Lost Magnificence – Introduction

My fascination with the Court of the Romanovs began so long ago that I cannot remember not being intrigued with the history and visual impact with which we are all familiar.  I’ve read current biographies about Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, Nicholas and Alexandra and Alexander, Grand Duke of Russia (published in 1932).  All have been captivating journeys through the past showing the best and worst of each, very human, royal Russian.

Empress Alexandra and Tsarevich Alexis her pearl necklaces and seed pearl cap

My intent is to share what amateur knowledge I’ve gathered these past years with my fellow royal enthusiasts.  I am not a gemologist, professional writer, nor a trained historian.  I can’t begin to provide expert comments on all the treasures in this and future posts.  So, if I have erred please accept my apologies.  I’ll be happy to receive corrections.

My starting point was the Fersman 1925 Catalog .  I took a selection of the catalog’s black and white photos with corresponding descriptions and matched modern, color photos for comparison.

It took several attempts to refine my story board and I struggled with establishing groupings.  At times I felt like I was trying to drink the Pacific Ocean with a teaspoon!  I settled on the following topics:  Coronation Regalia, Imperial Weddings, Diadems, Orders, Florals, Colored Gemstones (1 & 2), Diadems, Diamonds (1 & 2), There’s Only One and The Finale.  I did not explore the topic of pearls (except for one item) contained in the Catalog; there were too many.  If you’re curious please look at the Catalog.

In Part IV of the Fersman Catalog, pages 25 to 37, there are descriptions of objects not photographed.  While reading these pages I did have a “eureka” moment.  I realized that I had a modern, color photo of an item listed on the last page of the catalog that was not photographed.  This utterly unique piece is truly one-of-a-kind.  Wait for it!  It’s almost my favorite piece, but that honor belongs to something else!

For the history aficionado please note that historical dates in this and subsequent postings refer to Old Style (O.S.) dates as compared to New (N.S.) dates.  Russia converted to N.S. after the Revolution   

I must give credit where credit is due.  The book by Greg King titled “The Court of the Last Tsar” enabled me to learn more than I ever thought possible.  As Fate would have it, things often fall into our hands when we least expect it.  A favorite blog of mine is by Stephen O’Donnell.  He published a great post about “Lost Splendor – Images from the Fersman Catalogue” which made my eyes pop out of my head.  I owe Stephen a tremendous debt for his article.  Please check out his uniquely varied and wonderful blog.

Before I start, I must share my list of resources for those interested in additional research.

  • The website for the Fersman Catalog is
  • King, Greg. 2006. The Court of the Last Tsar.  Pomp, Power and Pageantry in the Reign of Nicholas II.  Hoboken:  John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
  • Gods and Foolish Grandeur Blog.  Stephen O’Donnell, January 26, 2020
  • Michael, Prince of Greece, 2006, Jewels of the Tsars.  The Romanovs & Imperial Russia.  New York:  The Vendome Press
  • American-Russian Cultural Cooperation Foundation.  1997.  Jewels of the Romanovs.  Treasures of the Russian Imperial Court.  The Corcoran Gallery of Art.
  • Meylan, Vincent and Christie’s.  2016.  Christie’s.  The Jewellery Archives Revealed.  Suffolk UK.  ACC Art Books Ltd.

The Hofdames have waited patiently for me to complete this multi-part saga.  I’m very grateful to them for their understanding.  So, if you’re ready to join me, let’s begin our journey into the past and enjoy a bejeweled banquet of Lost Magnificence