At her royal wedding, Britain's Kate Middleton donned an heirloom tiara charged with historical significance. Princess Charlene of Monaco opted for something much more personal, choosing a bold, asymmetrical creation in diamond and white gold that symbolizes the one-time Olympic swimmer's love for the sea.
Made by French-German jeweler Lorenz Baumer, the "Diamond Foam" tiara in white gold and nearly 60 karats worth of diamonds evokes the spray thrown off a crashing wave. Thin strips of precision-cut diamonds arch up from behind the left ear and fan out in an almost punk-ish explosion at the temple. Large round cut diamonds, the largest weighing 8 karats, punctuate the ends of the sparkling arcs.
"Princess Charlene is a swimmer and Monaco is this little contort on the Mediterranean, so the reference to the sea was something very personal for her and at the same time a symbol of the Monegasque people," Baumer told The Associated Press in an interview.
The princess wore the headpiece to the lavish multi-course gala dinner that capped the two-day-long festivities around Charlene's long-awaited marriage to Monaco's ruling prince, Albert II, the palace said Sunday.
Baumer said the palace contacted him about five months before the wedding to ask him to submit designs for a tiara that was to be among the prince's wedding gifts to his betrothed. Baumer submitted three sketches, as did "all the major jewelry houses you can think of.
"They spread the drawings out. None of them had the names of the houses, just the drawings, and the prince and princess chose mine," said Baumer, who is also artistic director for Paris luxury label Louis Vuitton's fine jewelry line. "It was really an honor."
Baumer traveled to Monaco for the first of four meetings with Charlene, "who received me in the palace wearing a sweat suit _ she's really relaxed." The princess, who before her civil marriage Friday was known as Charlene Wittstock, gave Baumer ideas on how to improve the design.
The jeweler, an engineer by training, said the tiara can be taken apart to be used as a small or large brooch or a hairpiece. It comes with a chic little screwdriver topped with flourishing Cs for Charlene.
Baumer declined to give the price of the tiara, but hinted at a consequent sum.
The son of a German diplomat father and French mother, Baumer was born in the U.S. and lived in half a dozen countries before settling in Paris. After studying at the French capital's prestigious Ecole Central, Baumer started designing costume jewelry.
"I had nothing, no money, no connections and I was working in a tiny little maid's quarters," he said. "I moved into fine jewelry after a client of mine asked me to do a costume piece in gold. So I did one and then another and then another."
After founding his eponymous house 19 years ago, Baumer set up shop on Paris' tony rue Royale before moving to the world's fine jewelry mecca, Place Vendome.
How was collaborating with Charlene?
"It was wonderful. She's not at all like the image some may people have of her as kind of cold and distant. She's sweet but also has a strong idea of what she wants and she knows how to make her self heard and respected, but in a soft way.
"I've no doubt she's going to make a great princess," he said with a smile.