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Royal Spanish Tiaras: The Mellerio Shell Tiara

Royal Spanish Tiaras: The Mellerio Shell Tiara
Queen Sofia wearing the tiara.

It would make sense, given that Spain is surrounded by water on more than two sides, that there could be a royal tiara in their collection that resembles a sea shell or ocean waves. Perhaps that was the thought when in 1868 Queen Isabella II of Spain bought the Mellerio Shell Tiara for her daughter, Infanta Isabella.

Royal Spanish Tiaras: The Mellerio Shell Tiara
Infanta Isabella in The Mellerio Shell Tiara, a wedding gift from her mother.

Isabella the younger was about to be married and Mellerio, who’s headquarters was in Paris, had set up another location in Madrid in 1850 and had quickly become a favorite of the Spanish royals. Designed by Oscar Massin, Mellerio had crafted the tiara in 1867 and Isabella II purchased it the next year to give to her daughter as a wedding present. It wasn’t the last time it would be gifted to a princess in honor of her impending marriage.

The original design drawing by Oscar Massin.

Made with undulating waves of diamond encrusted white metal (I wasn’t able to find out what metal, but my guess would be silver over gold, given the time period) with seven large pearls and numerous diamond briolettes, including one drop that is removable and can be hung from the base (but is rarely worn these days).

Royal Spanish Tiaras: The Mellerio Shell Tiara
Queen Victoria Eugenia (Ena) wearing the Mellerio Shell Tiara.

Infanta Isabella never had any children, so when she passed away, she willed the tiara to her nephew, King Alfonso XIII. You may remember his wife, Ena from last week’s post. Ena was a British born princess who married into the Spanish Royal Family (much to her mother-in-law’s dismay). Ena was a lover of jewelry but she was only photographed wearing this particular tiara a handful of times.

Queen Sofia wore the tiara often during her time on the throne.

In 1962 the Spanish Royal family accepted another royal outsider into their ranks, when Ena’s grandson married Princess Sophia of Greece and Denmark. Queen Ena and the groom’s parents, the Count and Countess of Barcelona, jointly gifted the tiara to Sofia (who changed her name to the Spanish spelling when she married Juan Carlos), as a wedding present.

Queen Letizia wearing the tiara in 2007 when she was still a Princess.

She wore it for the first time to her pre-wedding ball in Athens and has kept it on a regular rotation throughout her time on the throne, while also loaning it out now and then to other royal women. When her husband abdicated the throne to their son, she all but stopped wearing tiaras altogether. However, unlike many of the tiaras I’ve featured here, this one doesn’t follow the crown, but is instead personally owned by Sofia. We have seen it on Letizia (the current Queen) and will continue to hope we do again, as it’s one of not only the oldest tiaras in the Spanish collection but one of my personal favorites with its unique design.

Royal Spanish Tiaras: The Mellerio Shell Tiara
The Mellerio Shell Tiara

How do you feel about it? Do you like the seashell/wave design or does it not seem regal enough to you? Tell me all about it in the comments below.


3 Responses

  1. The more I have seen this tiara worn the more I really enjoy it. Love the soft kokoshnik like shape. I love the little details in this tiara, those diamond briolettes and pearls set en tremblant make my heart pitter patter. Would love to see this worn with the additional middle diamond droplette. I think especially in this pic of Queen Letizia with how she wore her hair in this tiara, that the tiara is just crying out to have it’s diamond back center stage. Regardless, this is such a delicate and romantic tiara. Every picture I find myself deeper and deeper head over heels in love with the Mellerio shell…
    Rather fond of Mellerio in general between this, the Dutch Mellerio ruby, the Spanish floral by Mellerio, Queen Margherita’s Mellerio floral and those are just the tiaras, Mellerio has been making royal jewelry for 400 years

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