NEW YORK &
Wannabe princesses, rejoice. These days, getting your hands on your own tiara is much easier than finding Prince Charming.
Hello Kitty wore one during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, Judith Nathan wore a diamond-and-pearl version when she became Mrs. Giuiliani and Karolina Kurkova models pajamas &
and a tiara &
in a current Victoria's Secret catalog.
Meanwhile, "Crowned," a new CW reality show, debuts this month with mother-daughter teams duking it out to win a pair of matching tiaras in a pageant finale.
As part of Harry Winston's new snowflake-themed Diamond de Neige collection, there's a tiara with 34.42 carats of marquise, pear-shaped and brilliant-cut diamonds worth $215,000. Cartier has one valued at $455,000 with diamonds, rubies, pink sapphires, morganite, green beryls, peridots, garnets and amethyst.
On a tighter budget? Hair accessory brand Scunci has an Art Deco-style silver and rhinestone tiara in its Vintage Glam collection for $9.99.
Of course, there are tiaras-as-toys for princess-crazed little girls and the silly kind for New Year's Eve. But the real thing, the as-big-as-as-your-morgage-lock-it-in-a-safe tiaras, are intended for women, for their weddings, birthday parties and charity balls.
"Something shocking happened last year," says Susy Korb, executive vice president and creative director of Harry Winston. "We sold two tiaras within two weeks in the U.S...These were real people, accomplished people, celebrating life's milestones with tiaras. Tiaras are such a happy piece of jewelry."
They're also an undeniable, in-your-face status symbol.
"Tiaras were initially worn at ceremonies and festive occasions as an outward sign of privileged status &
they revealed financial power," Frederic de Narp, president and CEO of Cartier North America, says. "Tiaras were also used to convey a mood, make a style statement ... a woman who wears a tiara stands out among those around her."
In Europe, a tiara is still considered proper attire &
even a must &
for state occasions and fancy balls, says jeweler Neil Lane, while in the U.S. they're considered more of a glamorous fashion statement.
Clare Sauro, assistant curator of accessories at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, thinks the renewed interest from top jewelers and luxury companies is a reaction to the dilution of the luxury market. "If they want to seem like they're offering something that's not 'everyday,' luxury houses are offering more outrageous things &
things that only a tiny percentage of their audience can buy to ensure their prestige," Sauro says.
Over the past year, Harry Winston sold four tiaras, an uptick from the recent past. But it's not like a shopper just strolls in and picks one from the case. Right now there are two finished tiaras in the Winston inventory and they're flown from store to store, customer to customer, depending on interest. There don't seem to be any similarities among the new tiara owners.
One went to a young Japanese bride, one to a real-life beauty queen and another to a celebrity. The other was a "mere mortal" who loved jewelry and had built an important collection and the tiara was the final showpiece.
Tiaras do indeed represent incredible workmanship as well as wealth, Lane says, and the jeweled halo effect can light up the wearer's face.
Making a tiara is more time-consuming than any other piece of jewelry, says Korb, noting that the de Neige tiara took 10 months to complete. It takes engineering to create dimensional look that sparkles without the heft that would come with a necklace of a similar carat weight. A too-heavy tiara could be burdensome and uncomfortable.
Korb currently is working on a tiara that can convert to a necklace to make it a more user-friendly item, something designer Penny Preville also offers. A tiara might be too much for a cocktail party, Korb says, but the same design with the same amount of shine might look appropriate around the neck.
"The value is in the design and the diamonds themselves, but adapting it to a necklace probably increases the number of times you can wear it," she says.
Tiaras are considered slightly less formal than a crown but, over history, have still proven to be a favorite with royals. King Edward VII ordered 27 from Cartier in 1902, the year of his coronation.
A crown typically goes fully around the head and also provides some covering to the top of the head, explains FIT's Sauro.
With crowns, there is a hierarchy of who can wear one, Sauro says, while tiaras, which traditionally have a point or a peak in the middle, are open to everyone. "There's a sense of freedom with tiaras. There's a history of them being playful."
Since the U.S. is without a royal family, there seems to be more open attitude toward tiaras, adds Korb. "Americans didn't grow up with royalty so it's not quite as loaded in meaning."
When Queen Elizabeth II visited these shores earlier this past spring, she brought a tiara with her. She wore it to the state dinner that President Bush hosted in her honor.
But Korb envisions the de Neige tiara at a New Year's party in Aspen, Colo., as well as a holiday ball. "You can enjoy the fantasy moment now and have a very important piece of jewelry later," Korb says.
When her company hosts parties with live models, a tiara is always the buzz item, Korb reports. "It's really fun to see this on. It's kind of like a hat &
it can transform you when you try it on."
A tiara must be complemented by confidence and a sense of frivolity &
or even a sense of humor, says stylist Robert Verdi. "You can't come out with a tiara on your head and pretend no one is going to notice."
He thinks Sarah Jessica Parker is one of few celebrities who looks like she belongs in a tiara. "She's shown the widest breadth of expression in her style with the greatest defined personal taste," Verdi says. "She can carry an Eiffel Tower bag and look chic. There's an X factor to her that even women in her same league don't have."
And where would she wear a tiara? If Sean "Diddy" Combs had a birthday party, that would be the place to wear it, Verdi says.
Celebrate a milestone like a princess
NEW YORK &