21 July 2016

Tiara Thursday: Elizabeth Alexeievna’s Diamond Kokoshnik

Elizabeth Alexeievna’s Diamond Kokoshnik
It takes a lot to make a jewel sparkle even in a black and white photograph, but here we are: Brazilian diamonds en masse in a tiara with not one but two rows of large single diamonds. The base has a central medallion and a series of closely packed diamond rays, resting underneath a row of dangling diamond pendants that must have sparkled like crazy in movement. This is all topped with a row of upright diamonds, accentuating the strong inverted v-shape of the diadem.

Elizabeth Alexeievna wearing this tiara, 1820s
With all those high quality diamonds, it can only be a relic of Russia’s lavish imperial days. The tiara belonged to Empress Elizabeth Alexeievna (1779 – 1826), who was born Princess Louise of Prussia and married the future Alexander I of Russia in a match made by Catherine the Great. This diamond tiara was created in the early 1800s, and shares a love of pendant diamond stones with the Russian Nuptial Tiara, which was made around the same time and for the same empress.

Alexandra Feodorovna
A century later, the tiara appeared on the head of Alexandra Feodorovna (1872 –1918), the wife of Nicholas II. But like the rest of the tiaras worn by the last Russian empress and her court, this one was headed for an uncertain future.

The Russian jewels amassed, 1925
Elizabeth Alexeievna’s tiara can be spotted on the table of treasures taken into possession by the government after the overthrow of the monarchy. Much was sold by the government in the 1920s; some pieces were sold intact, and others were broken up and sold stone by stone. Like many of the other pieces you can spot on that table, this diadem has never been seen again.

Are you hoping this one will magically reappear some day?