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Royal Russian Tiaras: The Sapphire Wave Tiara

There's so much mystery when it comes to the Romanov jewels. But one would assume that we have known all of those mysteries for years. And yet, in 2012 a new mystery came to light. A long forgotten Romanov jewel - the Sapphire Wave Tiara.
The Sapphire Wave Tiara
A colorized version of what it’s believed that the tiara looked like.

There’s so much mystery when it comes to the Romanov crown jewels. But one would assume that we have been aware of all of those mysteries for decades. And yet, in 2012 a new mystery came to light. Several long forgotten Romanov Jewels, including a spectacular diadem – the Sapphire Wave Tiara.

The center stone of The Sapphire Wave Tiara

Let’s start at the beginning of the mystery. There was a man – his name was George F Kunz and he was a mineralist and gemologist (and it is he for whom the stone “Kunzite” is named). When George passed away in 1932, he left his private library to the United States Geological Survey – an institution for whom he worked (he also worked at Tiffany & Co. as a Vice President at the tender age of 23). It was deep in the library of the USGS in Reston, VA, that the secret sat dormant for decades.

The Bolshevik Bounty – The Romanov Jewels, including the four previously unidentified pieces

But in 2012 it was discovered that within George’s bequeathed documents, there was a 1922 publication: The Russian Diamond Fund. The Russian Diamond Fund itself (outside of being a published book) is a Kremlin run organization, housing the remaining Russian Crown Jewels. But in 1922, not too long after the Bolsheviks had murdered the last Tzar and his family, the Diamond Fund was flush with Romanov treasures. And they were documented in this publication. Interestingly enough, they were not, however, listed in a 1925 publication: Russia’s Treasure of Diamonds and Precious Stones, which had been assumed to be the most complete inventory of the Romanov Crown Jewels. Until now.

Empress Marie Feodorovna wearing many jewels, including The Sapphire Wave Tiara
Empress Marie Feodorovna (née Dagmar of Denmark, 1847-1928) as painted by Konstantin Makovskym wearing The Sapphire Wave Tiara.

It was within Kunz’s copy of The Russian Diamond Fund that scholars discovered four previously unpublished pieces of jewelry. An emerald and diamond necklace, a sapphire and diamond bracelet, a sapphire bow brooch and The Sapphire Wave Tiara. The tiara was made up of nine almost larger than life sapphires, surrounded by wave-like loops of diamonds that each ended in diamond drops. So unusual was it, that one might even say the tiara reminded them of waves in the ocean. The scholars were able to further trace the tiara to a sketch in Tiaras: A History of Splendour, by Geoffrey Munn, where it was identified as having belonged to Marie Feodorovna (you’ll remember her as the wife of Alexander III and the mother of the last Tzar of Russia).

Royal Russian Tiaras: The Sapphire Wave Tiara
A black and white photo of the now lost tiara.

In the photo above, you’ll see the tiara, backed by traditional fabric covered kokoshnik headdress and topped with a row of diamonds (most likely a diamond rivière necklace). Marie wore the tiara to the wedding of Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh and the Grand Duchess Marie Alexandrovna of Russia in 1874 and also in the portrait by Konstantin Makovskym. But where the tiara may now reside is once again…. a mystery. The USGS research team was able to determine that the brooch was sold at an auction in 1927 but the rest of jewels, including the tiara, vanished into history. My best guess? They were sold long ago by the Bolsheviks and broken up, now making up several other pieces. But sometimes, a century or later, historic pieces resurface. We can always hope, right?


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