Myrtle Bridal Tiaras

Myrtle Bridal Tiaras

“A plant of immortality, myrtle was an emblem of love and desire; poets, especially love poets, were crowned with it, and doorposts were wreathed with myrtle in nuptial celebrations.” – Deirdre Larkin, The Art of Illumination. 

The tradition of wearing myrtle headpieces for weddings dates back to ancient times. Myrtle was revered by the ancient Greeks, Romans and Hebrews and myrtle wedding garlands were popular throughout medieval Europe. The practise experienced a renaissance during the Victorian and Edwardian eras with the Naturalistic Movements and, later, the Art Nouveau Movement. With the explosion in romanticism, finely crafted myrtle tiaras and corsages became an established and widespread tradition throughout Europe, particularly Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

Myrtle has long been considered to be Aphrodite’s flower and a symbol of devoted love. It is also considered to be the chosen flower of Venus. The Three Graces are frequently depicted wearing myrtle flower crowns. The ancient Greeks and Romans bathed in myrtle scented waters, often when preparing for marriage. They wore them for other special events and also received them as athletic prizes and other honours. They were made of gold foil and were delicate and fragile. The ancient Hebrews associated myrtle with romantic love, procreation and marriage.

The sweet scent of myrtle is thought by many to be the very fragrance of romance itself.  It is a symbol of devotion and fidelity. In the Victorian Language of Flowers, myrtles’s simple and enduring meaning is ‘love and marriage’.  In English tradition, a marriage is said to always follow after the myrtle blooms. In Wales, the traditional gift for a bridesmaid was a sprig of myrtle.

 

Fabric Myrtle Tiaras

In Germany and Austria, delicately made waxed fabric myrtle and leaf garlands were the most frequent choice for weddings. Tiny green leaves, interspersed with delicate white flowers, are arranged by hand on a pliable wooden or waxed card framework. Here at Elder and Bloom, we refer to these treasures as ‘Woodland Garlands’. They are popular with brides wanting a bohemian, natural or outdoor woodland themed wedding whilst simultaneously honouring history.

 

Silver Myrtle Tiaras

The intricately made silver myrtle tiaras were worn to celebrate a couple’s 25th anniversary. (In Germany this was known as the ‘Silber Hochzeit’.) Usually these are made from a base metal or low karat silver alloy or sometimes silver plated brass or other alloy. More rarely, we will find one of these tiaras made from real 800 silver, sometimes stamped by the jeweller. They nearly always come with a matching boutonnière or corsage for the groom to wear. Sometimes they come with two corsages, one for the bride and one for the groom. Today, they are worn by discerning brides seeking meaning, rarity and beauty.

Golden Myrtle Tiaras

Golden versions, usually created from gilded base metal and sometimes from gilded 800 silver, are even rarer. These were worn for the fiftieth anniversary (in German, the Goldene Hochzeit), again with matching boutonnière for the groom. These create a stunning and remarkable accessory for a modern bride, with  additional depth of meaning as they were worn to celebrate truly enduring marriages.

 

Other Myrtle Tiaras

Other versions of myrtle tiaras were made from finely crafted silver or gold paper or possibly green paper leaves with delicately crafted white flowers. Wax versions were popular, especially in France. Sometimes, myrtle crowns can be found combined with a rose motif (another symbol of love and passion) or with a daisy motif (the daisy has long been associated with purity and innocence and is therefore appropriate for bridal wear). Just once, I was lucky enough to find a myrtle crown adorned with small gems.

 

Additional Information

Myrtle Crowns are often found framed with commemorative satin hearts, photos or gilded memorabilia, showing the dates and names of the wedding couple. At other times, they are found in small glass presentation domes on a quilted, satin base. Examples from the Art Deco era are sometimes found in hinged presentation boxes. Earlier examples can be found in round cardboard boxes, sometimes with the name of the original jewellers stamped on the bottom.

The earlier examples of these crowns were hand-wrought and the later versions were, although mass produced, still exquisitely crafted. These rare tiaras have proven very popular with contemporary brides and collectors drawn to the elegance, fineness and mystery. Valued for their heirloom qualities, they are sought after by those wanting to honour their European heritages. For a bride, they fulfil the requirement to wear something ‘old’ and create a talking point that fascinates their wedding guests.

I have been collecting and selling these exquisite pieces for many years. It brings me great joy to seek them out and then pass them on to enthusiastic customers. The beauty and craftsmanship of these historic pieces never ceases to amaze me.

To be put on the waiting list for the next available crown, please contact me at pippa@elderandbloom.com

Be sure to look through the ‘Galleries’ to see more examples of these crowns.

Copyright © 2017 by Pippa Gaubert Bear and Elder & Bloom. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this website’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pippa Bear and Elder & Bloom with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Further reading / resources: 

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myrtle_wreath_at_Vergina

http://www.nprberlin.de/term/pippa-anais-gaubert#stream/0

https://blog.etsy.com/en/short-stories-antique-german-wedding-tiara/

http://www.happinessisblog.com/happiness-is/2013/03/my-wedding-10-getting-ready.html

http://www.literary-liaisons.com/article008.html

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/kate-middleton-picks-flowers-with-special-125087

http://www.victoriana.com/victorianwedding/weddingbouquet.html

the three graces

The Language of Flowers

“For the flowers have their angels… For there is a language of flowers. For there is a sound reasoning upon all flowers. For elegant phrases are nothing but flowers.” – Christopher Smart,  c.1759

To the people of the 19th century, every plant and flower had a particular meaning; wearing a natural motif on a jewelry piece had deep significance. They really took the expression ‘say it with flowers’ to heart.  It has been said that sometimes secret messages were even conveyed to potential suitors by wearing a particular piece of jewelry and feelings that could not otherwise be expressed were communicated, although there is no specific evidence for this.  It seems unlikely, as these meanings were widely published and known so it would be hard to keep it secret from everyone else also.  However, giving a gift with a particular plant or flower would be sending a message to the recipient, generally of love or friendship.  What I find so moving and truly touching about the language of flowers, is that the Victorians felt there were so many different kinds of love, affection, friendship and nuance of feeling that our normal range of words were not enough; they required an entire symbolic vocabulary to say what they felt. To the Victorians, matters of the soul, romance and human emotion were central and love of the natural world was an integral part of their existence.

“Nature never did betray
The heart that loved her.”
― William Wordsworth

By the 1850s, naturalism could be genuinely called a movement in its own right. The movement could be said to have its roots in the 19th century fascination with botany and also the influence of Romantic poets such as Wordsworth. By the mid-century, the delicate and more naturalistic early jewelry designs had been replaced by more extravagant and glittery motifs of flowers and foliage. Flexible or coiled stalks called tremblers gave the effect of quivering and movement. These larger and more glamorous pieces were meant for grand occasions but could often be dismantled into separate, simpler parts.

Of course, not everyone agreed on which plants had which meaning and interpretations did vary according to time and place, but overall a pattern did emerge. Sadly, much of this beautiful symbolism has been lost to our memory, although the meaning still remains for us in flowers such as the rose, which everyone in our era knows signifies romantic love and the four-leaved clover, which we all know means good luck.

In this post I will illustrate some of the more common flower and plant motifs loved by the people of the 19th century and their generally agreed upon meaning; over time I will add more to this post as I find relevant pictures.  However, I am not going to list all of the separate meanings as there really are so many.  If you would like to know more I highly recommend that you look at ‘Language of Flowers by Kate Greenaway, 1846-1901.’  It’s a beautiful book and it lists hundreds of flowers and their meanings. There is a link to the read the entire book online in the sources at the bottom of the post. There are also two lovely French books if you read French.  The French loved the language of flowers as much as the English and it also was a form of communication loved by many other countries. What is interesting is that the French and the English seemed to more or less agree on the symbolic meanings.

Forget-me-not

True love.

The forget-me-not was one of the most important flowers to the Victorians.

Brooch

London, c. 1855 -1873 Gold, enamel, pearls and hair compartment in the back.
This sentimental brooch with forget-me-not motif would have had a great deal of meaning for the wearer.
V&A Museum

Acorn

Strength and longevity

Brooch

Paris, c. 1820-1840
Brooch with gold, diamonds and turquoises.
Forget-me-not, rose and acorn motif. The acorn symbolized strength and longevity.
V&A Museum

The convolvulus

 ‘Bonds’ or ‘Extinguished hopes’

Brooch - Convolvulus

England, c.1835-1850
Brooch with turquoises and pearls with convolvulus flowers
V&A Museum

Lily of the Valley

Return of happiness

A late Victorian diamond spray brooch

A late Victorian diamond spray brooch
Lily of the valley motif
Christie’s sale 5896

Daisy 

Youth, innocence, freshness.  Quite often seen in bridal wear.

196.1L

 

Sources / Further reading:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Language_of_flowers

http://www.literarycalligraphy.com/books/history.html

http://archive.org/details/languageofflower00gree

http://archive.org/details/flowerspersonif00gimbgoog

http://books.google.co.jp/books?id=mGsuAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false

http://home.comcast.net/~bryant.katherine/flowers.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanakotoba

http://www.langantiques.com/university/index.php/Language_of_Flowers