FAMILY TREASURES: The century old heirloom at Chatsworth



In any family, it is not uncommon for valuables to be passed from generation to generation. The Cavendish family know this age-old tradition all too well, and this concept of preserving family treasures is the foundation on which House Style: Five Centuries of Fashion at Chatsworth has been built upon.

One such heirloom has been passed down through the family since the early 1900s. The Honeysuckle Tiara was originally owned by Evelyn, Duchess of Devonshire, and was first pictured in official portraits in 1911, making it over 100 years old.

Unknown to many, the tiara is as versatile as it is beautiful, with removable elements that can be worn as brooches or fashioned as a necklace. In its century of life with the Devonshires, it has been worn proudly in all three styles by several members of the Cavendish family.

'Debo' pictured wearing the Honeysuckle Tiara elements as brooches.

It was most recently worn in 1995 by Lady Celina, who wore it at her wedding ceremony. Historically however, the tiara is best known as being frequently worn by Deborah Cavendish – or 'Debo' as she was commonly referred to. She was  pictured wearing the tiara at the coronation or Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 paired with another family heirloom; a robe owned by Georgina, the 6th Duchess of Devonshire. The iconic ‘coronation gown’ is now on display at the House Style exhibition paired with an incredible replica of the Honeysuckle tiara, crafted by C W Sellors Fine Jewellery.

The Duke and Duchess of Devonshire admiring the coronation gown and the honeysuckle tiara

The tiara took over 150 hours to make, with hundreds of gemstones needing to be handset into intricate frames to produce a like-for-like re-creation. The Honeysuckle is one of three pieces created by the jeweller for the event, with the Lotus & Palmette tiara and the famous ‘lost headdress’ owned by Duchess Louise which was designed from a single photograph.

Speaking of the project, Paul Barker, Workshop Manager at C W Sellors, said: “As a practical jeweller, I was excited by the wonderful quality and intricacy of the pieces we were asked to recreate.

“Seeing the skill of the original artisans was truly humbling.”

Marcin Tomaszewski sets the gemstones into the Honeysuckle replica

Marcin Tomaszewski, a jewellery technician who put hours of time into bringing the designs to life, added: “I have collaborated with leading fashion designers for television shows and have even made costume jewellery for movies and theatres, but being asked to set more than 3,000 gemstones in the tiaras was a serious undertaking for me.

“Seeing the fabulous end result made all of the hard work worthwhile”

Through countless hours of work, Paul and Marcin worked hand-in-hand across the entire process, from design, to intricate metal work and stone-setting procedures. The headdress and tiaras are a shining example of their creative talents.

Speaking of C W Sellors Fine Jewellery, Laura, Countess of Burlington, said: “I would like to thank the team at C W Sellors for their support of the House Style exhibition.

“We have thoroughly enjoyed working with this family business to recreate the missing pieces in our collection. Being able to show the Devonshire tiaras with the clothes that they were originally worn with will considerably add to the spectacle of the show”.