Last week, Heirloom Jewels from the Orléans Royal Family and the Bourbon Parma Royal Family were loaned to Royal and Noble Débutantes for Le Bal des Débutantes in Paris, with the spectacular Orléans-Braganza Diamond Tiara appearing on the head of Archduchess Ildiko of Austria, Princess of Hungary!
This tiara of diamonds set in platinum represents an exceptional specimen of the Belle Époque jewel design. With a half-moon shape, almost as a sort of kokoksnik tiara, very characteristic of this period, its’ openwork frame is filled with delicate diamond-set leaves, tendrils and arches. The central motif, a quatrefoil arrangement, presents four large pear-shaped diamonds and an important old European-cut diamond.
There is no general consensus on the origins of this tiara, which first belonged to King Juan Carlos of Spain’s maternal grandmother, Infanta Luisa of Borbón, born Princess of Orléans. It was likely given to the Princess on the occasion of her marriage to Prince Carlos of Borbón-Two Sicilies, Infante of Spain, in 1907, who was the widower of Princess Maria de las Mercedes. While some authors claim it was likely crafted in Britain around 1905, others seem to claim that it could have been manufactured in Spain.
Old press reports also don’t provide us with a final answer as “the gifts received by the couple could not be displayed, as had been announced. Many of them are in Madrid or Villamanrique, and it has not been thought appropriate to send them to Wood Norton”. Nonetheless, some British and Spanish press recall that Doña Luisa’s husband-to-be gave to his bride a “complete parure of rubies and diamonds including a diadem, a necklace and a bracelet”, while others describe the groom’s gifts as “a diadem of immense diamonds, a diamond necklace, a collar, a stomacher, bracelets and rings set with the same gems, and a gold-lifted dressing bag, each accessory monogrammed in brilliants”.
Don Carlos and Doña Luisa were hardworking and beloved members of the Spanish Royal Family, often accompanying King Alfonso XIII and Queen Victoria Eugenie, or doing solo engagements. The Infanta would wear her Diamond Kokoshnik Tiara for several gala occasions, as several photographs available attest. It was also worn for several studio photographs taken of the couple.
After the fall of the Spanish Monarchy in 1931 and the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939, Don Carlos and Doña Luisa were able to return to Spain, settling near their dear city of Seville, where they both died years later. In 1958, after Doña Luisa’s passing, the Diamond Kokoshnik Tiara was inherited by her youngest daughter, Princess Maria de la Esperanza, who was by then Imperial Princess of Brazil, while her second daughter, the Countess of Barcelona, inherited, among other items, a Sapphire Tiara, a Pair of Diamond Earrings, and a Pearl Bow Brooch.
As the aunt of King Juan Carlos, Princess Esperanza wore the Diamond Kokoshnik Tiara during the marriage festivities of Don Juan Carlos and Doña Sofia in Athens in 1962, including the Wedding Ball at the Royal Palace of Athens.
Princess Esperanza was active in Brazilian High Society, and wore the Diamond Tiara for a reception held in Petropolis on the occasion of Queen Elizabeth II’s State Visit to Brazil in 1968.
Doña Esperanza’s daughter, Princess Maria da Gloria of Orléans-Braganza, would receive the Diamond Tiara as a wedding gift from her mother in 1972, when she married Crown Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia. Unfortunately, no pictures of her wearing this piece seem to be publicly available, but she likely wore it for the Wedding Ball of Princess Anne at Buckingham Palace in 1973.
In 1981, the Diamond Tiara, together with a beautiful set of emerald jewels from Queen Amelie of Portugal, was sold at auction at Sotheby’s. Since then, it has reappeared twice on the auction block, more recently at Christie’s in 2018, where it fletched the high sum of 395.000 euros.
The Diamond Kokoshnik now belongs to the ‘V Muse Jewelry’ collection, who has been sponsoring the “Le Bal des Débutantes” in Paris since 2022.
For the 2023 edition of the Ball, they generously loaned Infanta Luisa’s Diamond Tiara to Archduchess Ildiko of Austria, Princess of Hungary, the daughter of Archduke Georg of Austria and Duchess Eilika of Oldenburg, whose cavalier was Prince Constantin d’Orleans.
This article was written by assistant editor, David Rato, who runs the Spanish Royal Jewels account on Instagram!