Your Weekly Tiara Treat: The Amazing History Behind Princess Diana's Favorite Sparkler – Queen Mary's Lover's Knot

Cambridge Lover's Knot Tiara: Princess Diana, Kate Middleton and More
Princess Diana
Anwar Hussein/Getty Images

updated 03/12/2016 AT 04:40 PM EST

originally published 03/11/2016 AT 01:50 PM EST

With its romantic name, storied past and jaw-dropping beauty, could there be a more quintessentially British tiara than the Queen Mary's Lover's Knot?

Sometimes referred to as the Cambridge Lover's Knot, it is one of the best-known tiaras in the British royal family's collection, mostly thanks to it being a favorite of the late Princess Diana.

A little more than century old, the tiara recently sparkled in the spotlight once again when Princess Kate wore it for a reception at Buckingham Palace in December. (Granted, we only got the teeniest glimpse of the diamond-and-pearl creation when Kate wore it, but here's hoping that we'll get to see lots more tiara time for the royal mom in the future.)

Your Weekly Tiara Treat: The Amazing History Behind Princess Diana's Favorite Sparkler – Queen Mary's Lover's Knot| The British Royals, The Royals, Kate Middleton, Princess Diana, Queen Elizabeth II

Princess Kate (left) and Princess Diana in Queen Mary's Lover's Knot Tiara

Tim Rooke / REX Shutterstock; Tim Graham / Getty

Unlike some other famous royal pieces, the tiara is part of the family's private collection and currently belongs to Queen Elizabeth II.

The stunner was originally commissioned from famous court jewelers Garrard by Queen Mary sometime in 1913 or 1914. It's actually a replica of a 200-year-old Gothic Revival tiara owned by Mary's grandmother, Princess Augusta of Hesse, the Duchess of Cambridge. (Hence the alternate name of "Cambridge Lover's Knot.") The original Cambridge Lover's Knot Tiara was later sold at auction at Christie's in Geneva in May 1981 for more than $747,000 in today's dollars to an anonymous buyer and is presumed to be in an unknown private collection. But really, what's the point of owning a historical tiara if you can't show it off every now and then?

Your Weekly Tiara Treat: The Amazing History Behind Princess Diana's Favorite Sparkler – Queen Mary's Lover's Knot| The British Royals, The Royals, Kate Middleton, Princess Diana, Queen Elizabeth II

Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Augusta Caroline of England, in the original Cambridge Lover's Knot Tiara

Hulton Archive / Getty Images

According the Court Jeweller, Mary sacrificed her Ladies of England Tiara and borrowed upright pearls from her Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara (which is still in the Queen's jewelry vault) to make the topper. The tiara itself consists of 19 arches, 38 drop-shaped pearls – 19 of which hang as pendants and another 19 which serve as the removable upright pearl spikes. The upright pearl drops is a look we've rarely seen in public, although Mary did wear the tiara with the removable pearls in 1926 (see below).

Your Weekly Tiara Treat: The Amazing History Behind Princess Diana's Favorite Sparkler – Queen Mary's Lover's Knot| The British Royals, The Royals, Kate Middleton, Princess Diana, Queen Elizabeth II

Queen Mary in Queen Mary's Lover's Knot Tiara

Hulton Archive / Getty

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When Queen Mary died in 1953, she left the tiara to her granddaughter, the Queen, who wore it with style during many formal appearances throughout the '50s. However, she later retired the tiara in favor of her other go-to looks, including the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland sparkler. In 1981, she loaned the tiara to Diana as a wedding present, with many thinking the future Princess of Wales would wear it on her wedding day. However, when the big day came, Diana instead chose to wear the Spencer Tiara, an 18th-century family heirloom from her great aristocratic family, the Spencers. (That famous tiara, which Di wore often during royal engagements, still belongs to the Spencer family.) Diana still held onto the Lover's Knot topper, however, and it became a favorite piece over the years and thus became closely associated with the Princess of Wales.

Your Weekly Tiara Treat: The Amazing History Behind Princess Diana's Favorite Sparkler – Queen Mary's Lover's Knot| The British Royals, The Royals, Kate Middleton, Princess Diana, Queen Elizabeth II

Princess Diana in Queen Mary's Lover's Knot Tiara

Anwar Hussein / Getty Images

When Diana divorced Prince Charles in 1996, the tiara went back into Elizabeth's royal vault. (Some have speculated that Elizabeth gave the tiara to Diana, but according to The New York Times, the princess was allowed to keep all the jewelry she had amassed during her royal marriage – implying that the tiara was simply a loaner, not a gift.)

Your Weekly Tiara Treat: The Amazing History Behind Princess Diana's Favorite Sparkler – Queen Mary's Lover's Knot| The British Royals, The Royals, Kate Middleton, Princess Diana, Queen Elizabeth II

Princess Diana in Queen Mary's Lover's Knot Tiara

Tim Graham / Getty Images

After Diana's death, the tiara itself wasn't publicly seen until last year, when Kate dusted it off for the special reception in December. It's a fitting choice for the princess – not only is it based on a tiara owned by a previous Duchess of Cambridge, but it also has a strong connection to William's mother. And, historical significance aside, the romantic shape of the tiara aligns with the other tiny tastes of tiaras we've seen on Kate, including the Cartier Halo Tiara.
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