A unique London-made sapphire, emerald and ruby bandeau,
or headband, was made in October 1928 and bought a month later from
the great jewellery house of Cartier by Edwina, Lady Mountbatten for
£900. The multi-gem bandeau in the tutti frutti style is in the
form of a sinuous creeper, the stem set with diamonds, and the leaves
and fruit formed of carved Indian rubies, sapphires and emeralds.
The bandeau is a triumph of Art Deco jewellery manufacture in the capital.
One of the finest surviving London-made multi-gem jewels, it is an object
of pre-eminent importance to the history of jewellery in England between
the two World Wars.
The bandeau was made by English Art Works, a company established in
1922 and deliberately staffed with British craftsmen by Cartier in response
to depression-era unemployment in the jewellery industry.
It is a documented and dated product of a great jewellery house, whose
rich colour combinations in multi-gem jewels represent the beautiful
and creative flowering of Art Deco jewellery, a period justly celebrated
for the distinction of its ornaments. There is no multi-gem Art deco
jewel of comparable significance in a British public collection.
The bandeau can also be seen as a symbol of Lady Mountbatten's colourful
life. The god-daughter of Edward VII, she was a woman of independent
mind and great wealth, who became a leader of fashion between the two
Although clearly an object at the very height of fashion, the bandeau
equally reflects Lady Mountbatten's interest in India, and its Indian
stones must surely have had resonance for her.
As a young woman in love with Lord Louis, but not yet in receipt of
her inheritance, she had had to borrow £100 from her great-aunt
in order to sail to India to see him while he was aide-de-camp to the
Prince of Wales. It was here that their engagement was announced in
Later, as Vicereine, she witnessed the end of British rule in the sub-continent.
The bandeau itself was the piece which, in the form of two bracelets,
she chose to highlight in a studio portrait on the birth of her second
Edwina died in Borneo in 1960 and her body was buried at sea. Lord Mountbatten
was assassinated by an IRA bomb in Co Sligo, Ireland, in 1979.
In October 2004, the British government placed a temporary order banning
its export and said the art deco piece, valued at $550,000, had recently
changed hands and the new owner had applied for an export license. It
declined to identify the present and previous owners.
In May 2008, it was announced that the tutti frutti bandeau
and bracelet would be displayed in the newly redesigned and reopened
and Judith Bollinger Jewellery of the V&A Museum.
* The difference between a bandeau and a tiara is that a bandeau is
formed by one or two, say, rows of gems, is not a complete circle, and
is without any decorative elements standing upright on it, or without
any more highly complex rows above it. A tiara does have upright elements
added, or extra elaborate rows of gems in galleries.
Sources: Munn, Tiaras: A History of Splendour; The Secretary
The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art Department for
Culture, Media and Sport 2-4 Cockspur Street London SW1Y 5DH; Press
release, Victoria and Albert Museum