The Romanov dynasty ruled Russia for 300 years. During this time, the best jewelers in the world made for the Romanov’s some of the most fascinating crown jewels that ever existed in history. The exquisite bracelets, tiaras, diadems, crowns, rings, earrings, and brooches greatly impressed the European ambassadors and world leaders visiting the imperial court of Russia.
It is important to note that all the Romanov tiaras and diadems were created in a style called „kokoshnik”. Historically a kokoshnik is a headdress worn by married women, though maidens also wore a headdress very similar to a kokoshnik, but open in the back, named a povyazka. The word „kokoshnik” describes a great variety of headdresses worn throughout Russia. While in the past kokoshnik styles varied greatly, currently a kokoshnik is generally associated with a tall, nimbus, or crest-shaped headdress which is tied at the back of the head with long thick ribbons in a large bow shape. The crest can be embroidered with pearls and gold or simple applique, usually using plant and flower motifs. The forehead area is frequently decorated with pearl netting. While wearing a kokoshnik the woman usually wears her hair in a plait. The kokoshnik was often also combined with the Russian braid. These kokoshnik crowns were quite expensive since they required expensive materials, pearls, and beads for the lining, so over time, they became family jewels passed down from one generation to the next.
Born of German parents, Empress Catherine II of Russia became a legend under the name Catherine the Great. She proved to be one of the wisest and most respected women in the country, a symbol of national identity. Catherine the Great adored Russian traditions and imposed the kokoshnik as an accessory to gala dresses, so the Russian aristocracy appeared at official events in richly colored Russian national costumes with expensive jewelry and fabrics, and the ladies wore kokoshnik. A specific element of this type of jewelry was the fact that it could be adapted, it could be worn as a tiara but also as a necklace, while the precious stones on the pendants could be changed.
The tiaras and diadems of the Romanov House are true works of art made by the famous jewelers of the time, they are a source of inspiration. In the 1920s, the kokoshnik „conquered” Europe, being worn by the brides of European leaders such as Mary of Teck, the wife of King George V of England. With time, it became mainstream in the fashion world.
Historians believe that the only difference between a tiara and a diadem is their origin. Thus the diadem derives from the Greek "diadeo" which translates as "to bind" or "to fix". The term originally referred to an embroidered white silk ribbon, which was tied in a knot at the nape of the neck, and the ends often fell over the shoulders. This headband decorated the king's head in antiquity to highlight his authority, but similar ribbons were also used to congratulate the victorious athletes at the ancient Olympic Games. Later it was replaced by a metal band, thus becoming the forerunner of the royal crown.
Crown, Tiara, and Diadem – Origins, Similarities, and Differences
Used as a reward for sports victories, unlike the tiara and diadem, the crown has continued its existence from antiquity to the present day, representing an emblem of the monarchy, worn by crowned heads, both male and female.
The word "tiara" is of Persian origin and was used for the head ornament of Persian kings. In different languages, the tiara is translated by a word similar to the diadem. Both words signify ornaments worn initially by ancient rulers, then by their wives, and were primarily an attribute of power and status.
It was only in the 18th century that neoclassicism revived the custom of wearing tiaras and diadems, but this time they became a purely feminine attribute. In 1830, the Russian emperor Nicholas I introduced the rule of wearing the tiara at the imperial court and thus the whole aristocracy was forced to order such accessories from jewelers.
Thus, this head ornament becomes known under a multitude of extravagant creations, with a unique design, made of noble metals and decorated with various precious stones, which simply take your breath away.
The stylists consider that the bridal diadem and tiara are differentiated by the shape and style of execution. The diadem would be a decoration with a more complex design, inlaid with many stones, which makes it heavier than the tiara. Most of the time it is in the shape of a crown, but it can also have the shape of a semicircle or parts of a circle. The diadem has a sharp shape on the front and narrows towards the edges. The tiara, on the other hand, is almost the same width along its entire length.
Another difference would be that the tiara has the shape of a luxurious circle, it does not support the hair, but only beautifies it and is worn vertically on the head, not obliquely as a diadem is worn.
We will present below some of the wonderful tiaras and diadems of the Romanov's.
Imperial Crown of Russia
The Great Imperial Crown was the main symbol of the power of the Russian monarchs between 1762 and 1917, from Catherine II until the overthrow of Nicholas II. This crown was created in just two months for Catherine II by court jeweler George Friedrich Eckart and diamond craftsman Jeremiah Posier.
It was decorated with 4,936 diamonds - 2,858 carats in total, 75 large Indian matte pearls, and a 398.72-carat spinel. In 2017, a copy of it was created to be admired both in Russia and abroad. The "lining" cost $ 15.1 million, imitating as accurately as possible the splendor of the Great Imperial Crown. The original crown is kept in Russia, at the Moscow Diamond Fund.
Pink Diamond Diadem or Kokoshnik Diadem
The Kokóshnik diadem belonged to Empress Maria Feódorovna, the wife of Emperor Paul I. The main stone of this diadem is an extravagant 13.35-carat pale pink diamond. It is the only original diadem left in Russia, surviving the revolution. The Empire Style triangular headband holds 175 large Indian diamonds and over 1,200 small round cut diamonds.
The central row has large diamonds, hanging freely in the shape of a tear that emanates brilliance at any movement of the head. This work of art is considered invaluable by experts due to the extraordinary pink diamond. The pink diamond diadem was worn by Empress Maria Feodorovna at her wedding, and later by other brides of the imperial family.
The Pearl Tiara
This tiara was made in 1842 by the court jeweler Carl Bolin for Alexandra Feodorovna, the wife of Nicholas II. It amazes us with the incredible combination of pearls and diamonds. It was made of platinum and white gold, with more than 20 pearls. The priceless tiara was one of the favorite pieces of the Russian Empress Maria Feodorovna, so at one point she kept it in her rooms. Her son Nicholas II and his family were assassinated, and the empress fled the country, taking with her only the jewelry she wore daily. The tiara and other precious objects from the crown collection were taken by the Bolsheviks.
The Pearl Tiara had a hectic life. It was sold at auction at Christie's in 1927 to Holmes & Co., who then sold it to the ninth Duke of Marlborough, who bought it for his second wife Gladys. Upon her death in 1977, the tiara reached the collection of the first lady in the Philippines, Imelda Marcos. In 1986, due to some problems, she ran away with her husband to Hawaii and the entire Marcos collection of jewelry was confiscated by the authorities.
Currently, in the heritage of the British House, this tiara with diamonds and pearls (or emeralds) like tears has a history that began in the Russian Empire in the nineteenth century. Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich of Russia - the younger brother of Emperor Alexander III - commissioned this tiara for his fiancée, Duchess Maria of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, a German princess (later Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna of Russia), in 1870. It became known as "Vladimir Tiara". It consists of 15 diamond rings inside which are "drops of pearls or emeralds". It is a piece whose workmanship is amazing, and its versatility gives it many charming and practical uses.
Maria had Romanov blood, being the niece of the Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna. She adopted the name Maria Pavlovna and married in 1874 in St. Petersburg. Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna was one of the few Romanovs who managed to escape after the 1917 Revolution, taking her jewelry with her. Some of the jewelry was taken out of the country on two pillowcases, with the help of the Swedish diplomatic mission, and the others, including Tiara Vladimir, were taken out with a British diplomatic courier. The duchess loved her tiara, they were separated only at her death in 1920.
Vladimir Tiara, like many other jewels, was inherited by her daughter, Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna, who married Prince Nicholas of Greece and Denmark in 1902 at Tsarskoe Selo, Russia. A year later, to improve her financial situation, Elena sold the Vladimir Tiara to the Queen of England Maria de Tek, the consort of King George V. The tiara was slightly damaged, so Maria de Tek ordered the House of Garrard & Co to repair it and following these repairs and modifications, the pearls in the tiara could be replaced with emeralds, restoring the beauty and splendor of great jewelry.
After the death of Queen Mary, Vladimir Tiara was inherited by her niece, who had recently ascended the throne as Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom. Queen Elizabeth wears this tiara with both pearls and emeralds, and sometimes without any precious stone. Vladimir Tiara is one of the most admired tiaras in the world.
This kokoshnik tiara with huge diamonds and sapphires, made in 1825, belonged to Alexandra Feodorovna and will be inherited by the Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna (Queen Maria's mother). After the Revolution, she managed to get the tiara out of Russia, but her children had to sell it, eventually reaching Queen Maria of Romania.
She could rarely part with her beautiful tiara but eventually gave it as a wedding gift to her daughter, Princess Ileana. After World War II, the royal family went into exile, and Princess Ileana went to the United States, taking the tiara with her, where she sold it in 1950 to a private buyer, and hence the fate of this tiara is unknown.
Queen Alexandra’s Kokoshnik Tiara
One of the famous jewels of Queen Elizabeth II of England is the Kokoshnik Diamond Tiara with a "sunrise of white and yellow gold". This gorgeous piece of jewelry has 400 diamonds. Around the wedding, Queen Alexandra, in agreement with the bridesmaids, who wished to give her a present, requested an exact copy of the diamond tiara held by her sister, Empress Maria of Russia (who worn the original design). The ladies donated the diamonds and ordered a tiara from the royal jeweler Casa Garrard & Co. Alexandra was very pleased with this gift, which she had the opportunity to wear at many official events, calling it "My Russian Kokoshnik".
A practical feature of all Russian tiaras, diadems, and headbands with precious stones is that they could also be worn as necklaces or other pendants.
After Alexandra's death, this beautiful work of art was inherited by her daughter, Queen Maria, who in turn, after her death, left it aș a legacy for her niece, Queen Elizabeth II of England.
The Great Diamond Tiara
This wonderful diamond tiara was made in the 1830s for Alexandra Feodorovna. The majestic tiara is decorated with 113 pearls and dozens of diamonds of different sizes. The Empress wore this large tiara at various political events, festivities, weddings, and special occasions. The last time she was worn by Empress Alexandra Feodorovna was at the inauguration of the State Duma, a photographer named Karl Bulla immortalized the moment. After the revolution, the Bolsheviks, who had no knowledge of art and precious stones, decided that the tiara should be sold at auction, considering that it had no special artistic merit.
No information has been kept about the next owners, and the most likely theory is that it was sold in pieces.
The history of the Romanov crown jewelry collection is as mysterious as the tragic death of the family. Some of the pieces in the collection have been sold at auctions by the bolsheviks or have disappeared, while others are in state safes for preservation.