The tiara, which was made by Garrard, was commissioned by the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland (a fundraising committee chaired by Lady Eva Greville, daughter of the 4th Earl of Warwick) as a gift to Princess Victoria Mary of Teck for her wedding to Prince Albert, the heir to the British throne.
Shortly after the engagement was announced however, Mary’s fiancé died aged just 28. Instead, Mary married his brother, the future King George V, the following year. So successful was the committee’s fundraising to purchase the tiara, that a £3,000 surplus was donated, at Mary’s request, to the widows and children of 350 lost sailors after the HMS Victoria maritime disaster in 1893.
Designed to be transformable, the festoon-and-scroll diamond tiara can be worn as either a necklace or coronet and over the years Queen Mary requested that Garrard replace the original pearls with diamonds and separate the bandeau from the base so that she could wear it as a headband. In 1947 Queen Mary gave the tiara to Princess Elizabeth as a wedding present and in 1969 the Queen asked for the bandeau and tiara to be reunited, as it remains today.
Currently on display in the Jewel Room of Kensington Palace is the handwritten Garrard ledger showing the 1893 commission for the tiara. As part of the Life Through a Royal Lens exhibition, there is also Annie Leibowitz’s famous 2007 portrait of Her Majesty, in which she requested that the Queen remove the tiara. It remained.