When former Olympic swimmer Charlene Wittstock married Prince Albert of Monaco in 2011, it was widely assumed that she would receive the jewels that had been worn by her illustrious predecessor, Grace Kelly.
But instead of using his mother’s jewels, Albert instructed several renowned jewellery houses to create a brand new suite of jewels for his bride to be.
One of these was to be the Van Cleef and Arpels Ocean Tiara and Necklace.
Van Cleef and Arpels has been an official supplier to the Royal House of Grimaldi since 1956 when they designed a Pearl Parure for Princess Grace.
Given that Charlene had been an Olympic swimmer before her engagement, the jewellers decided to create a versatile tiara and necklace with an aquatic motif.
Three different shades of sapphires were chosen to create graduating tones of blue
‘evoking the world’s different seas, from the waters off the coast of Monaco to the ocean around South Africa’ .
On completion, this tiara featured 1200 stones, totalling 70 Carats. 850 of the stones were diamonds and 359 were sapphires.
11 large Pear Cut diamonds crowned the work, the biggest being a colourless and flawless 4.00 Carat Stone in the centre.
To accompany their latest creation, Van Cleef and Arpels produced this superb promotional film, giving us a detailed insight into the design and manufacturing process.
But, despite being designed specifically for the event, Charlene chose not to wear a tiara for her wedding. Instead, she opted for a floral, diamond hairpiece from the collection of her new sister in law, Princess Caroline.
Therefore, it was decided to display the piece at the Oceanographic museum of Monaco, in an exhibition entitled “L’Histoire du Mariage Princier” (The story of the Prince’s wedding).
The new Princess Charlene finally wore her Ocean tiara, albeit in its necklace form, at her first official Red Cross Ball in 2011.
Until recently, other than some badly photoshopped images, Princess Charlene had only ever been photographed wearing this piece in its tiara form for the Spanish magazine ‘Hola’ in 2014.
It had been noted that in August 2011, when opening the new ‘Salon Princese Charlene’ at the Monte Carlo branch of Van Cleef and Arpels, a large print of Charlene wearing her Ocean tiara can be seen in the background. However, no one is quite sure if this was a formal photograph or just artistic licence.
As she has settled in to her role as Monaco’s first lady, it would appear that Charlene is simply not a fan of tiaras, preferring to wear an array of extravagant earrings to important events.
This is not surprising as according to many Royal ladies, tiaras can actually be very difficult to wear. They can be extremely heavy and can make hair-styling a problem.
Thankfully, Van Cleef and Arpels also made a pair of matching earrings to compliment the Ocean tiara and Princess Charlene has worn these on several occasions.
In 2020, Princess Charlene attended a Gala in Tbilisi, Georgia. For the occasion she chose to wear the Ocean Tiara in its Necklace form
Charlene was unwell for the majority of 2021. As such, she missed the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation and Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation’s annual gala. On her Instagram page she released a picture of herself wearing the Tiara to commemorate the event. (However, I am inclined to think this is a photoshopped image)
Princess Charlene has now returned to Monaco and is slowly returning to her public duties. She wore the central element of her Ocean tiara as a necklace to a garden party hosted by Van Cleef & Arpels in July 2022