The Russian Field Diadem

Christie’s

The Russian Field Diadem came to the world’s attention after it was featured in the sales catalogue of the Russian crown jewels. The tiara was created for Empress Maria Feodorovna in the early 19th century. It appears she may have been the only woman to have worn the diadem. The diadem, set in gold and silver, is centered around a large white sapphire and composed of six ears of rye encrusted in diamonds. There are 37 briolette diamonds dispersed throughout the diadem; other diamonds are brilliant and rose cut.

Maria Feodorovna, born Sophia Dorothea of Württemberg in 1759, was a niece of King Frederick the Great of Prussia, and the second wife of Paul I. Her mother-in-law was Catherine the Great. She was also the mother of Tsar Alexander I (if you remember your history lessons, Alexander I embarrassed Napoleon) and Tsar Nicholas I.

Maria Feodorovna painted by Vladimir Borovikovsky.

Maria Feodorovna led quite an eventful and full life after the death of Paul I. She acted as matriarch to her family and advisor to Alexander I. Whether her children were near or far she kept in contact with them, advised them as she saw fit and made sure her children were financially provided for. She appreciated and cultivated the arts within Russia. She was also a patron of charities; she even founded an institute of learning for children. Each successive empress took over her institute until its closure in 1917.

The Dowager Empress loved and appreciated her homes, the Russian countryside and her gardens. She was overjoyed whenever her beloved daughter, Anna Pavlovna, Princess of Orange and wife of the future William II of the Netherlands, sent her bulbs and plants for her gardens. Therefore, it makes sense that Maria Feodorovna would have commissioned a tiara with a motif that embodied the Russian fields. After her death in 1828 the diadem was sent to the Diamond Fund. It remained there until the revolution.

Wikimedia Commons. Inventory table of confiscated Romanov jewels.

Sadly, after its auction sale in 1927, the tiara disappeared. Perhaps we’ll see it again in a future auction. Though that may be doubtful as the last documented sale was the one by Christie’s in 1927. In an era when monarchies fell like dominos and stock markets crashed, wearing tiaras may not have seemed appropriate. It’s possible the seller pulled the tiara apart for its stones; perhaps even reconfigured it to wear as smaller, individual brooches. Only time may tell.

Sources

Chère Annette: Letters from Russia 1820 – 1828

Christie’s: The Jewellery Archies Revealed by Vincent Meylan

Jewels of the Romanovs: Family & Court by Stefano Papi

Russia’s Treasure of Diamonds and Precious Stones by Alexander Evgenevich Fersman