Lost Magnificence – Diadems

Housekeeping note: We were going to run Royal Warren(t)’s post about Romanov Orders today, but everyone enjoyed the diadem talk so much yesterday, we moved this post forward. Orders are scheduled for tomorrow!

I love the word diadem.  It sounds regal, sumptuous, and exotic.  It’s appropriate for these two jeweled specimens which, back in the Russian court era, must have set off female royal coiffures with dazzling brilliance.

The Sheaves of Wheat Diadem was created for Empress Maria Feodorovna, wife of Paul I (son of Catherine II).  The order was given to the firm of the Duval Brothers and they created the design of oak and laurel leaves, bordered by sheaves of wheat.  This diadem was referred to by Empress Maria Feodorovna as her “Mon diademe en epis” (my diadem of sheaves of wheat).  In 1829, the Empress left the diadem to the Diamond Fund.  It was sold in 1929, the original is now lost.  Seeking to recreate this stunning piece, designer Viktor Nikolaev and jeweler Gennady Aleksakhin faithfully recreated the piece from photographs and archival information, this time substituting platinum for silver, and using only stones of Russian origin.  The piece centers an extraordinary yellow diamond of 35.25 carats.

This next diadem has always held a special place in my personal pantheon of favorite royal jewels.  If ever there was the perfect diadem, then this is it as far as I’m concerned.  Its creation is estimated to have occurred around the year 1815 which means it was probably worn by the wife of Alexander I, the Empress Elizabeth Alexeievna.  There are no portraits of any Russian Empresses wearing this.  As stated in the Catalog text, it was kept in the private apartments of Maria Feodorovna (mother of Nicholas II) which leads to me think that she liked it and wore it.  Many of us are familiar with the photo of Gladys, Duchess of Marlborough, wearing it in what I consider to be the first selfie!  She bought it 1927 when Christie’s London held a sale of Russian State Jewels.  It was sold in 1978 at Christie’s London after her death to Imelda Marcos, wife of the former Philippines dictator.  This diadem is currently held by the Central Bank of the Philippines as it was confiscated by the Philippine Government in 1986 after the collapse of the Marcos regime.  According to Tiara Mania a replica was made in 1987 for the Diamond Fund.  There is always the chance that this diadem could return to the auction block.  If I won the big lottery at the same time that this was up for auction I’d buy it.  Then I’d have to decide which royal house I’d give it to.  I think I’d call up Queen Margarethe and see if she wants it since her great, great grandfather was the brother to Princess Dagmar of Denmark, the Empress Maria Feodorovna.

Please join me tomorrow, when we take a look at the fabulous orders of the Romanovs.