Tag Archives: tiara theft

The Duchess and the Maid: 1907

The Duchess and the Maid,

Walter E. Grogan

Mary, Duchess of Birchester sat in her boudoir in the Birchester town house, which is on the west side of Berkeley Square. She was in a peculiarly dissatisfied mood. Circumstances had combined to ruffle what usually was a complacent personality. She had been on a visit to Burnay— sufficient cause for considerable ruffling. Lord Burnay was a cousin of Birchester’s. It is a well-known truism that the relatives with whom one is hampered by birth are bad, but the relatives forced into one’s reluctant bosom by marriage are infinitely worse. Burnay, in addition to being an acquired relative, was a Cabinet Minister with a theological bent, a cumulation of horrors sufficient to depress the lightest-hearted Duchess. And Mary, Duchess of Birchester was that growing anomaly, a well-born Peeress, and had no humour of the music-hall with which to leaven dull decorum. Bridge was taboo at Burnay—another grievous thing. And, above all, on the way down her jewel-case containing the famous Birchester tiara had been stolen.

The manner of the theft followed the usual custom. It had no spark of originality to relieve its crudeness. There was some bustle at the railway terminus; the footman whose duty it was to look after the precious case had had his attention momentarily distracted, a substitution had been effected, and nothing had been discovered until the arrival at Burnay. The substituted case was a marvel of exactness. The Duchess herself had no apprehension until it was opened in her presence by her maid. A few stones—not precious— were all it contained.

Burnay had contrived to see in this unoriginal theft an intervention of Providence not unconnected with bridge.

“My dear Mary, I hope it will be a lesson,” he had said. “No doubt it is intended as a warning.” Being unconvincing, he invariably spoke impressively.

There had followed interviews with detectives, alert men who persisted in suspecting the unlikeliest people and demanded particulars of her Grace’s occupations, which her Grace found very inconvenient to give.

“My dear Burnay,” she had said, “why do we fuss? The tiara is insured. The What-d’You-Call-‘Em Burglary Insurance people will pay the amount—it was insured for a little more than its actual value, in deference to our family pride. And that’s an end to it. The thing is not very old—not two hundred years. Besides, by now they’ve melted it down or cut it up or done whatever they do to these things.”

“Birchester is my cousin. His only claim to fame was in the possession of that tiara, for as Dukes go nowadays a jewel two hundred years in the family is a notable adjunct to rank. And I like to have famous relatives. That also is unique in the Cabinet.” So had Burnay remonstrated, with other references to bridge “absurdly beside the point,” as the Duchess thought. In conclusion he had evinced some shrewdness. “Besides, my dear Mary, you have not yet received the cheque.”

That fact remained unaltered now, and was largely instrumental in rendering Mary, Duchess of Birchester dissatisfied. To her uncommercial mind the transaction should have been so simple. You insured your jewels against theft, your jewels were stolen, therefore you should at once receive a cheque for the amount. That happy simplicity of procedure had not obtained. She had received not a cheque but letters, admirably typewritten no doubt, but otherwise unsatisfactory. They had a clue, they were making all inquiries, and matters were progressing, were the brief epitomes of the insurance company’s lengthy epistles. She had written in answer that the details of their daily occupations were not at all interesting to her, and she would esteem a cheque by return. By return they had sent her a more than usually alert detective, who had suggested Birchester as the possible conjurer of the case, and had been more curious as to her Grace’s habits and customs than any of his predecessors.

Her Grace had been indignant.

“You don’t know his Grace!’” she had cried. “This theft required practice—it was uncommonly well done. My husband is on the board of only one company, and that does not pay even directors’ fees. You see how impossible it is that this could have been his work. Certainly I play bridge—I daresay you play draughts. But I hardly see how our predilections affect this matter.”

This last alert man had vacated her boudoir only half an hour ago. There were therefore admirable reasons why Mary, Duchess of Birchester was dissatisfied.

A rather peremptory knock at the door hardly roused her. She supposed vaguely that it was another alert detective who would insist upon suspecting the butler. She would have to be firm there. Such a butler as Miggs was not to be replaced. Husbands may be replaced, good butlers never.

The door opened, and a quiet, self-possessed woman of thirty entered. She was dressed in black, and she wore no hat. Her face was more shrewd than pretty, and more capable than handsome. She had a determined mouth and chin, and a certain pride was denoted by the way she carried her head.

“Ah, Parker,” Mary, Duchess of Birchester said, “I thought you had gone home. Surely your mother was dead, or your niece was to be christened?  Something of a family nature, I know. It was on the eve of that annoying journey to Burnay, too, and I had to go without you. With a cousin-in-law’s maid one cannot–Positively, my complexion wore atrociously, Parker. Everyone remarked on my ill looks. And I gave you a fortnight’s leave. I remember I thought it a long time for a funeral or a christening: but I really know nothing of these functions in your sphere of life.”

“I am sorry that I inconvenienced your Grace. I do not think your Grace’s complexion is much the worse.” Her manner of speaking conveyed the impression that she was thinking of something else.

“Oh, my dear woman, I had it renovated directly I got back from that terrible place. Really, Parker, Cabinet Ministers grow more like Dissenting ministers every year. And their wives like Dissenting Ministers’ wives.”

“Never mind them, your Grace.” She spoke sharply.

“I don’t, Parker, I don’t. If I did, life would be unlivable.” Her Grace sighed. “The political woman of our set masquerades in the virtues of the lower orders, and the virtues don’t fit. If one might say it of virtues, they seem a trifle loose.”

“I wish to speak to your Grace.”

“Surely they haven’t suspected you, Parker? Ah, you have been away, but you have heard–?” She closed her eyes wearily.

“I have heard about your loss of the tiara.” There was a distinct note of acerbity in the maid’s voice.

“Ah, yes, you would. I was never in the newspapers before, Parker—never!” Her Grace became querulous. “I used to boast of my immunity from print. Now they have dragged in everything about me. One paper brazenly asserts that I am fond of muffins and eat three for tea. What has that to do with the theft? I ask you, Parker, what possible connection can it have?”

“I wish to speak to your Grace about it.”

“The muffins, Parker?”

“No, the theft. I have taken the liberty of telling Miggs that you are engaged, and will be so for an hour.”

“That was thoughtful of you, Parker. Really, I am being slowly talked to death by detectives.”

“It is a personal matter with me, your Grace.” An angry light gleamed in the eyes of the maid, generally so passively capable.

“Then they have suspected you!” cried her Grace. “Take no notice of it, Parker. It is a common affliction I assure you. They have suspected Birchester, and I am in hourly fear that Miggs will be the next.”

“No, they have not suspected me. I am the last person in the world they would suspect.”

“Why? I really don’t see why they should not. One man seriously suggested my brother Jack. He was so positive, and sketched out poor Jack’s probable course of action so graphically that I nearly believed he was guilty. I was quite relieved when I remembered Jack was dead.”

“The reason why they are not likely to suspect me is—that I stole the tiara.” The maid could not altogether restrain an accent of pride.

“You, Parker!” cried her Grace, in amazement. “Why?”

“It is my profession, your Grace.”

“But—but you are my maid! And an excellent maid.”

“In the same way that an actress is an excellent dairymaid. It is all a matter of professional training. I own that I have never before achieved so high a position as maid to a Duchess. My testimonials were hardly sufficient, I thought.”

“No—they were not.” Her Grace paused for a moment. “I think it was the name. It was so typical a name for a lady’s maid.”

“Your Grace has always been an admirer of the British drama.”

“Ah, was that it . . . But the tiara. Really, Parker, after what you have said I must ask you to ring the bell. I shall have to give you in charge. It’s all most annoying.”

“You will not give me in charge,” the maid answered confidently.

“If you are going to crave for mercy—”

“Oh, no ; I shall not do that.”

“You are a very remarkable person, Parker.”

“I am, your Grace.” The maid spoke modestly, but with a certain accent of honest pride. “Professionally, I have no equal.”

“As a maid?”

“As a thief. It is there that you have hurt me. When I think of it I feel so mortified that I could burst into tears.”

“I hope you won’t, Parker. Tears always depress me. On consideration, I think it is unwise of me to continue speaking to you. Please ring, Parker.” Her Grace became perceptibly severe.

“I really do not think your Grace appreciates the position. In the first place, I shall not ring; in the second place, I have given strict orders that you are not to be disturbed; and in the third place, you are—if I may respectfully say so—in my power. Above all, you have done me a wrong, and I know that your love of justice, inherent in all members of the hereditary ruling Peers—believe me, I insinuate nothing against those Scotch and Irish families which are unrepresentative—will insist upon your righting it.”

“I was under the impression that you had done me a wrong,” gasped Mary, Duchess of Birchester. “Surely the theft of the Birchester tiara—”

“Your impression is erroneous. I stole a tiara.–not the Birchester tiara. That is how you have humbled me—that is how you have hurt my professional pride.”

Mary, Duchess of Birchester would have grown pale if her recently renovated complexion had permitted such a feat. As it was, she fell back limply in the embrace of the cushions of her chair.

“What do you mean, Parker?” she demanded in a shaking voice.

“I stole a tiara from your case—or rather, I engineered it. The absolute details are, of course, left to subordinates. I arranged everything. I had the substituted case made to my own designs. I myself ascertained the exact weight of your jewel-case when packed. I am not sure whether you weighed the substituted case with the pebbles it contained. Possibly not. For my own sake, I could wish you had. It was quite accurate. The mere trick of substitution was carried out by my subordinates. You can imagine my extreme mortification when I found that a paste tiara had been substituted. I subjected the tiara to no tests—reprehensibly careless, no doubt; but I relied on you. I confess I have been deceived in you–grossly deceived.”

“I don’t—don’t understand, Parker,” her Grace said weakly.

“Shall I continue?’’ said the maid, firmly but respectfully. “I have ascertained that the Birchester tiara is pawned, and that the counterfeit was then made. That was some time before I came to you. Since then you have done pretty well at bridge. Had you been incurring losses I should have been more careful. You will perceive that it is useless to protest further, as I am acquainted with all the facts.”

Her Grace thought for a while. Then she sat forward a little. This action caused the maid something of uneasiness. She would have preferred dealing with a perfectly limp Duchess.

“The theft even of a paste tiara is a theft, and punishable, is it not?” the Duchess inquired. “I daresay you know more about such matters than I do, Parker; but I believe I am correct.”

“That is so. But the fact of the paste substitution would be made known.”

“It might—I throw this out as a suggestion, Parker—it might have been made by you for substitution.”

“That is ingenious—but it will hardly hold water. I am used to thinking these matters out. It is part of my professional equipment. You forget the pawnbroker.”

“It occurred to me,” said the Duchess, gradually becoming possessed of more backbone, “it distinctly occurred to me that Erickstein, having in his possession an article worth far more than the amount lent upon it, would respect my secret. Surely his business would suffer if he were known to betray family secrets?”

“There would be the difficulty of disposal. But I confess I do not rely upon this. Erickstein, no doubt, made the paste copy?”

“He did. I am not a business women, Parker, but—but there is no correspondence between us, not even an account. My father used to say it was beneath our position to write on business matters. A bad memory is then so useful.”

“So there is only Erickstein in the secret?”

“Exactly. And having no absolute proof of the transaction, he would hardly accuse me of—of ordering a substitute. You see, Parker, one can really trust no one nowadays. For all Erickstein knows I might say he had substituted the paste one for the real, which was sent to him for cleaning. The discovery of the real tiara in his safe might lend colour to the statement.”

The maid glanced at the Duchess with admiration.

“I do not think I ever appreciated your Grace at your true worth before,” she said. “If we could be partners—”

“No, no,” murmured the Duchess. “Noblesse oblige. Besides, it’s a risky business at the best. If I have to go into trade I prefer marriage brokerage.”

“Then–I grieve to say it, but I really have no alternative; the confidence of my subordinates is shaken, my position at the head of my profession is threatened—then I must remind you that his Grace does not know of this transaction with Erickstein, and that he will be informed.”

“Ah, my husband—I had forgotten him,” said the Duchess, “The habits of years are so difficult to eradicate quickly. Of course, Birchester would believe anything to my demerit. Such a gullible man otherwise. It is strange, is it not? Well, what do you propose?”

“You grant I have a strong card there?’’

“There are certainly reasons why at the present moment I am not anxious that Birchester should have the whip hand of me.”

“May I presume to guess at the reasons:” smiled the maid.

“It would be, as you say, presumption,” answered her Grace.

“You have done fairly well at bridge lately.”

“I have been fortunate in discovering some enthusiastic players. They have had little experience. I helped to correct that. This is an age of education, Parker.”

“Not always free, your Grace.”

“Well, well. There are no scholarships tenable at the University of the World.”

“Of course I could not ask you for the full value of the Birchester tiara. That is fifteen thousand, I believe.”

“You flatter me and it. Ten thousand is the outside price. Some of the stones are Brazilian.”

“What did you get on it with Erickstein?”

“Three thousand. It was all I needed just to tide over.”

“Are you in a position to redeem?”

“Yes.”

“Suppose we say that amount? I am really dealing lightly with you. In view of those reasons concerning your Grace and his Grace, about which it would be presumptuous to assert a knowledge, I think I am dealing very lightly with you.”

“I am right in presuming you have the counterfeit with you?”

“Yes. It is in a cardboard box done up in brown paper in the hall.”

“And that I shall retain it ”

“You will redeem it with the three thousand.”

“Very well. I must give you a cheque—I have no cash by me. Will you ring for Miggs and ask him to fetch the cardboard box and the brown paper?”

“I should prefer cashing the cheque first.”

Mary, Duchess of Birchester smiled as she rose slowly from her chair and crossed the room to a small davenport.

“Naturally. But I should prefer possession of the counterfeit first—also naturally. An exchange, Parker, will be an alteration of your methods, of course, for we are told it is no robbery. But you must do me the favour of pocketing your professional predilections for once.”

“Your signature to the cheque will be a safeguard.”

“You perceive I place myself in your hands,” agreed her Grace. “Please ring.”

The maid thought for a moment, then rang. When Miggs appeared, she gave the necessary directions. In the meantime, her Grace chose a pen with elaboration, and wrote a cheque with the deliberation characteristic of her. She blotted it carefully and thoughtfully, and then held it in her hand.

“Not until the exchange, Parker,” she said. “I am so unused to these little transactions that I force myself to be as careful as possible for my own protection.”

Miggs returned with a package, a slight expression of disdain at the plebeian brown paper visible upon his face.

“Thank you,” said her Grace and Parker simultaneously, both holding out hands. Miggs considered the demands with care, and deliberately chose the Duchess, for rank will tell, even with a butler. “Your Grace –” commenced Parker,

“Oh, Miggs,” said the Duchess, clasping the box thankfully, “you will be glad to hear that the tiara is quite safe. Parker has only just heard of my loss–-she has a cultivated distaste for newspapers quite remarkable in this age of literary dissipation–and has hurried to me at once. It appears that, owing to a misunderstanding, she returned the tiara to safe keeping.” Her hand closed more firmly on the box. “If any more alert detectives call, you may say that it was mislaid. You can go, Miggs.”

“Very good, your Grace,” said Miggs, and went.

“Oh, here is the cheque, Parker,” her Grace observed, laying it on the davenport, and stripping the cardboard box.

“There is a mistake, your Grace,” cried the maid. “You have made out the cheque for two guineas!”

“Exactly,” answered the Duchess—“in lieu of a month’s wages. You have taken great care of this, Parker,” she added, taking out the tiara. “Thank you so much. Good afternoon.”

The Sketch 30 January 1907: p. 88-90

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil is quite dizzy from the to-and-fro-ing of the above dialogue. It is usually the clever servant who prevails in these exchanges, so this is a refreshing change. Parker rightly deserved to have her professional pride humbled: any actual lady’s maid worth her pay would have known how to detect pastes by their temperature (paste is a poor conductor of heat) or their wear.  Mrs Daffodil also wonders if the cheque was actually a good one. Of course, a neat twist would be if, in the sequel to this tale, the Duchess hired a lady’s maid, sent by Parker in response to the advertisement. Her Grace was fortunate that the code of the jewel thief precludes murder.

The theme of pastes substituted for real diamonds in aristocratic tiaras is a hackneyed one. One wonders what a random sampling of the tiaras of the Peerage would yield to-day.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdote

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

The Tell-Tale Sealing Wax: 1908

SEALING-WAX CLUE.

FOOTMAN-THIEF TRACKED.

A remarkable story of tell-tale sealing wax was told at Leeds Assizes in the case of George Percy Finn, aged eighteen, footman, indicted for the theft of a diamond tiara, value £1300, the property of Louisa Montagu, at High Melton, Yorkshire, between January 1 and 4. The prisoner pleaded guilty.

Counsel stated that the tiara was a wedding present to Mrs. Montagu. The prisoner had been in the service of Mr. and Mrs. Montagu for about three months, and was third footman. The tiara was kept in a safe in the pantry, and was in charge of the first footman, in whose custody was the key of the safe. At twelve o’clock on January 2 the tiara was in the safe, and was there seen, by the first footman, who, however, missed it at two o’clock the following day. He at once informed Mr. Montagu. Superintendent Hicks, of Doncaster, went to Melton Park, and interviewed the servants, including the prisoner. They all denied knowledge of the tiara.

On January 8 Mr. Montagu received an anonymous letter to the effect that a tiara had been taken from his house, but was quite safe and would be returned whole for £500. If the jewellery were wanted, Mr. Montagu was to put a “personal” advertisement in a paper. The postmark on the envelope was London.

The letter was sealed with magenta-coloured sealing wax, similar to a stick in Mrs. Montagu’s boudoir. Suspicion fell upon the prisoner, who had access to the boudoir. On January 11 a red stick of sealing wax was substituted for the magenta one, and on the 18th Superintendent Hicks wrote in answer to the advertisement, and sent it to the agony column of the paper specified. In the meantime, a detective had taken up his abode in Melton Park, and by him the prisoner was seen to pick up the newspaper in question and begin to read the agony column.

On January 15 a second anonymous letter came to Mr. Montagu to the same effect, only in stronger terms. This was sealed with vermilion sealing wax, and bore the postmark of Kentish Town. Superintendent Hicks went to the prisoner’s home in London. The prisoner’s mother handed him a letter from her son requesting her to post the letter sent to Melton Park. The superintendent immediately left again for Melton Park, and arrested the prisoner.

The stolen property was afterwards found hidden in a field.

Mr. Justice Sutton sentenced the prisoner to twelve months’ imprisonment with hard labour on the Borstal system, when he would have the opportunity of learning some trade and earning an honest livelihood.

Auckland [NZ] Star 2 May 1908: p. 15

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  The agony columns of the newspapers were full of cryptic advertisements, like this one–obviously written in cypher.

NY Herald 22 August 1879 agony column in cypher

And this one, which suggests that a deceived husband is no longer in the dark.

owl agony column NY Herald 4 October 1879

[Many thanks to Undine of Strange Company for these choice specimens.]

The agony columns of the Times were particularly renowned for their blend of comedy, heart-break, and mystery.

It is a matter of considerable surprise that the “intelligent foreigner ” has made so little, in his criticisms on English eccentricities, of that astonishing product of the present generation, the second column of the Times. To the thorough Englishman it is difficult to understand how other European nations contrive to get on without the help of that daily outlet for the anxieties of the bewildered and the bereaved. Here, taking up the Times of a day or two ago, are nearly a score of these petitions for information on all sorts of subjects. Some half-dozen invocations begin the list in which “Toots,” “Sea,” ” Claudine,” “Duffer,” and “K–ff” are piteously implored to communicate with the heart-broken advertisers, either directly, or through the medium of one of those strange secret agencies, whose existence and doings are so bewildering to steady-going families. Next comes an appeal to a lady, mentioned by name, to apply at an hotel in the classic district of the Minories on urgent private affairs. Then follows a list of all sorts of possessions, lost by their careless owners, from certificates of a great Indian railway down to bracelets, dogs, and bunches of keys, for which rewards varying in amount are specially promised, but most surprising in the way of promised reward is the price set upon “a young married lady” by her disconsolate husband or friends. For the lady herself, including her apparel, besides earrings and brooch, only the sum of  £2 is offered. The Pall Mall Gazette [London England] 5 December 1868: p. 5

It is a pity that young George got ideas above his station. Sealing wax, indeed!  Ideally, he would have enclosed the anonymous letter–written with his non-dominant hand–on the cheapest possible stationary, enclosed in an envelope filched from a hotel lounge, sealed with mucilage from the common glue pot, and smudged with his grubby fingermarks, although the latter might have proved his undoing. The Fingerprint Branch at New Scotland Yard was created in July 1901.  The Devil is in the details….

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

Hints on Tiaras: 1907

It was not long ago that a woman went to a metropolis from her country home to spend a night in a hotel. She brought her jewel box with her and a clever hotel thief away with her tiara. To this day she has never got the jewels back and there are persons heartless enough to say that a woman who could not spend a night in town without her tiara deserved to lose it. They do not understand the importance that this form of jewellery has assumed. In explaining why she had come to town for twenty-four hours with such a valuable ornament, the victim of the thief called on English precedent and quoted a duchess, who said she would as soon go about now without her tiara as without her toothbrushes.

The ring of tiaras in the so-called golden horseshoe of the Metropolitan Opera House in New York bears witness to the importance that this form of headdress bears to wealth and social distinction. The outward and visible sign of a certain material condition is the tiara. In England the duchesses have had them for years, and the wealthy intruders, whether they come from Australia or South Africa, immediately concern themselves the style of their tiaras.  In the large cities the show girl or the actress who has acquired fame wants first of all a tiara.

The crown of diamonds and pearls that rests on the brow of Miss Gilman will  undoubtedly make its appearance in rivalry with other tiaras once an impending social event takes place. This tiara was by the most famous jeweller of the Avenue de l’Opera, and is classical in the purity of its outlines. It follows exactly the form of a princess’ crown and the younger women of the royal family in Germany, Russia, and England top their charms with such an adornment once they have reached an age in which the tiara is permissible.

These crowns are not for the young women of the sort of society that understands their purpose. It is the dowager who has the first call. Young girls not yet married are allowed to enjoy the tiara only in a discreet form shown. A thin band of gold and jewels–preferably not diamonds–with the mitigation of an aigrette–is the most ambitious form that any young woman with an idea as to the fitness of things would aspire to.

 

The English crown worn by Ellis Jeffreys is the fashion most popular now in London when the wearer is not going to an impressive social function. These tiaras are made with not more than three points which are sometimes in the form of stars. Mrs. Titus of New York, has a diamond tiara composed wholly of five stars. The center star, which sits over the forehead, is the largest, and the four others decline gradually in size until the two at each end are not more than two inches in diameter. The central star, however, measures three inches from point to point. These are the tiaras which are appropriate, according to the modes imported from London for dinners, for a box in the theatre, and, above all, for rather young matrons on all occasions.

 

Dowagers who have passed beyond a certain age would never be content with such a slight jewelled decoration in the hair, for when they wear a crown it is imperative that it have a certain weight and value. A well-known matron wears on state occasions a wonderful tiara of diamonds and pear-shaped pearls. The diamonds are arranged in two circles of large stones with a grilling of smaller gems forming a connecting network between them. Twelve large pear-shaped pearls rise from the top band of diamonds.

Queen Marguerita of Italy in pearls and tiara.jpg

The same treatment of the pearls is seen in the tiara of Mme. Boninsegna, which is heavier in appearance and characterises of the exotic taste of the Southern craftsmen. This tiara, which was made in Rome after one worn occasionally by the Dowager Queen Margherita, shows the Italian love of sumptuousness and impressiveness at the cost of grace and lightness. Such a headdress would, of course, be impossible except on a most formal occasion. The woman who appeared at dinner with such a structure on the top of her head would embarrass the waiters as well as the guests. The pictures of the court beauties of Italy, show many of them attired with just such massive and magnificent tiaras. It is said that Elena the present Queen, has made the most emphatic protest possible against this ornate fashion by always assuming on festal occasions a very narrow coronet, which is in form very much like that worn by Miss Jeffreys.

It seems to be an unwritten rule that tiaras should be of diamonds, although there is no stone so trying to women not in the first blush of youth. A massive crown of flashing brilliants on any woman’s head will absorb all the brightness from her own eyes, making them look dull and old in contrast. It is for that reason that Sarah Bernhardt long ago gave up diamonds for other stones.

 

Women who wear tiaras in this country do it of course with no idea of their political significance, while in Europe it is necessary in private life to avoid  the pointed crown, which indicates rank, whether it be the five points of the countess or the nine points of a princess. Such precautions are not necessary in this country, and women take any share which they can afford, or which is becoming to them. It was this freedom in selection that led a foreigner to express his astonishment at a large ball given recently in New York.

“How does it happen,” he asked, surprised at the number of nine-pointed coronets, “that there are only princesses here in the United States?”

The semi-precious stones that have recently come to be used so generally are popular for headdresses now, and a tiara of them may be bought for less than $500, whereas a diamond tiara may cost from $100,000 to three times as much. These stones afford very attractive combinations of color. Thus the coral tiara made of the pink stones which is worn by a society woman with prematurely gray hair is more appropriate than anything else she could possibly put on.

turquoise tiara

Turquoise and diamond tiara, which may also be worn as a necklace, c. 1890 http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/Lot/a-late-victorian-turquoise-and-diamond-tiara-5575584-details.aspx

In the same way, tiaras of turquoise and topaz are very becoming to women who are very blond or very brunette. These semi-precious stones are usually set in very light designs, with no effort to give the look of solidity usually sought in the diamond tiaras of the finest kind.

Another new style popular this season for the first time is the enamel tiara, made in imitation of flowers and leaves. They are for the most part low and compact, having the appearance of flowers entwined so as to make a wreath for the hair. They are usually much smaller than the size of the real flower or leaf, and are sometimes finished with diamonds and other stones. The ornamentation of the stones is slight, however, as the prevailing intent of the design is to imitate nature. These enamel tiaras sometimes reach $200 in price.

The Washington [DC] Post 20 January 1907: p. 71

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: To-day is “International Tiara Day,” a time to celebrate the charms of the tiara in all of its many incarnations.

Khedive of Egypt tiara Danish Royal collection Cartier 1904

Khedive of Egypt tiara by Cartier, 1904. From the Danish Royal collection. http://orderofsplendor.blogspot.com/2017/06/tiara-thursday-khedive-of-egypt-tiara.html

A New York millionaire’s wife is wearing a diamond tiara about which she tells an amusing anecdote. Last summer the wife was abroad, and her husband told her she could buy a tiara if the price was not exorbitant. The woman selected a beauty in Paris, and cabled a description: “Tiara with pearl tip. Price. 85,000 francs.” The husband replied: “No. Price too high.”

But the woman misread the objecting cable message.

She thought her husband’s stocks were on the advance, and that he signified his generosity by cabling “No price too high.” Instead of buying the tiara for 85,000 francs she selected a handsomer set of gems for 125,000 francs, or $25,000.

The Argonaut [San Francisco, CA] 23 May 1904

May all of Mrs Daffodil’s readers celebrate International Tiara Day in so felicitous a fashion!

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.