Apologies for the radio silence. I moved to a new home; I moved across an ocean and am still getting settled in.
For now, please enjoy this lovely photograph of the inimitable Crown Princess of Norway, Mette-Marit. She is wearing Norway’s Amethyst Tiara with the matching earrings. The set was a gift from her mother-in-law, Queen Sonja. Queen Sonja received the set decades earlier as a gift from her husband, King Harald. The tiara is convertible. It can also be worn as a necklace.
Crowns are a symbol of absolute power. Therefore it makes sense that Denmark, one of the oldest monarchies in the world, has crowns dating all the way back to the 1500s.
The Crown of Christian V dates back to 1671. It was used by Christian V (1646-1699) and worn by all successive kings up until Christian VIII (1786–1848). After Christian VIII, the crown was no longer used for coronations or anointments because in 1849 Denmark adopted a constitutional monarchy. Being crowned or anointed wasn’t appropriate since Danish kings had limited powers and the public probably didn’t like the “anointed by God” explanation (just my guess!).
“Its rounded braces create a closed form inspired by the crown of the French king, Louis XIV, and symbolise the ruler’s absolute power. The crown’s braces meet at the top in a globe, or orb, which is a sign of power and dignity for monarchs. On top of the crown’s globe is a little cross, which in the symbolic language of the time showed that only the church stood above The Crown.” – The Danish Monarchy (You can understand why constitutional monarchs no longer wear crowns!!)
The crown was created by German goldsmith Paul Kurtz in Copenhagen. It’s made of gold and decorated with stones and enamel pieces. The crown holds a red velvet cap. You’ve probably seen the crown’s image in the Danish coat of arms.
One of the largest pink diamonds in the world is the Noor-ul-Ain diamond. It weighs around 60 carats (!!) and came from a mine in India. It was looted from India by a Persian king during the 18th century.
Fast forward a couple of centuries and Mr. Harry Winston enters the picture. He (or at least his jewelers) set the pink diamond in a tiara in 1958. The tiara boasts over 300 sparkling diamonds. As you can see from the picture above, the pink diamond is set in the center and is surrounded by pink, yellow and white diamonds; all set in platinum.
Farah Diba wore it as her wedding tiara when she married the last Shah of Iran, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, in 1959.
As you know, the Shah was overthrown in 1979. The family fled Iran and began a new life in exile. Most, if not all, of the crown jewels stayed behind. This tiara, and other imperial jewels, are housed in the Central Bank of Iran.
The Shah died not long after going into exile. The last Empress of Iran divides her time between the USA and Paris. Her eldest son, the would-be shah, lives in Maryland, USA with his wife and daughters.
What do we think of this tiara? I think it was a perfect tiara for a young empress of a long ago empire. It’s probably for the best that it’s in a museum today. The tiara seems more museum-piece than headpiece. But that’s probably just me.
It’s not one trinket today. It’s many, so grab a cup of tea and settle in for a few minutes of enjoyment. If you love decorative arts, then you will love Hillwood Mansion and Museum in Washington, D.C. It’s filled to the brim with items of royal connection.
Long before Hillwood was a museum, it was the home of Marjorie Merriweather Post (1887-1973), the heiress to the Postum Cereal Company. Post had a fascination with royalty and a life-long interest in decorative arts. As you can image, I completely appreciate that about her.
During her time in the Soviet Union (she was married to the US ambassador to the Soviet Union), she picked up many interesting pieces at auction. In the image above, you can see that Post purchased watches, cigarette cases, decorative boxes and other trinkets of Romanov provenance. Post acquired items that belonged to the Romanovs, the Orthodox churches and numerous aristocrats. These items are now housed at her home, Hillwood.
We’ve already discussed the eggs and the nuptial crown. Let’s take a peek at a few other items in her house.
The dining room was designed to house Dutch paintings of hunting scenes. You can spot them on the wall in the photograph above. But what’s most fascinating to me is the nineteenth-century carpet. It was a gift from Napoleon III to the ill-fated Emperor Maximillian of Mexico. It’s ironic because Maximillian would not have been executed if not for Napoleon III.
The grand staircase in the entry hall is laden with paintings of Russian royals. You can spot Catherine the Great. Alexandra Feodorovna, the last tsarina, hangs right underneath Catherine. Also, you can barely see him, but Alexander III hangs on the right side of the wall. Who else do you recognize?
And here is a close-up view of the staircase, with a view of the chandelier. The chandelier probably came from Russia’s Gatchina Palace.
I hope you enjoyed today’s peek into a few items at Hillwood Mansion and Museum. If you can’t visit in person, you can always visit virtually.
Thank you for stopping by and have a great new week!
We have a tiara bonanza. You get three for the price of one! Let’s take a look, shall we!
The first tiara on our list is this lovely turquoise and diamond tiara. It’s designed as five palmettes, each centered around a large cabochon turquoise and set in yellow gold. The tiara is embellished throughout with circular-cut and rose-cut diamonds. The best part about this tiara? It’s convertible and can be worn as several brooches. Made in 1830.
Next up is this lovely diamond tiara. Until this tiara was sold by Sotheby’s, it belonged to an American “philanthropist.” The diamond tiara was probably made in France in the early 20th century. It’s set with old European, old mine and rose-cut diamonds in a foliate design. Lovely. I’d wear it.
Last but not least is this intriguing mystery tiara. Actually the style reminds me a little of Crown Princess Margareta of Sweden’s Ruby Tiara. The tiara is set on a flexible band which can be detached to form a necklace. We don’t know where or when it was made, but we have a clue because it came in a fitted box stamped Collingwood & Co. I will gladly wear it as a necklace!
Today we are traveling back in time to the Napoleonic era.
Caroline Murat (1782-1839), born Maria Annunziata Carolina Bonaparte, was a younger sister of Napoleon I. In 1800 she married one of her brother’s decorated marshals, Joachim Murat. In 1808, Napoleon installed Joachim as King of Naples. Caroline and Joachim had four children together. Sadly their marriage was not a long one as Joachim was executed after the fall of Napoleon, in 1815.
As wife and consort, Caroline was entitled to be known as Queen of Naples. From time to time, Caroline also acted as Joachim’s regent. As such, she required beautiful jewelry befitting of her royal status. One such jewelry set might have been this gold parure.
The parure includes a comb, tiara, earrings and necklace. The jewelry is composed of lapis lazuli, chalcedony and gold. The technique used on the jewelry is called pietre dure; this means stones were cut in such a way as to be able to set them and create pictures with the cut stone, almost like a mosaic. This was a popular technique in Florence during the 17th century, but Caroline’s parure was made in 1808.
It’s not certain that this set belonged to Caroline, but it’s a high probability. The accompanying leather box is stamped with a crowned “C” in gold. As for the location of where this parure was made, there is evidence in the archives of the Opificio (the Grand Ducal Workshop) in Florence and in the archives in Naples that suggests this parure may have been produced in either Florence or Naples.
I’d like to believe the set did indeed belong to Caroline. The jewelry fits the Napoleonic era, Caroline’s domicile and her style.
What happened to Caroline? After her husband’s execution, she took refuge in the Austrian Empire. She married again, but did not have any children with her second husband. Caroline died in 1839 at the age of 57 and is buried in Florence.
Prince Francis of Teck proposed to Princess Mary Adelaide with a gold ring. The ring is set with five table-cut rectangular Burmese rubies and twelve diamonds. The engagement ring, with its open setting, is very much traditional looking and would not look out of place today. The inside of the ring is inscribed with “Franz, April 6, 1866.” Mary and Francis were the parents of Mary of Teck, the future spouse of George V.
The all-diamond diadem belonged to Queen Alexandra. It was given to her as Princess of Wales for her 25th wedding anniversary in 1888. The gift was arranged by the “Ladies of Society,” a large group of British peeresses. Made by Garrard, the tiara’s shape is in the then-popular kokoshnik style, the traditional Russian headdress. Of course the tiara can also be worn as a necklace. Convertible tiaras were all the rage in the 19th century.
Honestly, I could stare at this kokoshnik tiara all day long. It is beyond spectacular!
It’s always fascinating tracking the history and provenance of Fabergé items. Today’s trinket, the Blue Serpent Clock Egg by Fabergé, is nestled within the gilded halls of the Palais de Monaco. For a short time the egg was almost lost to history. Almost. Even the Grimaldi family was not aware of its provenance.
Here is the background:
Emperor Alexander III commissioned Fabergé for an easter egg as a gift for his wife, Empress Maria Feodorovna. However, the emperor died in 1894 and the Blue Serpent Clock Egg was not finished until 1895.* Instead, the Fabergé item became the very first egg the new tsar, Nicholas II, presented to his mother for Easter in 1895.
The Blue Serpent Clock Egg is a fitting tribute from a deceased husband to his beloved wife because the egg, made of gold, enamel and diamonds, represents love. Trails of roses are entwined on top of the enameled clock. If you look closely, you’ll note that the clock’s hand is a diamond-encrusted snake. A snake is no longer considered romantic, but it used to signify eternity. And if we dig a little deeper, perhaps the egg also alludes to eternal love because true love transcends a scant ticking clock. This egg functioned as a proper clock and was not made to hold a surprise.
After the revolution, the Blue Serpent Clock Egg made its way to the fabled vaults of Wartski. In 1972, Greek shipping tycoon Stavros Niarchos purchased the Blue Serpent Clock Egg from Wartski. It is at this point in time that the egg disappeared from history.
Wartski lost track of the egg until they received a letter in 1990 penned by His Serene Highness Prince Rainier III of Monaco. In the letter, the prince explained that the egg was given to him many years earlier by Mr. Niarchos. The prince was unaware of its imperial provenance until Wartski provided him with a history of the clock. Prince Rainier even loaned it to Wartski for an exhibit.
Today the egg is part of the personal collection of His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco. It is generally not on view, but you may be able to spot it at exhibitions around the world. I was lucky enough to have seen it at Hillwood Museum in Washington, D.C.
PS. You can find two more Fabergé eggs (with much better photographs) here.
*Earlier reports date this egg to 1897, but today it is certain that it was made in St. Petersburg in 1895.