Tiaras from Ancient to Modern
According to legend, it was Greek god Dionysus who created the head ornament called the diadem. The word ‘diadem’ is derived from the Greek ‘diadein’, which means to bind around. The earlier Diadems were made from bound foliage and flowers.
After Alexander the Great reached the main gold-supplying regions of the Persian Empire in 331 BC, Greek craftsmen were quick to exploit its malleability and transform head-dresses of living flowers into ever-lasting garlands fashioned from gleaming yellow metal.
Several types of head ornament were made in Ancient Greece, but the diadems mostly took the form of bands with pediments. They were assimilated into Russian folk costume, but became a popular model for Western European tiara design in the 19th and 20th centuries. The word ‘tiara’ is originated from Persian, which denoted the high-peaked head-dresses of Persian kings. Now it is used to describe almost every form of decorative head ornament.
Although there are accounts of special occasions on which men wore necklaces and gold wreaths, jewellery was more usually worn by women. In time, gold wreaths and diadems became reserved for more ambitious and showy occasions, and the tiara’s association with privilege and ostentation continues to prevail.
The Romans were great admirers of the skill and artistry of the Greeks, and emulated them in many ways. In comparison, Roman craftsmanship lacked the delicacy so admired in ancient Greek and Etruscan jewellery, their jeweled head-dresses more than made up for it in theatrical effect. The most important part the Romans played in the evolution of the tiara, however, was in their pioneering use of previous stones.Amethysts and pearls, emeralds, sapphires and even diamonds gradually became available to Roman craftsmen as the Empire expanded. The intense colours and refractive qualities of these stones started to play a central part in jewellery design.
The record of how tiaras were worn in the last years of the Empire form the remarkable portraits painted on the mummy cases that have survived from Egypt’s first Roman period. These mummy cases, which rank among the greatest works of art that have passed down to us from ancient times, frequently depict the deceased wearing pearl earrings, amuletic Medusa-head necklaces and raw emerald crystal beads.
With the spread of Christianity and the waning of the Eastern Roman Empire, the wearing of wreaths and diadems gradually declined and eventually ceased. They were not revived as part of dress until the late 18th century. Its disappearance was partly to do with the need for an outward show of Christian piety at a time when even oblique references to the ancient world carried associations of immorality and libertarianism. Women of fashion were denied the pleasure of the tiara’s elegance and its flattering effects until the advent of neo-classicism and the court fashions of the First Empire restored it to respectability.
Tiaras are now seen at special events and take the center stage on a beautiful bride. You can find tiaras created from various materials, the most common now are plated metal or foliage. They can be set with gemstones and display an array of designs. To find out how you can wear your Tiara to best effect, have a look at our short videos to guide you through…
You can also view our collection of Tiaras via our website here