The term aigrette refers to the tufted crest or head-plumes of the egret, which was traditionally used for adorning a headdress. The word may also identify any similar ornament in gems. These feathered headpieces were popular in the early 20th century, although the aigrettes we see in use today are typically featherless – and good thing, considering some of the controversy around the feather-gathering. The gems still exist, though, and today we’re going to discuss how these can be made modern. Or more modern, since we have a couple of royals out there fighting the good fight to let no gem moulder away in a cupboard.
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Aigrettes in Use
There are examples of the modern aigrette. Daisy’s three piece tiara is considered an aigrette, and she wraps and drapes and pins it around her hair with incredible creativity. I love it and her, but I long to see it on darker hair where the magnificent side pieces can really pop.
The Dutch, whose vaults are deep, have a couple of aigrette options. Max modernizes them with panache, I think. First the Ruby Peacock tiara, the center piece of which can be popped out and used as a gem aigrette. This tiara was out of service for years before it showed up on Max, so I think it really needs to get out and about more. I really want to see our Queen-in-Training Amalia tuck this piece in her hair in her early days of tiara wearing.
Below Max in the full tiara.
Then there is Queen Emma’s diamond aigrette, which I don’t feel even the talented Maxima – who has resurrected this as a brooch and hair slide – has worn to full effect. This was a wedding gift to Emma in 1879, but I see modern possibilities. I want to see second daughter Alexia – of the magnificent hair – make use of this hair ornament. I feel that girl has creativity in her bones.
The hair ornament option, worn for Max’s fortieth birthday celebrations.
The aigrette worn as a brooch.
Then, in Norway, there is the Astrid with her signature aigrette. This piece came from Queen Maud and made its way through the years to the best Classic Princess to ever Princess. It can be adorned with diamond wings or ruby wings – and Astrid wears both with whimsy and panache. It’s hard for me to picture anyone wearing it as well as Astrid, but perhaps Sverre Magnus will marry a pixie of a princess and we’ll see it again.
How can we bring more of these out into the light and on contemporary heads? Let’s look at a classic sparkler, the Josephine aigrette from the Chaumet Exhibition. I believe there are lots of current royals who could make this work. In my mind it’s for the younger set, but let’s toss a few ideas out there.
The Cartier blackened steel tiaras hold a place in my heart, and Ivy tiara has a possible aigrette function. It has quite a different effect from the diamond model above, doesn’t it?
Finally, the 1913 Cartier aigrette shown in the header photo. That’s my jeweller in my era, and it’s one of my favorites. I’m throwing it out there with no poll because I think the modern beauty of the piece speaks for itself. I would love to see Princess Leonor wearing this someday, if she can ever be allowed frivolous things.