17 March 2011

Tiara Thursday: Marie Feodorovna's Sapphire Bandeau

Allow me to dip into my list of Tiaras I'd Like to See Resurrected for a moment, will you? The British royal family might have this gem languishing in the vaults somewhere:
This is most often called Empress Marie Feodorovna's Sapphire Bandeau Tiara. Sometimes you'll see it called the Grand Duchess Marie Feodorovna's, or sometimes Maria instead of Marie, and sometimes other variations on that (and perhaps it shouldn't bear her name at all; more on that in a second), but I'll go with what I said there. This tiara was likely one of the many sparkly things added to the royal stash by Queen Mary.
Marie Feodorovna was born Princess Dagmar of Denmark and was the daughter of King Christian IX of Denmark and sister of Queen Alexandra, wife of Britain's King Edward VII. She was the wife of Alexander III of Russia and mother of Nicholas II. She was also the owner of a truly grand jewel collection that dispersed after her death since there was no longer a monarchy in Russia to hold on to the gems. Queen Mary's fetish for collecting was particularly voracious when it came to anything with royal provenance, and she scooped up quite a few of the Empress's pieces, including several sapphires. Leslie Field's The Queen's Jewels cites this as one of those treasures. However, a tiara wasn't listed among the things she purchased; other accounts state that she did not make it out of Russia with any tiaras, just day jewels. So the name most frequently attached to the piece may not, in fact, be correct.

Mary left the tiara to Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother), per Field. Elizabeth never wore it in public, but it was worn by her, daughter Princess Margaret.
It's not known where this piece is today; Princess Margaret only wore it for a limited few years. The central sapphire may have been a detachable brooch that remained a part of Margaret's collection and was worn into her later years. That brooch was not included in the auction of her jewels after her death, and its whereabouts are currently unknown. Given the unknown location of the central sapphire, the unknown location of the bandeau tiara portion (or if it still exists at all), and the possibility that the two were separated, this may be a long shot hope for a reappearance.

Still, it's worth a hope - particularly with many of Diana's sapphires awaiting their own reappearance.