Considered a sacred tree, the oak is the emblem of Zeus, god of the sky and thunder, and king of all the gods on Mount Olympus. It is a symbol of strength and endurance and has the mystical attribute of being a link between the earth and the heavens. Venerated in England for centuries, the oak also symbolizes majesty, which makes it a perfect motif for tiaras.

Tiaras and diadems have their origin in the ancient custom of crowning the victorious with laurel branches or oak twigs and acorns. In ancient Greek times, they were also worn by women to enhance their look and display their status, and also given as offerings to the gods and occasionally served as bullion.

The contents of Greek temples and sanctuaries show that large numbers of gold wreaths were left as dedications and made of foliage sacred to the deity the temple was dedicated to: wheat for Demeter, ivy for Dionysus and oak for Zeus. From the fourth century B.C. onward, wreaths have been found in burial sites in Macedonia, Southern Italy, Asia Minor and the North Pontic area. 

Napoleon wearing his famous laurel-leaf crown in 1804.

Napoleon wearing his famous laurel-leaf crown in 1804.

Tiaras in the shape of wreaths of leaves were revived in the Napoleonic era. Napoleon chose a gold laurel-leaf headdress to be crowned emperor in 1804, and sprays of laurel and myrtle leaves encrusted with diamonds adorned the heads of the female members of his family attending the ceremony.

This golden laurel leaf trimmed from the coronation crown of Napoleon in 1804 and weighing 10 grams (.35 ounces) sold for $730,000 at an auction in 2017 in Paris.

This golden laurel leaf trimmed from the coronation crown of Napoleon in 1804 and weighing 10 grams (.35 ounces) sold for $730,000 at an auction in 2017 in Paris.

Leaf-wreath tiaras remained popular throughout the 19th century and some splendid examples designed as sprays of oak leaves were produced in England for several British families including the Howard's, Howard de Walden's, Crichton-Stuarts, and the Norfolk's - where the oak leaf is an element within their coat-of-arms. 

The oak leaf, besides being emblematic of fortitude and strength, has also assumed a patriotic significance and was adopted for jewels celebrating the defeat of Napoleon by the British Army and Navy.

The following are some outstanding examples of these oak-leaf tiaras:

Diamond tiara, early 19th century, designed as two confronting sprays of oak leaves tapering from the center and set throughout with old-mine diamonds; may also be worn as four brooches. Carrington & Co. Jewelers, London; $160,212.

Diamond tiara, early 19th century, designed as two confronting sprays of oak leaves tapering from the center and set throughout with old-mine diamonds; may also be worn as four brooches. Carrington & Co. Jewelers, London; $160,212.

A tiara of oak leaves and acorns based on a classical prototype. The turquoise represents true love and the oak fortitude and strength. The empty acorn cup at the top may stand for the loss that inevitably follows love. This dramatic piece was likely designed for a bride and dates from about 1840.

A tiara of oak leaves and acorns based on a classical prototype. The turquoise represents true love and the oak fortitude and strength. The empty acorn cup at the top may stand for the loss that inevitably follows love. This dramatic piece was likely designed for a bride and dates from about 1840.

Silver and gold tiara of oak leaves and acorns set with diamonds, circa 1855, and can also be convertible to a brooch and comb mounts; Hunt & Roskell.

Silver and gold tiara of oak leaves and acorns set with diamonds, circa 1855, which can also be convertible to a brooch and comb mounts, as shown in the photos below; Hunt & Roskell.

The tiara converted into a brooch.

The tiara converted into a brooch.

Parts of the tiara mounted on tortoise-shell combs.

Parts of the tiara mounted on tortoise-shell combs.

A copper-gilt tiara, French, 19th century.

A copper-gilt tiara, French, 19th century.

The back of the copper-gilt tiara.

The back of the copper-gilt tiara.

An unusual Victorian silver tiara with acorn and oak-leaf design, circa 1880.

An unusual Victorian silver tiara with acorn and oak-leaf design, circa 1880.

An oak-leaf tiara with emerald acorns.

An oak-leaf tiara with emerald acorns.

Nature interpreted by Joseph Chaumet is an ode to the eternal cycle of the oak tree in this tiara, circa 1903.

Nature interpreted by Joseph Chaumet is an ode to the eternal cycle of the oak tree in this tiara, circa 1903.

This tiara of oak leaves, acorns and hollow acorn cups was designed in the manner of ancient Greek jewelry, set with a profusion of brilliant-and rose-cut diamonds. It was made by Garrard after the Neo-Classical fashion of the early 19th century for the 15th Duke of Norfolk to give to his bride, Gwendolen Constable Maxwell, on their marriage in 1904.

This tiara of oak leaves, acorns and hollow acorn cups was designed in the manner of ancient Greek jewelry, set with a profusion of brilliant-and rose-cut diamonds. It was made by Garrard after the Neo-Classical fashion of the early 19th century for the 15th Duke of Norfolk to give to his bride, Gwendolen Constable Maxwell, on their wedding day in 1904.

Sapphire and diamond bandeau, early 1930s, Thurn und Taxis. Set with three articulated oak leaves, each accented with a cabochon sapphire, and with a central star sapphire embellished with rose, circular-cut and cushion-shaped diamonds; $284,380.

Sapphire and diamond bandeau, early 1930s, by Thurn und Taxis. Set with three articulated oak leaves, each accented with a cabochon sapphire and embellished with rose-, circular-cut and cushion-shaped diamonds; $284,380.

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