The History Of Queen Mary’s Fringe Tiara

The Queen Mary fringe tiara was made in 1919 by E. Wolff and Co. for Garrard. It was commissioned by Queen Mary of Teck, who was said to have had an “eye for brilliance” when collating her jewelry collection, and was inspired by a traditional Russian kokoshinik headdress. The House of Garrard is the longest serving jeweler in the world. Their origins can be traced back to 1735, when master silversmith George Wicks opened a store on Panton Street in London’s West End. 1735 also marked the year that the firm received its first royal commission from Frederick, Prince of Wales. Garrard’s relationship with the British royal family continued from there, and in 1843 Garrard was appointed the first official Crown Jeweler. One of the most iconic pieces Gerrard has made for the royals is the sapphire cluster engagement ring which Princess Diana wore, and is now worn by Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. 

Queen Elizabeth II in Queen Mary’s fringe tiara

The diamonds set in this tiara were formerly a part of another convertable necklace/tiara made by Collingwood, which Queen Victoria gave to Mary as a wedding gift in 1893. Mary had these reset in gold and silver. During this era diamond fringe tiaras were incredibly popular after they had become fashionable at the imperial court of the Romanovs. This tiara can also be removed from its base and worn as a necklace. You can watch this process below with a similar fringe tiara being prepared for display.

Queen Mary’s fringe tiara is often confused for Queen Adelaide’s fringe tiara which is similar in design, but much shorter in height. It was most notably worn by Queen Elizabeth II on her wedding day to Prince Philip on Nov. 20th, 1947 after her mother loaned it to her to wear for the occasion. When the Elizabeth II’s hairdresser attempted to secure the tiara into her veil that day, it snapped and had to have an emergency repair by Garrard’s jeweler before she was able to leave for Westminster Abbey. You can see a small gap in the tiara’s center from its hasty fix in the photos from that day. 

When the Queen visited a Buckingham Palace exhibition in 2011 displaying her wedding regalia, she recalled the tiara drama. “The catch, which I didn’t know existed, it suddenly collapsed. And I didn’t know it was a necklace, you see…I thought I’d broken it…we stuck it all together again, but I was rather alarmed…” The Queen Mother reportedly calmly remarked “We have two hours and there are other tiaras.” The Queen Mother also loaned this tiara to her great-granddaughter Princess Anne on her wedding day in 1973.

Elizabeth II inherited the piece upon her mothers death in 2002. It has been worn very few times since by the Queen in comparison to some of her favorite tiaras like the Kokoshnik.

Queen Mary’s fringe tiara features forty-seven diamond encrusted elongated posts, which descend in size from the center. Shorter, thin posts with ascending round diamonds sit between each of the thicker posts. The base of this tiara is constructed with a frame consisting of two metal bars which support its posts and keep them upright. It comes with a bespoke key which is inserted into both ends of the tiara to loosen it from its base, at which point it becomes a necklace.