It seems like only last year — and it was — that Lady Mary Crawley enjoyed a spectacular wedding to her dreamboat fiance Matthew Crawley. At the beginning of season three of “Downton Abbey,” the bride wore a gown that was the show’s most expensive costume to date. “Downton” designer Caroline McCall’s $6,000 wedding dress took eight weeks to produce and glimmered with delicate rice pearls and Swarovski crystals. The veil was vintage, as was the tiara.
Now, brides who want to re-create Mary’s wedding, minus the death of a husband several months later, can purchase that Georgian-era tiara for $208,750. In the form of a garland spray of leaves and floral clusters, it’s pave-set throughout with old-cut diamonds and weighs an estimated 45 carats.
Just imagine how jealous your friends will be when you show up to this Sunday’s “Downton” season finale party wearing the tiara. Or how surprised your fiance will be when you tell him that you took out a mortgage to purchase the tiara to wear for your wedding. We spoke with Clive Kandel, curator of fine jewelry and silver for the website 1stDibs, about the tiara. The site is selling the tiara through prestigious jeweler Bentley & Skinner.
Q. Is this the actual tiara that Mary wore on the show? If I’m shelling out this much money I want to make sure it’s authentic.
A. Very authentic. It’s the one worn on the show. It’s probably from about 1825 or 1830, made during the reign of George IV. It’s from the Romantic period. It would have been made for a very grand family, without a doubt. An aristocratic British family. It’s very unusual that these have survived because they were broken up. Mostly they were sold after the war, or after the queen’s coronation. People just weren’t wearing them any longer. It was typical that in the “Downtown Abbey” story that we would find this. These things were handed down from generation to generation.
Q. Let’s say the dowry isn’t what it used to be. Is there a way that a bride could rent it by the day rather than buy it?
A. Yes. That’s actually a very normal English tradition going back 100 years. Today the rate to rent it would be $2,000 a day. Although you’ll need to provide a $200,000 deposit.
‘It’s probably from about 1825 or 1830. . . . It would have been made for a very grand family, without a doubt.’
Q. Have offers been made? Do people want to rent it?
A. I’m sure they have in London. America is still very squeamish about tiaras. There may be some women here and there, such as American prom queens. But when it comes to American ladies, there will be the occasional bride who will seek out a diamond tiara. But rarely. Having said that, before the war a lot of wealthy Americans did seek out tiaras because they were worn at balls and at certain self-promoting events. In Palm Beach there used to be these phony royal balls at the Waldorf. That’s in the past. It was only the tacky people who wanted to pretend that they were royalty.
Q. You mentioned that this tiara came from an aristocratic family. Does anyone know which family it came from?
Q. I suppose the family wouldn’t want that known.
A. Well, probably not, but I’m sure it could have traveled around for a while. A tiara could either be the first thing to go or the last thing to go, especially after the war. They were sold to pay taxes or death duties, so it was very easy to just get rid of it.
Q. People have had an opportunity to purchase this for a while. I’m surprised that it’s still around. I thought it would have been snatched up quite quickly.
A. If jewelry could sell that quickly, it would be a lot more expensive. People do not snap these things up. I would think that it’s the sort of thing that some Ukrainian model who’s got a lot of money would buy. It’s easier to sell a Louis Vuitton diamond bracelet, or a Chanel diamond necklace, than it is something like this
Q. I imagine it’s because those are big names, as opposed to antiques.
A. You are absolutely right.
Q. And then there’s the tiara stigma you spoke of, although I can think of a few drag queens I know who might want to wear it.
A. Oh yes, I know them too.Christopher Muther can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Chris_Muther.