can also be decorated with silk flowers to give colour, and co-ordinate with the outfit of the wearer. Precious and semi-precious gemstones including diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds, tourmaline, amethyst and amber can also be used to add class and colour. Diamante and Swarovski crystal beads are however more often used as a much cheaper alternative! Normally faux pearls are used in preference to fresh or salt water pearls, on account of cost. Faux pearls are a small fraction of the cost of natural pearls, and they benefit from a more uniform appearance than their natural counterparts.
The tiara is now used mainly to crown the winner of a beauty pageant, by ladies attending prom functions, and of course by brides and their bridesmaids.
While a tiara may be mass produced, some of the better quality tiaras are hand made by self-employed designers, often producing elegant bespoke work to the instruction of the bride working in conjunction with her hairdresser. A bespoke hand-made tiara costs more than a mass produced tiara, but the effect is often unique, and the overall appearance of class and quality normally worth the extra money.
The variety of tiara designs is quite staggering, ranging from the simple “Alice band” for the minimalist look, to the grander crown tiara, which replicates the look of the regal tiaras used by monarchs all over the world.
There are a great number of designs between these extremes. There are many classic, timeless designs, such as those using arches, waves, and sprays. More recently, more geometric designs have become available, such as the use of squares – not for the faint hearted, but certainly striking in appearance!
Many brides-to-be study the latest fashions in the myriad of magazines and similar publications to see what’s current and in vogue, and of course celebrity weddings continue to remain popular and influential not just for tiaras , but for fashion generally.
So, from its grand beginnings, the tiara has evolved into a more humble -and modern – fashion item for brides. The range of available tiaras is vast, from the inexpensive and simple, through to bespoke hand-made designer models Whatever tiara suits you, you can be sure it’s available somewhere – and if by chance it’s not just ask a designer to make it for you!