Sunday, March 15, 2015

How to Make Regency Diadems

Greetings, gentle readers! Are you ready to follow me down the rabbit hole of shiny objects? It's not for the timid - these tiaras bite. I'll let you know now, they're vicious little creatures. My hands are cut, burned, and scratched from creating just a few of these, so if you don't have much experience working with or soldering metal, you may want to try a few smaller projects before you start in on this. That being said, here's a list of supplies you'll need to create your own Regency diadem:

1 foot of brass lamp banding - I find mine on eBay and on Be sure to choose one with an open pattern, and where the pattern has minimal connections to the solid pieces of the band so that it's easier to cut. I know there are some really lovely solid banding patterns out there, but they will not work for this project. Also, the narrower the band, the easier it is to manipulate. You can definitely use some of the wider bands, but you'll have to battle them a bit more to make them behave. One foot will yield two tiaras of different sizes.

one 16" strand of "small" beads - The size is a bit of personal preference. For my coral tiara I used 5mm beads, but for others I used 3mm. In general, I use the 5mm for larger tiaras, and the 3mm for smaller ones. These beads should be round.

one strand of "large" beads - Again, the size is up to you. On the coral tiara I used 6mm, so not much larger than my "small" beads, but on my pearl one I used 8mm, which were much larger than the 3mm "smalls". These don't have to be round, they can be teardrop, round, or you can dispense with using beads altogether and use set stones instead. It's up to you.

20 gauge gold wire - This should work for most beads, but some beads have smaller holes and won't take 20 gauge. However, the only ones I've had problems with are my 3mm coral beads, which are tiny, tiny, tiny. Everything else has worked perfectly fine with 20 gauge.

 1 sheet 0.10" brass by K&S Engineering - Found at Hobby Lobby. It's thin enough to cut with scissors, but sturdy enough to keep its shape without reinforcement. I've used this for several projects in the past, and it's great stuff. I've only ever seen it at Hobby Lobby, but if you don't have one in your area, you can order it from the website. It's found in the model car section of the store.

Gold head pins 
Gold bead caps (optional)
Wire cutters
2 plastic hair combs 
Measuring tape

A 25 watt soldering iron - If you are not comfortable with soldering, you can use hot glue to assemble your tiara, it will work perfectly well. Soldering takes practice, and you can very easily burn yourself, so if you have no experience with it, please consider glue instead.

Solder and flux - Same caveat as the soldering iron.

Fine grit sand paper - for cleaning up your soldering.

Alright, let's get started! The first thing you have to do is butcher your lamp banding.

You'll need to remove the solid banding that edges the inner openwork. All we want are the guts of the banding. Very carefully snip the connections between the openwork and the edging with your wire cutters. (This is why you want something with minimal connections, the more the openwork is tied to the edging, the more difficult it will be to remove it.)

It helps to pull back the edging once you've snipped a connection so you can have better access to the next place you need to snip.

Remove the edging for both sides of the banding, so you're left with only the guts.

Now you'll want to divide the banding into two sections - one that is 7" long, and one that is 5" long. This will give us our "grande" and "petite" sections, and give you two different sized tiaras.

With some banding, it's not necessary to snip the filigree in order to make it flexible, but on others you do. If you do need to, choose some points along the filigree and carefully snip the connections so the filigree can be manipulated into a crescent shape. Do this only along one edge.

Continue until you've worked the entire length of the band. Do the same for your other section, if you intend to make two tiaras.

Now you can string your beads! Take a piece of wire that's as long as the bottom edge of your band, plus an inch or so extra, and make a loop at one end. String your small beads onto the wire. Once you've reached the length you need, close the other end with another loop.

Prepare your head pins at this point, too. For my coral tiara I used just a single 6mm coral bead on each pin, but for others I have done cap-bead-cap, or even attached beetle wings to eye pins instead of using beads. It's entirely up to you. If you plan to use set stones, you don't have to use the head pins at all. (The set stones in the pic below were salvaged from a truly ugly sew-on collar. XD)

Now it's time to make your framing. Lay your banding down on your brass sheet and draw around it with a pencil.

Once you have your shape down, you can draw the lines for your framing. I usually have a band at the top, one on the bottom edge, and another underneath that, with a gap to allow space for the strung beads. Don't forget to put edges on the side edges, too!

Once you have your framework looking the way you want it, cut it out with a pair of scissors. Be very careful of the points created by cutting the metal, they are very unfriendly and will bite!

You'll have to cut into one side, leaving an open edge on the framework, so you can cut out the interior of the frame. Make sure not to cut through the other edge, though, we want that all to stay as one piece.

When everything is cut out, you'll be left with a brass octopus. Just work the metal a little bit to flatten it out again, and the octopus will go away.

You can better see what I mean by having one open edge and one closed edge in the second picture above. The edge I'm holding is the closed side, and the other side has no edge at all.

At this point, you can clean up the framing a bit. I like to go through and fix any unevenness in my edges and thin out the top line a little bit. Make sure to only cut the outside edges of your framework. If you cut the interior edges, the filigree will not meet up with the edges of the framing, and you'll have to do some finagling to get it to all fit together.

Now comes the scary part, the soldering. If you have opted not to use a soldering iron, hot glue actually works extremely well. Do not use superglue. It will take forever to set on the metal, and you're more likely to glue yourself to the metal, and then your tiara will be torn apart as you try to wrestle your fingers away, and it's all just terrible. Hot glue.

This part also takes a bit of finagling, so if you have Helping Hands or something like that, it would be hugely useful.

With your filigree banding inside the frame, glue or solder your prepared head pins to the back of the tiara. Make sure that the pins don't show through on the other side of the tiara. You don't have to attach the entire length of the pin, you just need to have the top part, underneath the bead, affixed to the frame, and a little bit of the pin attached to the filigree, in order to hold everything together. One or two of the pins will have to span the entire thing, though, and attach to the bottom edge of your frame, so the pieces that outline the beaded wire will stay in place.

Once you've attached all your head pins, snip off any extra length. To close the open edge of the frame, take a narrow strip of brass and attach it to the open side. Cut off any extra length.

Use your sand paper to clean up your soldering, removing any sharp points or messiness. Take your time, and don't be too rough on your tiara so you don't pop the joins.

The only thing left is to attach the beaded wire. Simple open the loops you created and wrap them around the edges of the frame to keep it in place. I know it seems like there should be more to it, but from examining period diadems, this is exactly what the originals have on them, as well!

Hooray, you're almost finished!

It's looking like a tiara now! All that's left is to attach the combs to the back of the tiara so it can be worn. Hot glue is best for this. And then you're finished!

While there aren't a lot of steps, it does take a bit of time, so don't rush through the process, especially once you get to soldering. If you rush, or work when you're tired or distracted, you're more likely to burn, cut, or stab yourself, so be very careful and take your time.

Have fun with your project, and if you create a tiara from my tutorial, I would love to see what you make!


  1. AWESOME SAUCE!!! You, my friend, are a total and complete rock star!!! Thank you so much for this!!

  2. I want to make a new dress from this time period just so I can make and wear one of these! Beautiful work, Megan!

  3. I'm making my first Regency for Costume Con. I will have a proper tiara thanks to you! *pins*

  4. This. Is. Genius! I had purchased some of those brass sheets from HL a billion years ago and have had no idea what to make with them until now. Your tiaras look just like the originals! I will admit that I want to try soldering, but I'm nervous. Any tips for a novice?

    1. Don't rush through it. Try it on a couple of scraps first to get used to working with the materials. Also, use plenty of flux so the solder flows correctly, it makes things work so much more smoothly! :) Good luck! :D

  5. Och! LOVE this!!!! Osom, grat, were to buy in my country metal ornaments?... bu!

  6. So cool, thanks for sharing! Definitely a keeper! :D

  7. Great tutorial, and fabulous results. Thanks so much for sharing!

  8. Wow! Just Wow! Amazing craftsmanship! Thank You so much for sharing your tips and tricks on how to achieve these beautiful Tiaras!

  9. Is there a way to make this in silver? Would perhaps steel behave similarly?

    1. I haven't tried making them in silver, as most extant examples I've seen are gold, so that's what I stuck with. Steel might be a bit hard to finagle, as the metal is a bit more rigid, but I know that K&S offers aluminum sheets that may be easier to work with. My Lamp Parts does offer steel lamp banding, so it's definitely possible to find the materials in silver!

    2. Megan Martin, Aluminum can't be soldered without an arc welder that is used to work on cars. I tried to solder aluminum all day & my son came in & told me it wouldn't work. Please save yourself some frustration and do not use aluminum. You can get silver brass from the same company.

  10. Hello! Do you sell these as well? If so, I'd love to purchase the pearl one.

    1. The pearl one has already been sold, but I can make you a similar one! Contact me at and we can talk more about what you're looking for. :)

  11. I want to thank you for your amazing tutorial! I just finished my first diadem. You made it so easy for me with all your detailed shots and great description. Thank you so much.

    1. I'm so glad you found it useful! You did a wonderful job, your diadem looks lovely! :D

  12. I used your instructions and made a couple. gonna make more in other colors now and really play with this. thanks you :)

    Wish i knew how to send images of the finished ones to you in this comment <3



  14. Can you show me a picture of how you attached the hair Combs to the back? I don't want to glue them on the wrong way.