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State Banquet Jewels: In Which We Talk of Tiara Etiquette and Bulk Diamonds (Ahem)

We are back to look at jewelry possibilities for Tuesday’s state dinner at Buckingham Palace. (We planned to also cover gown designers in this post, but that will come over the weekend, we don’t want to scrimp on jewelry information and photos.)

In an effort to offer some context in terms of just how formal this event is we share a photo of HM at the state banquet she and Prince Philip hosted at BP for Singapore’s President Tony Tan and Mrs. Mary Tan last October.Singapore visit state banquet

A closer look at some of the gems worn by HM on that occasion.

Goff Photo/Splash News

Goff Photo/Splash News

Do we think Kate will wear pieces of this kind? No, the picture simply provides a frame of reference. Among other things, the Duchess has no interest in wearing anything that might appear to ‘compete’ for attention with HM’s jewels. Additionally, she has not shown a fondness for large gems and jewelry, thus far her taste seems to run to finer, more delicate pieces. Nor does she have other ‘orders’ that we know of, requiring brooches and/or a sash. Having said that, she will be wearing jewels with some level of gravitas. Kate’s look will probably be more akin to that seen on Sophie, Countess of Wessex at the October banquet.Nunn Syndication/POLARIS

With that in mind, let’s talk about some of the higher profile jewelry we have seen the Duchess wear in the past. We’ll begin with the gems Kate used to accessorize her Jenny Packham evening gown at the Saint Andrews University 600th gala at the Met. The chandelier style earrings showcase several strands of diamonds with a large emerald, that emerald is also surrounded by diamonds. The bracelet echoes this motif.



Here is a set we have only seen Kate wear once, a Mouawad ruby & diamond necklace and bracelet.  (That was the Sun Military Awards, Kate wore an Alexander McQueen creation.) Arguably this *could* make a lovely tiara for the Duchess; I say that knowing almost nothing enough about the mechanics of such things, recognizing it may be a total non-starter from a design and construction standpoint.Polaris Images/Splash News/Splash News

Many will recall the deco-style diamond earrings we have seen several times, shown below at the In-Kind Direct reception at Clarence House in 2011. (The gown is by Amanda Wakeley.)©PA Wire

We show the earrings again at the In-Kind Direct Reception, and also as worn in Canada on the North American tour.PA Wire

A closer look, along with two photos of another UFO (Unidentified Fashion Object) pair on the right, this is the pair that appears to be diamonds with a center aquamarine.Kate Diamond Deco Earrings 3 Shots Aqua Diamond Earrings 2 Pix

Tight shots of the diamond bracelet Kate frequently wears with the deco drops.©PA Wire/PA Wire/Splash

Those same deco drops were worn with a significant piece loaned to the Duchess by HM for a 2014 engagement at the National Portrait Gallery. Below you see Kate wearing that piece, the ‘Nizam of Hyderabad’ necklace.Polaris/

The necklace was a wedding gift for then-Princess Elizabeth. More from the Artemisia’s Royal Jewels blog.

One of the most beautiful gifts came from the Nizam of Hyderabad. The Nizam was the owner of one of the most celebrated and largest private jewellery collections in the world, and his gift was suitably impressive – a demi-parure of a tiara and necklace.The necklace was purchased from Cartier.
A closer look at the piece, and as worn by HM on the cover of Elizabeth: Reigning in Style.
The Royal Collection/Anova Books

The Royal Collection/Anova Books

Another pair that were said to be a gift, shimmering diamonds in a triple strand drop design, first seen at the 2011 BAFTA dinner in Los Angeles, and again with the Papyrus tiara worn to the 2013 diplomatic

So what gleaming, glittering gems will we see the Duchess wear? Presuming media reports were accurate, we do know the Duchess will be sporting one new piece of jewelry, the Royal Family Order of Queen Elizabeth II (info here). Below you see it as worn by the Duchess of Cornwall.Robin Nunn/Nunn Syndication/Polaris Images

In terms of Kate’s other jewelry on Tuesday, the options are myriad. There’s no shortage of eye-popping pieces in the Queen’s collection that could be loaned to the Duchess for the banquet. Additionally, we don’t know what important pieces Kate may now have in her own collection, perhaps items given as wedding gifts by other countries, or things she may have received as gifts from family members. As far as the pieces we have already seen on the Duchess, I would be surprised if Kate wore any of them with the exception of the UFO earrings worn to the BAFTA event and diplomatic reception; if Kate wears the Papyrus again those could well make a return appearance. However, the formality at Tuesday’s function transcends any of the previous social engagements encountered by the Duchess since marrying Prince William, significant pieces are de rigeur. Below, brief thoughts regarding items that qualify as ‘jewelry with gravitas’ suitable for Tuesday’s event:

  • The diamond/emerald set seen at the Met Gala – I’ve no particular reason to suggest we won’t see the diamond and emeralds demi-parure again, it’s merely a hunch on my part.
  • The Nizam of Hyderabad necklace – this was not my favorite piece on Kate. It somehow looked heavy, not in the sense of what it weighed, but in its appearance on Kate’s frame; its bulk seemed too big for the Duchess. (Oh, to speak of diamonds in terms of their ‘bulk’!!)
  • The Robinson Pelham acorn earrings worn on Kate’s wedding day – again, no specific reasoning as to why I don’t think the Duchess will wear these again, it is just a guess. One thought regarding the earrings: it’s entirely possible there is a matching necklace and/or bracelet we may someday see on the Duchess.

HM at the 2011 state banquet for President and Michelle Obama.Nunn Syndication/POLARIS

Another look at state banquet attire (albeit 1989) as worn by Diana, Princess of Wales; she was arriving for a Nigerian state banquet in 1989. This event was at Claridges, not Buckingham Palace; my guess is it is a skosh less formal than those held at the Palace.

A 2001 state banquet at Buckingham Palace,Sophie Wessex can be seen at the top of the photograph.

Another look at last October’s state banquet for Singapore.Dominic Lipinski/NunnRota/Nunn Syndication/Polaris

Before we get to Kate’s tiara, a bit of background on tiaras. There is always discussion about when, where and how tiaras should be worn. We turn to Geoffrey Munn, author of Tiaras: A History of Splendor for perspective. These quotes are from a 2002 Telegraph article about tiaras.

For a start, unmarried women traditionally should never wear them, says Mr Munn,

The first rule of wearing a tiara, according to Britain’s leading authority on the subject, is that rank does not dictate who can or cannot place a dazzling array of gems on their head. Rather it is the occasion.

And from The Royal Order of Splendor:

Tiara events aren’t all that common now, and the most accurate answer to the question at hand is: you wear a tiara when the dress code says you should. It’s the hostess/host’s choice….here are some general guidelines:

  • Time of day. The first guideline is the time of the event. Tiaras are for evening affairs. Afternoon might be close enough; this was the case at Crown Princess Victoria’s wedding (held at 3:30 pm), where the events continued on well into the night. 
  • State occasions. The more formal and important an event, the more likely you are to see tiaras. That said, nothing stops a person from organizing a private event with tiaras included, such as Elton John’s annual White Tie and Tiara Ball…..

We hear more from Mr. Munn via a 2013 Forbes article on tiara etiquette.

…even in 1900 people needed the reassurance supplied on the invitation, ‘Tiaras will be worn,’ was shown to the bottom left of the invitation. The strictest protocol proscribed tiaras for girls and unmarried women. They were also proscribed in public places of entertainment like hotels and hired ballrooms.”

Splash News/Splash News

A refresher on the tiaras Kate has worn: for her 2011 wedding the Duchess selected the Halo, or ‘Halo Scroll’ tiara, a piece created by Cartier in 1936 and loaned to Kate for the occasion. Originally a gift to the Queen Mother, the tiara was eventually passed on to her daughter, HM Queen Elizabeth II. 

And Kate wearing the Papyrus, or Lotus Flower (it is referred to by both names) tiara to that December 2013 diplomatic reception.

Jesal / Tanna / Splash News

Jesal / Tanna / Splash News

Background on this piece from The Royal Order of Sartorial Splendor:

….this was seen on the Queen Mother in her early years as Duchess of York…. It was made from one of her wedding gifts, a necklace of a Greek key pattern with pendant diamonds and pearls given by her husband, the future George VI.

What do some of the experts think we’ll see Kate wearing? From Ella Kay of The Court Jeweller:

I’d love to see Kate wear a tiara that’s been hidden away for years — perhaps the diamond and sapphire bandeau or the Persian turquoises once worn by Princess Margaret. But I have a sneaking suspicion that we’ll see the Papyrus/Lotus Flower again.

Ella isn’t the only one thinking seeing the Bandeau as a good fit for the Duchess; the following is from a March 2011 Royal Order of Splendor post:

It’s a delicious piece, isn’t it? A whopper of a sapphire surrounded by a delicate diamond pattern in sort of a sun ray shape. Grand, yet not too big.

I think this one’s a natural suggestion for Kate. (Not for the wedding, but perhaps later.) She already has the sapphire engagement ring. Plus, it would go great with some of the Windsor’s sapphire pieces that I don’t think we see enough of.

The Persian Turquoise Tiara Ella mentions, additionally known as the Triumph of Love Tiara.

We also asked Anna of My Small Obsessions for her thoughts on Tuesday’s tiara:

I see two choices for The Duchess of Cambridge. She could wear the Cartier Halo tiara again, along with her wedding earrings by Robinson Pelham; that would make many people happy. Or, as a personal preference, I would love to see her again in the Papyrus/Lotus tiara, as it’s a very delicate diamond tiara, which suits the Duchess’s petite face perfectly.

I know many people would love to see the Cambridge Lover’s Knot tiara, but I am not sure this is the event for that piece. It’s Kate’s first state dinner and she will probably have a more conservative approach in terms of her jewelry, including what tiara she chooses. She will not want the focus on her jewelry, but on China and the guests of honor. However I would like to be mistaken, as it has been hidden for way too long.

There are other beautiful tiaras, like The Festoon Tiara – but it belongs to Princess Anne and she has worn it frequently, and also loaned it to her daughter-in-law Autumn Phillips for her wedding. Or Queen Victoria’s Sapphire Coronet, however we are not even sure if it still belongs to the royal family.”

The Festoon Tiara was actually given to Princess Anne by a shipping company after she christened one of the firm’s ships. For photos of Princess Anne in the Festoon click here. You can just about see her wearing it in this row of tiara-crowned heads at a 2008 state dinner.

The Sapphire Cornet mentioned by Anna, initially created for Queen Victoria in the 1840s. In a comment Darlene C. says she would love to see Kate in a ‘different tiara for the state banquet,’ like the Strathmore Rose tiara; that tiara is shown below.

Regardless of which tiara the Duchess, or anyone else elects to wear, there is still a logistical issue: affixing the item to one’s head in a way ensuring the piece will stay there. The Royal Order of Splendor has a nifty post addressing this topic.

In reality, ladies today are fighting an uphill battle when it comes to tiara attachment. Tiaras can be a century or two old – think how much hairstyles have changed since the initial designs were completed.

Some tiaras have a base that can be wrapped in fabric or ribbon – something with a bit of cushion to it, preferably. This helps not only with comfort but can add some traction for use with shiny, freshly washed hair. It also gives the hairpins a better spot to hang on to, as hairpins are another obvious method of sticking a tiara to a hairdo.

Some may recall James Ward’s explanation of how that worked with Kate’s wedding tiara: he said it was essentially sewn into her hair. In this photo you can just see the base in Kate’s hair beneath the veil, wrapped in brown fabric to blend in with her hair.



It will be a delight to see what the Duchess and others wear for Tuesday evening’s banquet. Is there something specific you would like to see Kate wear? Let us know in the comments section.

We will see you Saturday for a quick look at what Kate might wear, along with hoped-for coverage of William and Kate at the Wales vs. South Africa rugby match. That event begins at 4pm BST, that is 11am EDT/8am PDT. Neither royal’s attendance has been confirmed for that event.


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Suzy Q

Tuesday 20th of October 2015

Catherine looks stunning!!!! The red dress is total perfection!!! I love the tiara now that we to see how it looked when she wore it the first time. The diamond cuff braclets on each wrist were completely unexpected and turned this look from simply beautiful to iconic!!!


Tuesday 20th of October 2015

So, it was the triple-strand earring and the Lotus tiara. I think she looks lovely.


Tuesday 20th of October 2015

On second look, I see that she's repeated her ensemble of that December 2013 reception. Rather undaring of her, but I still like the look.


Monday 19th of October 2015

I think the Strathmore Rose tiara would be a wonderful choice for Kate, if not tomorrow then at some other future event. It is in keeping with her own preference for nature-inspired pieces (her most recent new earrings are styled after leaves and ferns), and like the Halo tiara had been prior to her wedding it has been in the vault for some time, making it ripe for association with a modern Royal.

Another fantastic option is the Oriental Circlet tiara (mentioned in Anna's post over at My Small Obsessions). It too has several of the organic elements that Kate seems drawn to, and although a bit grander than anything she has worn to date, Kate seems to be getting more comfortable with the "serious bling." I think it would look lovely with a gown incorporating red elements as a nod to the color's importance in Chinese culture.

I would be very surprised if she opted for the Cambridge Lover's Knot tiara, despite its connection with her title and her mother-in-law. In fact, I think its strong association with Diana is one reason that Kate might shy away from this piece. Kate clearly has a connection with her mother-in-law, not least through her engagement ring and her daughter's name. At the same time, Kate has clearly signaled her intention to carve out her own identity, which extends to her sartorial choices. She does a magnificent job walking the line between paying homage to the past while simultaneously building her unique legacy, and I anticipate she will continue to do so with her choice of jewels.


Monday 19th of October 2015

Can anyone offer some insight as to why some of the orders are worn in such an unflattering manner? I'm sure there is some sort of significance to the placement on one's torso, but I find the one that sits just below the bosom to be almost comical! Surely there is a protocol that I am not aware of...


Tuesday 20th of October 2015

It's just tradition that it's worn in that way - Order of Splendor gives more information:


Tuesday 20th of October 2015

Hee hee, I agree, it all does end up being a bit of a mess, but of course that always happens when you start with one thing and then add on, and add on, over time, look at some of the castles:) The history is what is so important and what makes it so great at this point is that while it is not super flattering, the more important point is the "history", not the fashion.:)ali

Kate & Zena

Sunday 18th of October 2015

I would love to see the Lotus Tiara on Kate again. As others have mentioned, the lotus flower is prized among the Chinese and perfectly bound feet (back in the day this was legal) were called "lotus feet." The tiara also looks quite special on Kate.

As mentioned, wearing tiaras (even fake ones!) is quite a hassle. I owned two tiaras in my life, both from ballet and they did NOT have those hair combs. They were styled after actual tiaras and putting them in was such a hassle. If you did it the ballet way, you had to tease your hair, put a fake hair piece under all of that teased hair. You secured THAT, put on the tiara, sewed (literally sewed) the tiara to the fake piece, hid the sewing by pulling hair from sides and back into a pony and making your bun....and you sewed whatever was still loose. And that's just a plastic, rhinestone and sequin tiara! That took at least twenty minutes. Can we imagine a real tiara? Just, no. That would be a royal pain.

I hope she wears a really light blue gown. I really love that gown she wore at Clarence House in 2011. The color on her is gorgeous. However, because it is a dinner and with China, I'm sure she'll go more like we saw in Malaysia. Gold is a auspicious color in China, as is red. However, red would be too overpowering and out of place in such a formal environment.


Monday 19th of October 2015

Thanks so much for such a graphic account of the perils of tiara wearing! I still can't get over how the 89-year-old Queen manages several pounds of precious metal and rocks on her head when attending the State Opening of Parliament in all her finery :-)

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