03 May 2018

Tiara Thursday: Marie Feodorovna's Sapphire Bandeau, Revisited

This is an obscure tiara, really; not hardly worn in the grand scheme of things. But, thanks to a hope that it might still lurk somewhere in the British vaults, it has also become an oft-discussed tiara. There are several question marks about this piece, though – it may not have come from Marie Feodorovna after all, the center may likely have been a removable brooch, and we don’t know where either part of the tiara is today – so it’s worth a revisit.

Marie Feodorovna's Sapphire Bandeau
Composed of a large central sapphire stone with sides of a diamond sunray motif, the tiara is first known to have belonged to Queen Mary (1867-1953), consort of King George V. The Queen's Jewels by Leslie Field says that the Sapphire Bandeau was among the pieces purchased by Mary from the collection of the Dowager Empress Marie Feodorovna (1847-1928), hence the name by which it is most commonly known (and is so called here, lacking any "official" info). But there's reason to question that provenance.

Queen Mary
Marie Feodorovna was born Princess Dagmar of Denmark, later marrying into the Russian imperial family. She was the sister of Queen Alexandra, wife of Alexander III, and mother of Nicholas II. She escaped Russia during the Bolshevik Revolution on a boat sent by George V, with some of her jewels in tow. After her death, King George V and Queen Mary helped her daughters, Grand Duchesses Xenia and Olga, secure her jewels and eventually sell them.

Queen Mary
The list of Marie Feodorovna's sold jewels does not include any tiaras, however, casting doubt on the reported provenance; most of the items were of relatively lower value ("day jewels", if you will), with pearl necklaces claiming the greatest value. But there were several sapphire jewels in the collection and Queen Mary did buy a few of those sapphires, so it's easy to see how the connection could be made. She is pictured above wearing the bandeau above with a sapphire and pearl choker she purchased from the collection. That necklace is now with the Princess Royal.

Princess Margaret (for more on this occasion, click here)
Wherever the tiara came from, it was next seen on Princess Margaret. (According to The Queen’s Jewels again, Queen Mary left it to Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, though she was never seen wearing it.) Princess Margaret wore the tiara only on a limited number of occasions in her early years. She also wore a brooch that appears to be a match for the centerpiece of the tiara. That brooch was worn through her later years.

Embed from Getty Images
Princess Margaret wearing the sapphire brooch
The sapphire brooch hasn’t been seen since Princess Margaret died. The tiara hasn’t been seen since she wore it. Ownership of either piece is unknown at this time. (There's even the possibility that they ended up in two separate collections.) Will they be reunited? Will the Sapphire Bandeau reappear? The waiting game will have to continue.