20 March 2014

Tiara Thursday: The Yusupov Rock Crystal Tiara

The Yusupov Rock Crystal Tiara
Rock crystal, or clear quartz, is not one of the materials you might traditionally associate with tiaras, but today’s tiara is an example of just how effective it can be. Made of carved rock crystal with platinum and diamonds, the largest central diamond a perfect 3.66 carat round diamond, this was designed by Charles Jacqueau for Cartier and made in 1911 by Cartier’s Paris workshop. (Jacqueau made a small series of these designs, using similar materials, but almost all are lost today.) The Yusupov Rock Crystal Tiara is a beautiful piece, small and delicate, with a subtle touch that stands out even more when one considers that this gem ended up in imperial Russia, home of the finest in over the top jewelry.
Felix and Irina on their wedding day. She is wearing this tiara.
Prince Felix Yusupov (1887-1967), best known for his role in the assassination of Rasputin, was a Russian aristocrat with incredible wealth – the family fortune he inherited was said to have been greater than that of the Romanovs. In 1914 he married Tsar Nicholas II’s niece, Irina Alexandrovna (1895-1970). Felix had an eye for, and a love for, jewelry, and he bought this Cartier tiara as a gift for his bride. She wore it on their wedding day, where it held a veil that had belonged to Marie-Antoinette and topped a gown of silver embroidered white satin.
The Bolsheviks looking over a table of confiscated Yusupov jewels. The rock crystal tiara, in close up, is near the middle.
Like most of their station, the Yusupov couple fled Russia when revolution set in. They did make it out with some of their many treasures, and they were able to sell off bits and pieces when they needed funds. But sadly this tiara was not one of the lucky gems. It was hidden in one of their Russian homes with other jewels, but was eventually found and confiscated to be sold or dismantled by the revolutionaries. The Yusupov Rock Crystal Tiara hasn’t been seen since it was photographed in Bolshevik possession in 1925. It seems likely that it no longer exists. But then again, this week we’re reading stories of the rather incredible discovery of one of the lost Imperial FabergĂ© Easter Eggs, not seen in over a century and apparently saved from imminent disassembly by a fortunate Google search. It had simply been owned and sold by people that didn’t know what they had. Will the same some day be said of this piece? Regardless of its current status, the tiara remains an example of superb design and interesting material use.

How do you rate this tiara?

Photos: Cartier Archives/Keystone