|Mellerio Shell Tiara|
This tiara was created Mellerio jewellery house in 1867. It is known as the Shell Tiara because of its shape. It is also sometimes called La Chata because the tiara’s first owner, Infanta Isabel, was known by that nickname.
This beautiful Mellerio creation resembles a shell full of pearl and diamond drops that move with the wearer’s moves, creating a rather mesmerising effect. It also bears a resemblance to ocean waves. Seven beautiful pearls and a number of quite large, pear-shape diamonds adorn the “inside” of the shell. There is also a removable diamond drop suspended from the bottom centre of the tiara, but it is rarely attached nowadays.
|Infanta Isabel (left), Queen Victoria Eugenia (middle), and the Countess of Barcelona (right) wearing the Mellerio Tiara|
Queen Isabel II of Spain bought this tiara in 1868 for her daughter, Infanta Isabel, Princess of Asturias. A bit of a digression here but unlike the Prince of Wales title, which can only belong to the heir apparent of the British Throne, the Prince(ss) of Asturias title can belong to Heir(ess) Presumptive as well: Infanta Isabel was twice heiress presumptive to her brother and nephew but she never became Queen.
The tiara was among the gifts the Queen gave on the occasion of her eldest daughter’s marriage to Prince Gaetan, Count of Girgenti, son of King Ferdinand II of the Two Sicillies and Archduchess Maria Theresa of Austria. Infanta Isabel occasionally wore the tiara. She also lent it to her younger sister, Infanta Maria de la Paz. Infanta Isabel had no children and bequeathed most of her jewels, including this piece, to her nephew, King Alfonso XIII of Spain.
|Queen Sofia wearing the Mellerio Shell Tiara|
Alfonso XIII’s wife, Princess Victoria Eugenia of Battenberg, very rarely wore this tiara. Her daughter-in-law, the Princess Maria Mercedes of Bourbon-Two Sicillies (the Countess of Barcelona) didn't appear to be particularly impressed with this piece and is known to have worn it on only one public occasion.
The tiara was among the gifts from the Count and Countess of Barcelona, and Queen Victoria Eugenia to Princess Sophia of Greece and Denmark upon her marriage to the Prince of Asturias (now Queen Sofia and King Juan Carlos II of Spain). The young Princess wore the Shell tiara for the first time during her pre-wedding gala.
|Infanta Margarita (left), Infanta Elena (middle, depicted in a family portait), and Infanta Cristina wearing the Shell Tiara|
The Shell Tiara quickly became Sofia’s favourite and she wore it on many occasions since her marriage, including during the wedding celebrations of Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands and Claus von Amsberg. The latter was one of the few instances when Sofia wore the tiara with the diamond drop attached.
Although it is almost always worn by Queen Sofia, she sometimes lends it to other ladies in the royal family. Infanta Margarita, Duchess of Soria (King Juan Carlos’s younger sister) borrowed the tiara during incoming state visit from Portugal. Infanta Cristina (Queen Sofia’s younger daughter) also wore it during an incoming state visit.
|The Princess of Asturias wearing the Mellerio Tiara|
Infanta Elena has never worn the tiara in public but she did wear it in a family portrait. The most recent wearer of this beautiful jewel, other than Queen Sofia, was the Princess Letizia. It seems to have been a one-off though because Letizia usually wears the other Mellerio piece – the Floral Tiara – for her tiara events.
The last appearance of the tiara was in 2010, during the wedding of Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden and Daniel Westling.