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Bridal jewellery sparkles at Cartier: The Exhibition

Laura Peppas

Grace Kelly’s engagement ring. Kate Middleton’s delicate bridal tiara. Liz Taylor’s eye-popping ruby necklace.

These iconic bridal jewellery moments have been collected together – alongside many more exquisite pieces – for the National Gallery of Australia‘s stunning Cartier: The Exhibition.

If you’re looking for bridal jewellery inspiration, or are simply a history aficionado, this is surely what wedding dreams are made of.

Featuring more than 300 works of art, Cartier: The Exhibition showcases outstanding necklaces, brooches, tiaras, watches and ornaments by Cartier, alongside rarely seen archival drawings, photographs and ephemera. Co-curated by Margaret Young-Sanchez, formerly Chief Curator of Denver Art Museum and the NGA, the exhibition features pieces from the Cartier collection, museums, institutions and private collectors.

Official portrait of Her Serene Highness Princess Grace of Monaco wearing Cartier jewellery 1959 © G. Lukomski, avec l’autorisation du palais princier de Monaco

Margaret says there is plenty of bridal inspiration on display, with one of the standouts a 10.47 carat emerald-cut diamond engagement ring given to famous actress Grace Kelly by Prince Rainier III.

“It’s this gorgeous rectangle-shaped diamond – it’s a spectacular ring,” Margaret says.

“Grace Kelly wore it in her final movie [High Society], and it sort of signified the change in life that she was about to go through.”

With the impending royal wedding of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, there is plenty of excitement over the exhibition’s inclusion of the halo tiara worn by the Duchess of Cambridge, Catherine Middleton, at her 2011 wedding to Prince William.

“I think Catherine chose it because it has this rather elegant, modern look to it,” says Margaret.

Elizabeth Taylor wearing her Cartier ruby and diamond necklace and earrings in Las Vegas, 1958, © Photofest

Indeed, tiaras have taken off in the bridal world since William and Catherine’s royal wedding, with more and more brides opting for delicate tiaras to complete their wedding-day look.

Although forty-two wedding-perfect tiaras are included in Cartier: The Exhibition, Margaret notes that tiaras were originally only worn by married women from high society.

“One of the fascinating things that people don’t realise is that women would only wear a tiara for the first time at their wedding, and then only married women could continue to wear a tiara,” she says.

“Tiaras then started going out of style, unless you were very high society in about the 1940s and 1950s. The halo tiara that is presently in fashion has this really modern look to it, and it looks just as modern now as it did in the 1930s when it first came out.”

HM Queen Elizabeth II (wearing the Cartier diamond necklace gift from the Nizam of Hyderabad for her wedding in 1947), 1953 © CAMERA PRESS/Baron

To highlight just how mandatory tiaras were for high-society women, Margaret tells me the famous story of a renegade Vanderbilt daughter, who was part of an American family of Dutch origin prominent during the Gilded Age.

“One of the daughters went to Buckingham Palace for an event, and her tiara was locked in a bank vault so she couldn’t get to it. She had to go without it, so she just wore some stars and earrings,” Margaret says.

“When she turned up, it was quite the scandal. Prince Edward told her she was inappropriately dressed and should go home and change!”

Another jaw dropping inclusion to the exhibition is a stunning Cartier platinum diamond necklace, worn by none other than Her Majesty The Queen Elizabeth II .

Cartier London. Halo tiara 1934, platinum, round old- and baguette-cut diamonds
4 cm (height). Collection Cartier © Cartier. Photo: Nils Herrmann.

“The necklace was one of the wedding presents from the Nizam of Hyderabad, ruler of the Indian state, who invited the young bride to select two pieces from Cartier London in 1947,” says Margaret.

“He wanted to make sure she actually liked it, so he preferred her to select it herself.”

Then of course, there are pieces belonging to Hollywood’s undisputed Queen of Jewellery: Liz Taylor. The late actress’ famous Cartier necklace with Burmese rubies and stunning diamonds, gifted to her by her third husband Mike Todd, has to be seen to be believed.

Of course, you can do just that – up until 22 July.

the essentials 

What: Cartier: The Exhibition
When: Until 22 July 2018
Where: National Gallery of Australia
Tickets: Available from Ticketek
Web: nga.gov.au/cartier

This is a sponsored post. For more information on our sponsored post policy, click here. 

Featured image: Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, comes out of Westminster Abbey, with her husband Britain’s Prince William (not pictured) following their wedding ceremony, in central London, on April 29, 2011
Carl de Souza/Getty Images

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Laura Peppas

Laura Peppas is HerCanberra's senior journalist and communications manager and is the Editor of Unveiled, HerCanberra's wedding magazine. She is enjoying uncovering all that Canberra has to offer, meeting some intriguing locals and working with a pretty awesome bunch of women. Laura has lived in Canberra for most of her life and when she's not writing fervently she enjoys pursuing her passion for travel, reading, online shopping and chai tea. More about the Author