Jewel In Focus: An Antique Diamond and Pearl Tiara/Brooches, Circa 1880

“We are such stuff as dreams are made on.” The Tempest
Susan Abeles
February 9, 2023

Who amongst us can honestly say that they never dreamed of being a princess?  The allure of a tiara is undeniable.  One needn’t be royalty or even aristocratic to relish the feeling of finishing the perfect outfit with the very pinnacle of adornment, the tiara.

The design of this piece is sublime. It is as a poem written in jewelry. The poem is all about love. This naturalistic diamond and pearl tiara is composed of intertwined myrtle, rose buds, a blooming rose and a serpent-like ribbon. The myrtle is symbolic of love and prosperity. The rose bud and flower represent the birth and bloom of love.  The serpent is evocative of fertility.  Diamonds and pearls also are customarily associated with purity and love. One can’t help but think that this is the quintessential wedding gift for a sentimental bride.  Crafted circa 1880 in Italy, it is likely that this would have been included as part of a wedding basket. It is customary that a piece such as this would then have been passed down along family lines. Accompanied by its original maker's case from Adolfo Bencini, we  know from a 1888 Commercial Guide to Rome that Adolfo Bencini was a maker of jewelry, silver and watches with two locations in Naples and in Rome. Importantly, he was jeweler to Italian aristocracy and particularly, their Highnesses, the Duke and Duchess of Genoa.

"The design of this piece is sublime. It is as a poem written in jewelry. The poem is all about love."

The jewel is constructed, like many of its contemporaries, so that it may be be dissembled into one, two or three separate brooches or hair ornaments, with the flowerhead detaching completely to be worn on its own. It is an extraordinarily versatile piece of jewelry. The tiny spring are ingeniously fashioned and placed strategically behind the flowers, en tremblant, make them tremble in response to movement.

This technology enhanced the dispersion of light, making the diamonds dance. The romance of such an effect must have been captivating when candlelight or gas light was the only means available and remains so even now.

This tiara embodies the dream of romance. It is light, it is organic, it is ethereal. And the depth of its history is alive as it scintillates and moves with its wearer.