With most weddings, bouquets of flowers, cascades of ivy and billowing yards of white chiffon, satin, and taffeta are traditional ingredients to creating that magical day. A royal wedding, too, is a floral and frothy wonderland of decoration and dress. A royal wedding, however, especially the marriage between a prince and princess, features a unique glittering guest: the tiara. This past May, Britain’s Prince Harry married Meghan Markle, transforming the former American actress into a British princess. And guess what was nestled atop her brunette locks underneath the wispy chiffon veil – a tiara of course!
Just like any wedding, a royal wedding is a sentimental occasion, filled with family and friends. From Queen Elizabeth II to Princess Diana, from (future queen) Kate Middleton and now Meghan Markle, royal brides, like most brides, want to incorporate a family memento on this special day. The royal wedding tiaras, although glittering masterpieces, often fall into the bridal adage categories of “something old” and “something borrowed!”
Famous (royal) bridal tiaras
Queen Elizabeth II wore her grandmother’s tiara – Queen Mary’s “Russian Fringe” tiara (from 1919) – on her wedding day. (This tiara was created from the diamonds of another family heirloom, a necklace gifted as a wedding present to Mary from her mother, Queen Victoria).
Kate Middleton borrowed from Queen Elizabeth II’s jewelry box for her wedding day in 2011. She wore the Queen Mother’s (Elizabeth II’s mother) Cartier “Halo” Tiara from 1936.
Meghan Markle also borrowed from Queen Elizabeth’s treasure trove. For her bridal headpiece, Meghan wore the Queen Mary’s “Diamond Bandeau Tiara” (which features a detachable diamond brooch as the center stone!).
And who can forget the tiara of the most fairy tale of all real-life princesses…Princess Diana, from the illustriously English aristocratic Spencer family, dug into her own family’s vault of jewels and wore a family “heirloom” as part of her bridal ensemble: the dazzling “Spencer” Tiara. Its lineage first dates to Diana’s grandmother’s wedding (Lady Cynthia Hamilton and Albert, Viscount Althorp’s marriage in 1919). Over the years, more diamonds and other bits wove their way into this headpiece, formalizing into the “Spencer Tiara” famously worn by Princess Diana on her wedding day in 1981. Diana’s two sisters, Lady Jane and Lady Sarah, also wore this family heirloom on their wedding days.
With all this talk of family heirlooms (albeit, royal and diamond-encrusted dazzlers), maybe you have special pieces that have been passed down in your family. Whether a luxurious antique wedding set (a tiara, necklace, bracelet, ring or earrings), a 1920’s “Great Gatsby”-inspired beaded purse, brooch, or flapper dress, a great-great grandmother’s locket, or your own wedding dress, all of these pieces need proper care so they can dazzle on whatever day you decide to retrieve them from your family vault.
If this piece has been worn (which, most likely, it has been), it would be very beneficial to the piece’s preservation and condition to have it professionally cleaned or treated before storage. A professional wedding dress cleaner, for example, will make sure to remove stains that may not be visible right now – deodorant stains, water or clear soda, dirt/oil from touching, etc. (A wedding dress, being white, is most susceptible to fading, dirt, yellowing ,etc. Fun Fact: it was Queen Victoria who popularized the iconic color of the white wedding dress!) Once the dress/garment has been cleaned, it should be store in its original cloth garment bag on a sturdy hanger or with acid-free tissue paper ticked into the folds and placed in an acid-free cardboard box.
Wardrobe Watchdogs (How experts preserve historic garments and gems:
Museum archivists store historic garments in one of two ways: either folded into an archival (acid-free) box or carefully hung in a wardrobe closet. If the garment is heavily beaded, made of delicate fabric (silk, chiffon, etc.), or has fragile seams/construction, historic dress experts recommend the folded-in-a-box method. For a grand gown, on the other hand, supporting the dress on a strong, padded hanger inside a cloth dust/protector bag is usually the better option.
The National Park Service provides an excellent reference booklet, detailing the “Curatorial Care of Textile Objects” .
If you truly have an antique piece of jewelry ( i.e. over 100 years old), it really does need specialized care from an antique jewelry professional. For other pieces (jewelry and clothing), some general care and preservation tips include the following:
- store your jewelry in soft or lined pouches (this prevents bangs and scratches)
- gently brush away dirt using a soft toothbrush with gentle strokes
- if familiar with your piece, use recommended polish to remove age/tarnish
- keep jewelry and gems away from perfumes and creams (the chemicals can damage these delicate pieces of metal, gemstones, and fabric)
- keep garments in a properly aired room (i.e. not a hot attic, un-air-conditioned room, or a room that has high humidity)
- keep garments in cloth bags (plastic bags prevent the fabric from “breathing” which means moisture occurs, thereby stimulating the growth of mildew and mold on the fabric – yuck!)
- submerge the piece in water (especially if it has painted decorations)
- leave gems loose in their settings
- keep in plastic bags (the plastic will create moisture which will damage your piece)
With loving care, your family’s sartorial treasures can have a very long happily ever after too!