The piece of jewellery usually known as Queen Sophia’s tiara, but informally also called “the elk antlers”, is one of the diadems most frequently worn by Queen Silvia of Sweden. It is made up of no less than 528 diamonds, but its origins are not quite clear.
It is possible that it is based on a smaller diamond comb from the jewellery collection of King Carl XIV Johan, but it first appears in its present form in a photo showing the then Princess Sophia, Duchess of Ostrogothia during the reign of her brother-in-law King Carl XV (whose family order she wears in that photo).
The tiara is first listed in the inventory of jewels belonging to Carl XV at the time of his death in 1872, where the said diamond comb is missing. It is thus possible that the comb, with which Queen Lovisa was once pictured, was remodelled into a tiara for Princess Sophia towards the end of Carl XV’s reign.
There are several later photos of Sophia wearing it as Queen, such as the one above, which shows her in Swedish court dress. It is not among the eight diadems listed in the inventory of her jewellery drawn up after her death in 1913, but this is because it was part of the jewellery family foundation.
Queen Victoria was, as far as I know, never pictured with it and in 1923 she and King Gustaf V presented it to their eldest son’s second bride, Lady Louise Mountbatten. Queen Louise wore it fairly frequently, but following her death in 1965 it was left in the vaults until Princess Christina wore it for the state visit from Denmark in 1973. Princess Margaretha, Mrs Ambler chose to wear it for the dance at Drottningholm Palace on the eve of the current King and Queen’s wedding in 1976.
It has also been a firm favourite of Queen Silvia’s, who had the sole use of it from 1977, when Princess Lilian wore if for the Nobel banquet, until this year’s royal wedding, where it was worn by Princess Birgitta of Hohenzollern.
The reason why it has been worn frequently by some royal ladies (Queen Sophia, Queen Louise and Queen Silvia) and never by others (Queen Victoria and Princess Sibylla) is apparently that the tiara is not versatile at all and that it is therefore very uncomfortable to wear unless it fits the shape of one’s head. I am told Princess Birgitta came to experience this during the wedding banquet in June; the tiara, worn low on her forehead, kept slipping down into her face.