The Portland Tiara, a priceless Cartier-designed diamond piece first worn by the beautiful Duchess of Portland at the 1902 coronation of Edward VII, has been stolen.
Police are seeking a group of thieves who broke into the building and then smashed into an armored glass display case at the historic Welbeck Estate in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, on November 21st.
The famous Portland Tiara — described as a “national treasure” — was stolen between 9.45 pm and 10 pm. “Security services missed the thieves by 90 seconds and the police arrived on the scene two minutes later,” said a spokesperson for the Welbeck Estate.
Nottinghamshire Police said it was following “a number of lines of inquiry.”
The tiara was commissioned by the Duke of Portland for his wife Winifred to wear to the coronation and experts say it could be worth millions.
The fear is that the thieves will break up the tiara.
According to Richard Edgcumbe, Curator of Jewellery at the Victoria and Albert Museum, the tiara is “recognised as a jewel of the supreme importance,” reported The Standard. “The Portland Tiara is one of the great historic tiaras of Great Britain.”
The centerpiece of the tiara is the Portland Diamond, which dates from the 19th century. It is flanked by two diamond drops and other pendant diamonds, all set in gold and silver.
Media reports say the burglars also stole a diamond brooch, composed of diamond clusters, that the Duchess of Portland wore when she was one of four canopy-bearers at Queen Alexandra’s anointing.
The main lead police seem to be following is the discovery of a silver Audi S5, burned, on Cross Lane, Blidworth, that may have been used by the thieves.
Police are appealing for information about the silver Audi.
Detective Inspector Neil Humphris said: “We’re pursuing a number of lines of inquiry but we believe there are people out there who may have crucial information that could help with our investigation.”
James Lewis from Bamford auctioneers in Derby told the BBC it had been “designed in a period when money was no object.”
Lewis said: “It could be worth millions, but it is such a well-known piece it can’t come up for public sale.”
In 1901, when Queen Victoria died, Britain prepared for its first coronation in more than 50 years. Many aristocrats, including the 6th Duke of Portland, ordered new jewels for the occasion.
William John Arthur James Cavendish-Bentinck, the Duke of Portland, commissioned Cartier to make a new tiara for his wife, Winifred, to wear at the coronation in Westminster Abbey.
She wore the new tiara on other occasions, including the Duchess’s time at court as Queen Alexandra’s Mistress of the Robes. Although some of Winifred’s jewels were auctioned after her death (including her sapphire tiara), the Portland Tiara remained with her descendants — until it was stolen.
Born Winifred Anna Dallas-Yorke, she met the duke when she was 26, and they married less than a year later. She was quite beautiful — and nearly six feet tall.
She was involved in social causes and adored animals, becoming the first president of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. She died in 1954 at the age of 90.
According to The Court Jeweler, “The tiara is, sadly, only the latest in a string of prominent jewels to be stolen from museum collections. In April 2017, a diamond tiara from the collection of Grand Duchess Hilda of Baden was stolen from the Badisches Landesmuseum in Karlsruhe.”
And in August, a group of thieves sensationally escaped by boat after stealing pieces of Swedish royal funeral regalia from Strängnäs Cathedral. Neither theft has been solved.