05 April 2013

Readers' Ultimate Tiaras: Your Aquamarine Winner!

Whew! The vote for your ultimate aquamarine tiara was close, y'all. Your closest one yet...which speaks to the apparent difficulty of incorporating beautiful aquamarines in a successful tiara design, right? BUT - we have a victor, yes we do. And it is...

The Hesse Aquamarine Tiara!
Unusually for a poll around here, the winner a) is not in current use by a royal family, and thus might not be as well known, and b) hasn't been covered in depth on this blog before. So we'll have to shift into mini Tiara Thursday mode for a minute and take care of that, won't we?

The Hesse Aquamarine Tiara is said to have belonged to Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna of Russia (1864-1918), born Princess Elisabeth of Hesse and by Rhine. Her younger sister Alix married Nicholas II and became Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. Elizabeth married Nicholas II's uncle, Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich. Her set of aquamarines also included a necklace, bracelet, and earrings; the necklace and likely the bracelet are by Faberge, and it is likely the tiara is as well. It's not hard to believe that the dainty festooned garland and delicate bows which hold up the five pear-shaped aquamarines set in diamonds could be the work of the Russian masters.

Elizabeth Feodorovna's life ended tragically at the hands of the Bolsheviks. She and Sergei never had children of their own; the aquamarine parure apparently passed to her brother Ernest Louis (or Ernst Ludwig), Grand Duke of Hesse. He passed it on to his son, Louis (Ludwig), who gave it to his cousin Princess Dorothea of Hesse as a wedding gift in 1959. Princess Dorothea sold the set at an auction in 1996, which is how we come to know of it.
There is not, to my knowledge, a representation available of any of the family members wearing the tiara, but it seems to have been worn during the Atelier Versace Spring 1997 fashion show (either that, or this is a very good copy). This representation is far different in styling that what you would see in real life, obviously, but better some representation than none.

This one grew on me as the voting went on, and I think it's a great complement to the more solid tiaras you've selected so far. And you can't go wrong with classic Russian design, really.

As I said, this was a close vote. Here are the runners-up:
2. Alexandra Feodorovna's Aquamarine Kokoshnik. This nearly made my own ultimate tiara collection, as I agree with those of you that said that a rectangular stone is the best showcase here, and a kokoshnik is the best way to display those. This is another one we don't know much about; it is included in Geoffrey Munn's Tiaras: A History of Splendour, where he tells us that it was made around 1900, probably for the ill-fated wife of Nicholas II (those Hesse girls loved their aquamarines!), and that it was acquired in Russia in the 1920s by Wartski, another item sold by the revolutionaries. It was part of a set including a matching necklace and earrings (uncommonly well matched, even for a parure), and Alix also had an aquamarine and diamond brooch which Nicholas gave her as an engagement present. The tiara's current whereabouts are unknown.  Click here to see a color representations.
3. Queen Victoria Eugenia's Aquamarine Tiara. This one nearly took the lot, and I was quite surprised. I shouldn't have been, of course; the Grand Duchess Vladimir Tiara is always a favorite, and this is much the same.
4. The Hesketh Aquamarine Tiara (as seen in our voting post). A Belle Époque piece featuring large central clusters of aquamarines, this was auctioned following the death of Christian, Lady Hesketh.
5. The Swedish Aquamarine Kokoshnik. Another kokoshnik style, I approve. And I can't help but wonder if something like this, adapted for rectangular stones, might make a successful match to the Brazilian Aquamarine Parure.

Here's your full ultimate tiara collection, so far:

Stay tuned for the next poll!

Photos:  Wartski/Getty Images/Sotheby's/AllOverPress