23 October 2014

Tiara Thursday: The Russian Aquamarine Kokoshnik Tiara

It’s been a bit of an aquamarine week so far. Sunday’s post included the aquamarine tiara associated with the Duchess of Kent which is now up for auction, a polarizing piece due to the rather twee way it handles its floral motif; on Tuesday, the Countess of Wessex wore the Five Aquamarine Tiara for the Singapore state banquet. Aquamarine is a stone best shown off by (in my opinion) oblong cuts and large sizes, but those two tiaras are both examples of how difficult it can be to incorporate such stones into a successful tiara design (ahem, Brazilian Aquamarine Tiara). The topic of today’s discussion happens to be the aquamarine tiara that I feel handles that dilemma in the best fashion.
The Russian Aquamarine Kokoshnik Tiara
Made sometime around 1900, this tiara arranges rectangular aquamarine stones in a kokoshnik shape, a style based on traditional Russian headdresses, and accents them with lines and arches of diamonds all set in platinum. Not surprisingly, it has a Russian heritage – likely even an imperial Russian heritage. The tiara first surfaces when it was bought by Wartski in the 1920s, as detailed in Tiaras: A History of Splendour by Geoffrey Munn, when it was one of many pieces sold off after the Russian revolution. It was said to have belonged to the last tsarina, Alexandra Feodorovna (1872-1918). Though no known images exist of the Empress wearing the diadem, this isn’t the only aquamarine piece to have a connection to her: a Fabergé brooch with an exquisite and large Siberian aquamarine was an engagement present from Nicholas II.
Alexandra Feodorovna and Nicholas II, at the time of their engagement
The tiara has surfaced a couple times since that original Russian sale, both times at auction houses. It was sold previously with a matching necklace and a matching pair of earrings at Sotheby’s in the 1980s, and this year it surfaced again offered at a private sale at Christie’s. They list it as the property of a European Noble Family.
The shape of this tiara is a wonderful solution that allows the rectangular aquamarines to shine in their best cut as they pave the middle of the tiara, and the simple design of the diamonds surrounding them allows the blue stones to hold all the impact. This model might just be my all-time favorite aquamarine tiara (if only we could see it in action!), and it ranked #2 when you voted for an aquamarine addition to your Ultimate Tiara Collection.

What's your verdict: Is this design a success, or no?

Photos: Christie's, Wikimedia Commons, Wartski's London