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The lost treasures of the Romanovs: the most beautiful tiaras of the Empire and where are they now
The lost treasures of the Romanovs: the most beautiful tiaras of the Empire and where are they now

We show the most precious examples of the jewelry heritage of the Russian imperial family and tell what happened to them after the overthrow of the monarchy.

The fate of the tiaras of the Russian imperial family, like, incidentally, of other jewelry of the Romanovs, was unenviable - if not tragic. Some examples of Russian jewelry art were lucky: some fell into private hands almost unharmed, others found new blue-blooded housewives for themselves (for example, the British Queen Elizabeth II), and one of them can even be seen by anyone who finds himself at the exhibition of the Diamond Fund.

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Photo taken by a Soviet commission in the 1920s when jewelers appraised the tsar's family jewels. Many of them have been lost without a trace.

However, the tiaras and diadems of the Russian empresses and grand duchesses that have survived to this day are only grains of the lost precious heritage of the Romanovs. Many ornaments of the imperial family - and there were many of them - were disassembled and sold by the Soviet government at auctions or were lost without a trace. Always richly decorated, pompous, interpreting European fashion in their own way, the Romanov tiaras were almost impossible to confuse with the decorations of other royal houses: it is no coincidence that many of these decorations later received the romantic name tiare russe or, more inconvenient for Europeans, kokoshnik. Even modern tiaras, which in shape resemble a traditional Russian headdress, are still named in the same way.

So how did the court jewelers of the Romanovs interpret the European fashion for tiaras? We show by the example of the most beautiful and majestic royal tiaras.

Tiare russe

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An artistic portrait of Nicholas II, his wife and his mother. On Alexandra Feodorovna and on Maria Feodorovna - typical examples of Russian tiara

So what is the classic Russian tiara that has inspired royalty and jewelers around the world for centuries? By themselves, such tiaras are flexible bands from which diamond "rays" seem to scatter. In the West, this type of tiara is sometimes called frang - literally "fringe". But, strictly speaking, their essence is the same.

The main charm of such jewelry is in their versatility: Russian tiaras were created in such a way that they could be worn independently, and sewn on a kokoshnik, and put on as a necklace. It is believed that such tiaras came into fashion at the court of Nicholas I. Today, decorations made in the image and likeness of tiare russe can be found in almost all monarchies of the world - from Monaco to Japanese.

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Empress Maria Feodorovna in Russian tiara

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And her daughter-in-law - Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, also in a Russian tiara, somewhat different in the pattern of "rays"

Talking about the fashionable influence the Russian royal family possessed, one cannot but tell about the history of the appearance of their own “kokoshnik” among the British royal family. The famous decoration, in which one can often see Elizabeth II, was first presented to the English princess Alexandra of Denmark, the future Queen of Great Britain. It was a gift from a group of court aristocrats wishing to surprise the Princess of Wales on the occasion of her silver wedding to the heir to the throne. When Alexandra was asked what she would like to receive, Her Highness told about a very fashionable tiara that is worn in Russia - about a kokoshnik.

Alexandra knew what she was talking about: such kokoshniks were worn by her own sister, the Russian Empress Maria Feodorovna.

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Empress Maria Feodorovna wearing a Russian tiara. Fragment of a portrait (artist I. Kramskoy)

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And a photo of Princess Alexandra in her "Kokoshnik" by Garrard

For the British princess, her own tiare russe was made at Garrard.If you look at the portraits of the two sisters in diamond kokoshniks - the future Queen of England and the Russian Empress, you can once again be surprised at what power the genes of monarchs have. However, Alexandra Danish still wore her tiara, more like a crown than a traditional kokoshnik. The unfortunate mistake will be corrected by Maria Tekskaya and her descendants.

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Elizabeth II in Queen Alexandra's "Kokoshnik"

It is difficult to count how many of these tiaras were in the collection of the Romanovs. If you look at the portraits of the last two empresses, as well as at the photos of the tsarist jewels confiscated by the Bolsheviks, you can see at least two such diadems: one with sharper "rays" and the second with more rounded ones. Perhaps each empress owned her own designs. It is not known exactly what happened to these tiaras after the Revolution: perhaps their function as a transformer did them a disservice, because it made them easier to disassemble and sell in parts.

Diadem of Maria Feodorovna

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In the West, they still like to call it "Russian wedding tiara", and for good reason - it was in it that several generations of imperial brides were married, starting from the second half of the 19th century. The girls wore this triangular tiara along with the imperial wedding crown and other adornments given to them especially for the wedding. It was a unique tradition in its way: while European brides welcomed diversity (for example: "Wedding tiaras of the British royal family"), Russians brought the continuity of their wedding images to the absolute.

However, initially this tiara was not made as a wedding decoration at all. Its conditional year of "birth" is considered 1800, the creator - Jacob Duval, and the first owner - Maria Feodorovna, wife of Emperor Paul I. As art critic Lilia Kuznetsova writes in one of her books, initially the diadem was also decorated with threads hanging from the temples - in the manner of Old Russian ryasn. The purest diamonds of various calibers and cuts were brought from India and Brazil, and their total weight was about 1000 carats!

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Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna wearing Maria Feodorovna's diadem after her wedding to Wilhelm, Duke of Södermanland, 1908

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Wedding of Nicholas II and Princess Alexandra, 1894

The central row is a movably hanging briolette, briskly swinging at the slightest movement of the head. However, the main "hero" of the jewelry is only one, the soloing light pink diamond weighing 13.35 carats. Initially, a rare specimen was inserted into the base, at the bottom of which was a colored foil - a favorite technique of jewelers of those years, due to which the diamond seemed blood red. Only many years later, the true color of the stone was discovered, which is hardly easy for the untrained eye to catch.

This diadem was very lucky: it successfully survived the Revolution, and today it is the most valuable exhibit of the Diamond Fund in the Kremlin. You can still look at it today. The experience is unique, considering that Maria Feodorovna's tiara is the only original tiara of the Romanovs located in Russia (at least officially).


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The original diadem with ears - the photo was taken in 1927 especially for the Christie auction, where a lot of the Romanov family jewelry was sold

Another masterpiece made by the Duval brothers' workshop for Empress Maria Feodorovna - by that time already a dowager. This diadem was one of the favorites of Her Majesty - which, however, is not surprising: the decoration was distinguished not only by originality, but also by filigree execution. The composition consisted of six graceful golden spikelets, tending to the center, between which florid, as if lacy, flax stems literally sprouted. Needless to say, the drawing was striking in its realism.

The entire tiara was completely encrusted with the purest diamonds, and in its center was a huge 37-carat leucosapphire - transparent, with a subtle golden hue.As you might guess, this stone symbolized the sun.

In general, the symbolism of the tiara is amazing. Wheat ears and flax are the iconic riches of Russia, and perhaps there was no more appropriate image for the jewelry of the ladies from the ruling dynasty.

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A copy of the diadem, which received the name "Russian Field", which is now kept in the Diamond Fund

They say that this diadem was highly valued by the imperial family, however, a century later, the new government did not give the "ears" any historical or artistic value - and sold it at the London auction "Christie" in 1927 along with other royal jewels. Its further fate is unknown, but in 1980 Soviet jewelers (V. Nikolaev, G. Aleksakhin.) Tried to recreate the lost jewelry - and created a replica of gold, platinum and diamonds, which was named "Russian Field". This tiara, of course, differs from the original one: a golden diamond sparkles in its center, the pattern seems to be "larger", and the overall size of the decoration is smaller. And yet this work gives an excellent idea of ​​what the original diadem of Maria Feodorovna looked like. You can also admire the replica at the Diamond Fund.

Pearl diadem

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Pearl diadem by jeweler K. Bolin

For convenience, they like to call her "Russian beauty", but this name is not entirely correct. Yes, “Russian Beauty” does exist - but, as in the case of “Russian Field”, it is just a replica skillfully recreated by jewelers V. Nikolaev and G. Aleksakhin in 1987. However, the source of inspiration for Soviet masters is quite real: it was a diamond tiara with pendant pearls, made by order of Emperor Nicholas I for his wife Alexandra Feodorovna. The author of the precious masterpiece, which today cannot but evoke associations with the Cambridge "Knot of Love", was the court jeweler Karl Bolin.

The history of this decoration is fascinating: Bolin's pearl tiara can be considered a kind of symbol of the then fashion for everything Russian and deliberately national, literally imposed on the capital's fashionistas "from above". In its shape, the tiara resembled a typical kokoshnik, and its most recognizable element was a slender row of 25 large natural pearls selected by Bolin from “unnecessary” crown jewels (in the “Russian Beauty” we already see artificial pearls).

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A copy of Bolin's tiara made by jewelers Nikolayev and Aleksakhin. It is currently kept in the Diamond Fund. It is she who bears the name "Russian beauty"

The decoration instantly became considered a crown jewel, but its splendor was so great that the penultimate Russian empress, Maria Feodorovna (wife of Alexander III), at some point even began to keep it in her chambers. According to art historian Lilia Kuznetsova, the diadem made even foreigners speechless: so, in her opinion, at the beginning of the 20th century, it was this crown that inspired the Cartier house when it created its own pearl and diamond kokoshnik, known all over the world.

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The famous 1908 Cartier kokoshnik, possibly inspired by the Pearl Tiara

In 1919, Maria Feodorovna fled Russia, taking with her exclusively everyday jewelry. The most precious pieces, including Bolin's tiara, were appropriated by the Bolsheviks and subsequently sold at auctions - for example, the pearl tiara went under the Christie's hammer in 1927. It is believed that the jewelry was bought by Holmes & Co. and then resold to the 9th Duke of Marlborough (Winston Churchill's cousin), who acquired the Russian tiara for his second wife Gladys Mary Deacon.

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Gladys, Duchess of Marlborough, wearing the Pearl Diadem

True, the decoration did not last long in Great Britain - in the late 1970s it was again put up for auction, and this time it became its owner … Imelda Marcos, First Lady of the Philippines. It is believed that Imelda had no idea what an incredible story this little thing has. Some even believed that the First Lady had taken apart the tiara.However, today it is known that the "kokoshnik" is intact and is in the Central Bank of the Philippines, awaiting, as they say, the next auction. Will the prototype of "Russian Beauty" ever return to Russia?

Vladimir tiara

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Vladimir tiara in its original form - with pearl pendants

No less loud and action-packed story covers the tiara called Vladimirskaya. Many people know this decoration, because today its mistress is almost the most famous woman in the world - the British Queen Elizabeth II, who in turn received valuable decoration from her grandmother, Queen Mary of Teck, a famous lover of expensive jewelry. But how did the Russian tiara end up in England?

The magnificent decoration, which is a graceful interweaving of 15 diamond rings, in the center of which hangs one massive pear-shaped pearl, is another creation of Bolin's workshop. His court jewelers in 1874 were ordered by the Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich - the son of Emperor Alexander II - for his bride Maria Pavlovna as a wedding gift. By the name of the Grand Duke, they now call the tiara - Vladimirskaya.

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Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna in the Vladimir tiara, 1880

Maria Pavlovna adored all kinds of jewelry, and her court was one of the richest in Russia - which, as they say, greatly worried the acting empress, Alexandra Feodorovna. By the time the Revolution broke out, the Grand Duchess had managed to amass a huge collection of family jewelry. Most of them remained in her main residence - the Vladimir Palace. However, Maria Pavlovna, to put it mildly, did not want to share her treasures with the Bolsheviks.

The Grand Duchess's court connections served her well: seeing Maria Pavlovna's despair, one of her family's close friends, antiquary and diplomat Albert Stopford, who, as they say, also secretly worked for British intelligence, entered the princess's chambers in the Vladimir Palace and took her out of St. Petersburg to London most of her jewelry. Including a diamond tiara.

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Maria Tekskaya in the Vladimir tiara

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… And her granddaughter Elizabeth II

After the death of Maria Pavlovna, the jewelry went to her daughters. The tiara went to the younger Elena - at that time already the wife of the Greek Prince Nicholas. Elena's daughter, Princess Marina, by the way, will become the wife of the Duke of Kent George, giving rise to the famous branch of the Windsor dynasty, which today include, for example, Princess Michael of Kent or Lady Amelia Windsor. However, the diadem will never reach the Kent ones - lacking money, Elena will sell the Vladimir tiara to Queen Mary of Teck.

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Vladimir tiara with "Cambridge stones" - emeralds

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Another way to wear a tiara is without any pendants.

The British monarch, despite a decent collection of jewelry, will love the new tiara heartily: after the purchase, she will bring the decoration to the Garrard & Co workshop, where the pearls will be made removable, and as an alternative they will pick up teardrop-shaped emeralds - the so-called "Cambridge stones". After the death of Mary, the Tekskaya tiara will go to her granddaughter - Queen Elizabeth II, who still wears it with pearls and emeralds, and even "empty".

Large diamond tiara with pearls

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Empress Alexandra Feodorovna in the Big Diamond Diadem

This is where the Russian style manifested itself in all its splendor. The always winning combination of diamonds and pearls, elements of the lover's knot style popular in the 19th century and, of course, the traditional kokoshnik shape - all this came together in a luxurious Big Diamond Diadem. It was made in the early 1830s, presumably by the court jeweler Jan Gottlieb-Ernst for Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, wife of Nicholas I, perhaps from old jewelry by Maria Feodorovna, who bequeathed her entire rich collection of jewelry to her descendants.

The size of this tiara is striking: 113 pearls of different sizes and several dozen diamonds are located on a precious frame half a head high.

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Portrait of the Empress by N.K.Bodarevsky

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Tiara side view

Alexandra Feodorovna was the first owner of the diadem, and, ironically, the last owner was also Alexandra Fedorovna - only now the wife of Nicholas II. The empress especially liked the decoration - as, incidentally, everything was deliberately "Russian". With her, the decoration gained world fame: so, it was it that crowned the head of Her Majesty at the opening of the First State Duma.

Thus, the diadem was certainly of great historical value - but not for everyone. After the Revolution, it disappeared from all radars and, presumably, was sold at an auction (possibly all at the same Christie in 1927) - it is possible that in order to find buyers, the new authorities took the tiara apart.

Sapphire tiara

The history of this diadem is as thrilling and interesting as the history of Vladimirskaya, because at one time it also belonged to the Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna, who, thanks to her friendship with an English diplomat, was able to take her treasures out of Russia.

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Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna in the Sapphire Kokoshnik. Portrait by Boris Kustodiev

A massive kokoshnik, tightly studded with diamonds and adorned with massive sapphires, is a family adornment that passed into the family of the Grand Dukes from the collection of Nicholas I's wife, Alexandra Feodorovna. Some believe that this decoration is, in fact, a converted diadem of Her Majesty, which the emperor presented to her in honor of their accession to the throne in 1825. According to another opinion, only sapphires from the Empress's collection were included in the massive kokoshnik.

One way or another, part of Alexandra Feodorovna's treasures was inherited by her grandson, Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich, who presented them to his beloved wife. Kokoshnik, photographs of which have survived to this day, was made (or remade) by Cartier in the late 1900s. The diadem became part of a luxurious parure, which also included earrings, a necklace and a brooch.

Albert Stopford, already known to us, also saved this precious tiara from the wrath of the Revolution, who secretly took the Grand Duchess's jewelry out of her boudoir. But if the new owner of the Vladimir tiara becomes (in the end) the Queen of Great Britain, then another queen - the Romanian one - will buy the sapphire kokoshnik.

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Queen Maria wearing Maria Pavlovna's Sapphire Kokoshnik, 1931

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1925 year

By her mother, Queen Mary was closely associated with the Romanovs. When the First World War broke out, the Romanian royal family sent many of their jewelry (as well as the entire gold reserve of their country) to the Kremlin for preservation. As you might guess, it was a big mistake, the price of which turned out to be too high. After the Revolution, the new government confiscated the royal jewels.

Queen Mary lost almost all of her jewelry, including the old family tiaras. Of course, her family had enough funds to compensate for the loss, but, naturally, no new diadem could replace Mary's jewelry that was passed down from generation to generation. It was then, most likely, that Queen Mary and her relative Maria Pavlovna had the idea of ​​a mutually beneficial exchange. The first one needed family wealth, the second one needed money. Thus, the sapphire kokoshnik of the Grand Duchess became the property of the Romanian royal family.

Queen Mary almost never parted with the tiara, later passing it on to her youngest daughter Ileana in honor of the wedding. So the kokoshnik remained in the royal family until the Romanians felt the impending war and political changes in their own country. This time, it was decided to send the jewelry to the UK for conservation.

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Princess Ileana in the Sapphire Tiara

After the end of World War II, the monarchy in Romania was practically living out its last days. The royal family was expelled from the country.Princess Ileana with her mother's tiara traveled to the United States, where she sold it to an unknown buyer in 1950. Her fate has been unknown since then.

And a few more delightful Romanov tiaras:

Tiaras with a less impressive or studied history, but in no way inferior to other adornments in majesty and beauty. We watch and admire.

Sapphire diadem of Maria Feodorovna

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The massive tiara made for the wife of Paul I was inherited for many years. According to Lilia Kuznetsova, the jewelry was created by the same Jacob Duval. The main pattern of the diadem is laurel leaves, which puts us in the classicism style that was fashionable at that time. The adornment is completely encrusted with diamonds, but the main characters of the tiara are five large sapphires of different cuts. The center stone weighs 70 carats. The fate of the tiara after the Revolution is still unknown.

Radiant diadem of Elizaveta Alekseevna

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Empress Alexandra Feodorovna in the Radiant Diadem of Elizabeth Alekseevna

The unusual V-shape of this tiara refers us to the fabulous style, especially idolized at the end of the 19th century. However, the diadem itself was made much earlier - in the early 1800s, and in those days jewelers preferred to rely on the Empire style. Its first owner was Empress Elizaveta Alekseevna, wife of Alexander I. According to Lilia Kuznetsova, after her death, the diadem was slightly modified so as not to evoke associations with the previous owner. After the Revolution, the radiant tiara was most likely sold.

Emerald tiara of Alexandra Feodorovna

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Empress Alexandra Feodorovna in the Emerald Tiara. Fragment of a portrait, art. N. Bodarevsky

Made especially for the wife of Nicholas II, this tiara is made in a rather original style for the Romanovs, evoking associations not so much with the Russian jewelry tradition as with the French one. The design of the decoration is represented by alternating arches and bows.

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The central emerald for him was found in distant Colombia and weighed 23 carats. The tiara was a transformer, which, most likely, predetermined her fate after the murder of the royal family - in the 1920s, the emerald crown of Alexandra Feodorovna was sold.

Tiara Kehli

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Alexandra Feodorovna wearing the Kehli Diadem. Fragment of a portrait

This magnificent tiara, whose sapphire and diamond pattern is often compared to festive fireworks and traditional heraldic lilies, was created in another jewelry company at the Romanov court - Kekhli, named after its founder.

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According to her, this tiara is now also called, made especially for the last Empress of Russia - Alexandra Feodorovna. The diadem was part of a large parure, but after the Revolution, the new authorities did not spare any of the precious set - and sold everything at auction in the 1920s.

Pearl diadem of Maria Feodorovna

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Empress Maria Feodorovna wearing the Pearl Diadem. Fragment of a portrait, art. F. Fleming

In its form, this decoration resembles, rather, a crown than a tiara, and massive elongated pearls are rightfully considered the most impressive element in it.

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A very geometric and laconic diamond ornament is rarely found in Romanov jewelry. If you connect your imagination, you can guess the letter "M" in the drawing - after the name of Empress Maria Feodorovna, for whom the decoration was originally made. This decoration was part of the precious parure, the fate of which after the Revolution is still a mystery.

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