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.
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.
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: