16 March 2017

Tiara Thursday: The Romanov Turquoise and Diamond Kokoshnik

Turquoise might not be as frequently associated with the over-the-top splendor of the Russian imperial jewel collection as other stones are – enormous sparkling diamonds, huge dazzling sapphires, impressive bright emeralds – but the opaque blue stone definitely wasn’t overlooked by the Romanovs. Some of the turquoise jewels in Queen Margrethe’s collection are said to date back to Catherine the Great, for example.

The Romanov Turquoise and Diamond Kokoshnik
The official inventory of jewels seized by the Bolsheviks during and after the 1917 revolution (Russia’s Treasure of Diamonds and Precious Stones by A.E. Fersman, 1925) includes another example of Romanov turquoise: this striking set comprised of a diamond and turquoise kokoshnik tiara and a diamond and turquoise brooch.

The matching brooch
The brooch, referred to as a Diamond Brooch with Oriental Turquoise in the catalog, was created by Fabergé around 1895 and includes Brazilian diamonds looped around turquoise stones of varying shapes. Fersman doesn’t think much of the "Diamond Brooch with an Oriental Turquoise," noting in the piece's description that the "large, somewhat heavy stones of the brooch, do not harmonize with the dry, sharp lines of the composition which is rather poorly designed."

The tiara
The tiara ("Diamond Diadem with an Oriental Turquoise") earns a slightly better Fersman review: "Though somewhat heavily designed it still represents an artistic object surpassing by far the brooch described above." It features 54 perfectly matched, high quality pale blue cabochon turquoise stones set in gold. The turquoises rest inside diamond loops on the top of the tiara and in a diamond scrolling design in a gallery below; the diamonds are "good Brazilian stones" and are set in silver with golden details.

The confiscated Russian jewel collection, turquoise tiara and brooch indicated with a red arrow. Click to enlarge.
Both diadem and brooch can be seen in the above 1925 photo of the collection. Most of these jewels were sold, either intact or broken into individual stones, and the original Romanov Turquoise and Diamond Kokoshnik seems to have disappeared. In his book Jewels of the Tsars, Prince Michael of Greece explains that a replica of the tiara was made for Queen Olga of Greece (1851-1926), who was born Olga Constantinovna of Russia. The replica and its matching necklace of turquoise and diamonds were bequeathed to Olga’s son, Prince Christopher. Princess Françoise of Orléans, shown wearing the replica below, was Prince Christopher’s second wife (and the two were Prince Michael’s parents).

Princess Françoise wears the tiara replica
The replica, shown here without the lower gallery portion of the original design, hints at the original's large size. It reminds me strongly of the Saxe-Coburg and Gotha Turquoise Tiara, which I love, and I suspect that the original – if it were still around – would be a shoo-in for my favorites list. It would be an excellent design to showcase a spectacular collection of any color stone, really.

Would you embrace the turquoise here, or have an imaginary swap for something else?

Bonus fact #1: Yesterday marked 100 years since the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II (March 15, 1917).

Bonus fact #2: Queen Olga's descendants can be found all over the current royal scene. The Duke of Edinburgh is her grandson; she's also the great-grandmother of Queen Sofia of Spain and the Duke of Kent, Princess Alexandra of Kent, and Prince Michael of Kent.