5,000 visitors in ten days to see Wartski’s tiaras

Sales of the catalogue have raised nearly £35,000 for the Samaritans

Wartski’s exhibition “One hundred tiaras” will have to be voted the London dealer’s exhibition of the year. In only ten days, over 5,000 people crowded into their tiny Grafton Street gallery. Every morning, within twenty minutes of opening, the queue had reached down the road to Bond Street. The gallery sold over 6,000 catalogues raising nearly £35,000 for the Samaritans. According to Catherine Purcell of Wartski, people came from Australia and San Francisco, some returning five or six times. “The last exhibition of tiaras to be held was at Cartier in 1911 and that included only nineteen objects,” she explained. “I think people realised that this was a once in a life time chance to see an exhibition on this scale.” The royal provenance of many of the pieces brought in the crowds but also the extraordinary range of styles and materials on show, from pieces dripping in diamonds, emeralds, sapphires and rubies to carved coral, enamel, cut steel, horn, rock crystal and diamanté, worked into a shimmering galaxy of intricate designs. The Spencer diamond tiara immortalised in the Princess of Wales’s wedding photographs actually looked disappointingly small in real life. The three most popular tiaras proved to be an extraordinary Fabergé piece in the Russian style of plique à jour enamel decorated with trails of diamond forget-me-nots; a Cartier tiara of engraved rock crystal decorated with old-cut, coloured diamonds of extraordinary beauty and TV personality “Dame Edna Everidge”’s Butler and Wilson creation (above) which echoed the shape of her winged spectacles and was surmounted with the word “Megastar” in a technicolour array of stones. Catalogues are still available from Wartski, 14 Grafton Street, London W1, price £5 in aid of the Samaritans.

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 70 May 1997