Today’s diamond tiara was designed by Marianne Ostier for Oesterreicher (later Ostier, Inc. of New York) for the marriage of Queen Geraldine and King Zog I of Albania in 1938. The tiara depicts the Albanian royal crest of the Ram of Skanderberg. Though the Albanian monarchy is not very old, nor did it last long, the ram is an ancient Albanian symbol dating back centuries.
Per Sotheby’s lot details, the ram sits “atop a graduated floral vine, set with old European and single-cut diamonds weighing approximately 28.05 carats, accented by baguette diamonds weighing approximately 4.80 carats.”
The Albanian monarchy ended in 1939 and Queen Geraldine’s tiara was sold. In 1966, the tiara made its way into the possession of Mamdouha and Elmer Holmes Bobst. After their deaths, it went on the auction block once more, selling in 2016 for $225,000, far exceeding its initial estimate. Though the winner of the auction was a private individual, I’d love to know what they did with the tiara. Did they take it apart for the diamonds (I hope not)? Did they buy it as decorative art? Or did they purchase it to wear to tiara events? The ram makes it such a distinctive piece, that if it is worn in public again we’d all notice. Otherwise, we may never know of its fate. Unless it hits the auction block again.
Today’s tiara topic is the Russian Nuptial Tiara. Once upon a time this dazzling tiara was part of the bridal jewelry worn by all Russian grand duchesses and wives of grand dukes on their wedding day.
The kokoshnik-shaped tiara has four arched diamond-studded rows. The second row from the bottom is composed of intertwined loops of diamonds, while the third row consists entirely of hanging briolette diamonds. The briolettes are from India and the other white diamonds are from Brazil. The center holds a 13 carat pink diamond that came from the treasury of Paul I. My guess is that the tiara wasn’t initially created to act as a nuptial tiara. Even the Russian Nuptial Crown wasn’t created until 1840.
According to the 1925 catalog Russia’s Treasure of Diamonds and Precious Stones, the tiara was created in 1800 for Elizabeth Alexeievna (née Princess Louise of Baden, 1779-1826) consort of Alexander I. However, according to Christie’s, the tiara was created for Maria Feodorovna (née Duchess Sophie Dorothea of Württemberg, 1759-1828) wife of Tsar Paul I (father of Alexander I). I tend to side with Christie’s that it was made for Maria Feodorovna since the pink diamond came from her husband’s treasury.
Regardless of whom it was made for, it’s incredible that the nuptial tiara has survived two centuries. Miraculously, the Soviet government decided not to destroy or sell it. The tiara is intact in its original form and remains in the ownership of the Russian government. You can spot the Russian Nuptial Tiara on the inventory table with other confiscated Romanov jewels. It’s the third tiara from the right.
Leslie Field’s Lot Essay for Christie’s
Jewels of the Romanovs by Stafano Papi
Russia’s Treasure of Diamonds and Precious Stones by Alexander Evgenevich Fersman
Today’s tiara is a long-hidden treasure from the coffers of Her Majesty the Queen. But the tiara dates much older than Queen Elizabeth II. It initially belonged to her grandmother, Queen Mary. On the occasion of her wedding in 1893, the County of Lincoln gifted the then Princess Mary a brooch composed of ten brilliant diamonds. Almost four decades later, in 1932, Queen Mary had a tiara made specifically to fit this brooch. The large detachable brooch sits within a platinum band of eleven flexible sections set with even more brilliant diamonds.
Queen Elizabeth II inherited this intricate tiara in 1953. The geometric design appears strikingly modern, which made it such a perfect fit for the very modern Duchess of Sussex on her wedding day.
Thank you so much for reading this week. I’ll be back on Monday with even more royal jewels. I hope you have a great weekend!