19 November 2015

Tiara Thursday: The Alba Russian Tiara

This is a tiara that goes by many names but is perhaps best known as La Rusa, or The Russian. Such a name is fitting for such a diadem, and such a diadem is fitting for such a lady: La Rusa belonged to Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart, 18th Duchess of Alba (1926-2014).
The Alba Russian Tiara, "La Rusa"
Made of diamonds and platinum in a striking geometric motif, the tiara was inherited by the Duchess of Alba from her maternal grandmother, María del Rosario de Silva, Duchess of Híjar, Duchess of Aliaga (and a whole bunch of other titles). The “La Rusa" moniker came from its kokoshnik shape, kokoshniks having been a traditional form of Russian headdress popularly adapted as tiaras at the Russian imperial court. Apparently Cayetana was known to attach a further Russian connection to the tiara, saying it came from Empress Marie Feodorovna (1847-1928). But with no records to tie this piece to the Dowager Empress, that’s a tale easier to doubt than to prove.
Left to Right: Cayetana, María, Matilde
The Duchess of Alba considered the tiara to be an important piece for the family and one with sentimental value, and as such, she felt it would be a fitting bridal tiara. The trouble was, not everyone agreed: her offer of the tiara was initially refused when her second son, Alfonso, married Princess María of Hohenlohe-Langenburg in 1977. The bride eventually (and reluctantly) accepted her offer and wore the tiara at the wedding, but the incident had already caused family friction. As Cayetana wrote in her memoirs, she finally found a bride happy to wear the tiara when Matilde Solís married her eldest son, Carlos, in 1988.
The publication of her memoirs also brought to light the tiara’s surprising fate. Despite considering it such an important piece, the Duchess of Alba said that she sold the diadem to buy a horse for her son Cayetano, an equestrian competitor. Details of the sale remained private, but the tiara recently resurfaced at New York jeweler Joseph Saidian & Sons. Earlier this year, the jewelers told Spanish outlet ABC that the Alba family had not made inquiries to reacquire La Rusa, which doesn't surprise me at all. With a new price tag and few reasons for tiara use at hand, I can't say I blame them.

La Rusa as a wedding tiara: yay or nay?

Photos: Hola/Juan Gyenes/ABC