On Friday 8th July 2022, after its theft from Welbeck Abbey almost 4 years earlier, three men were finally convicted of the Portland Tiara robbery.
Described as a “national treasure” let’s take this opportunity to explain its important cultural value and the impact of its loss.
For any original antique tiara to survive into the 21st century is always a rarity. After the first world war social and cultural changes saw their relevance and their use sadly demise throughout the 20th century.
This tiara however, had further gravitas, it was made exclusively by Cartier, the luxury French jewellers known for their exquisite quality and exceptional craftmanship.
Provenance, always plays an important role in the value of artifacts and as commissioned by William Cavendish-Bentinck, 6th Duke of Portland for Winifred his Duchess wife, this tiara’s ownership was from the very upper echelons of society.
If that were not enough, the Portland Tiara was worn at the most historic royal occasion, the Coronation of Edward VII and Queen Alexandra in 1902, where Winifred was one of the Duchesses who held a canopy over Alexandra during her anointing ceremony; ensuring its role in part of our nation’s royal history.
Given its unique importance, status and the notoriety of the crime, the tiara was taken abroard where it was subsequently broken up, never to be seen again in its original stunning form. Could it ever be reproduced? Well no, the tiara was covered in old-brilliant cushion and briolette-cut diamonds; family stones belonging to the Duke which were faceted in the 17th and 19th century. Their unique origin, proportions and beauty are just not replicated today.
Unlike other crimes perpetrated by this gang, we can be assured that during this particular incident, no personal violence was inflicted. However, the sheer fact that this priceless artifact was taken from public view at the Portland Collection Gallery robbed the wider public of the rare opportunity of the shared experience of enjoyment, enrichment and fulfilment appreciating important works of art brings to our soul and creativity. Jewellery really is a precious treasure to behold and every moment is to be appreciated.