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Must Have
by Laura Compton


March 2002

Madonna got married in one. So did Sharon Stone, Danielle Steel, Posh Spice, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Kimberly Guilfoyle (aka Mrs. Gavin Newsom). They're popping up lately at proms and quinceaneras, and on screen in "Gosford Park."

The question may not be who's wearing tiaras, but who isn't?

Like all great jewelry, tiaras originated with the Egyptians. The Romans borrowed the style, it swept Europe and has persisted for centuries. Such lore is splendidly displayed in the book "Tiara," by Diana Scarisbrick (Chronicle Books).

Every tiara has a story, and the one pictured here is part of a compelling San Francisco saga. It seems Napoleon bestowed upon his second wife, Archduchess Marie Louise of Austria, a tiara of delicate pink- and yellow-gold filigree, set with topaz stones. It was still in its original case with matching necklace and earrings when - as Gail Anderson of San Francisco recalls - her step- grandfather bought it in Paris. It was eventually given to her mother, Prudence Esberg (at left, in the 1960s).

"She wore the tiara to the opera, when people dressed," says Anderson. It is still occasionally worn by the family: Her sister used it to secure her bridal veil, and a niece donned it recently for a deb ball. But mostly, Anderson says, it "lives in the vault."

"Almost everyone does tiaras now," designer Stacie Tamaki says. She creates custom bridal headpieces at Leiko, her studio in Campbell, and her best-seller is a style that sparkles, but at an understated height of 3/8- to 1/2- inch.

For the non-bride, and for those not on a Tiffany budget, Macy's and Nordstrom carry tiaras. After all, who doesn't want to be a queen for a day?

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