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Royal Russian Tiaras: The Russian Field Diadem

I don't know about you, but I sure am glad that #TiaraTuesday is back. Two weeks without historical tiaras is just too long to go. I hate it when the darn day job gets in the way of my dream life. Today's #TiaraTuesday diadem holds a bit of mystery, to say the least.
Royal Russian Tiaras: The Wheat Sheaf Diadem
The Russian Field Diadem. But is it the original? (The answer is, not this one.)

There’s so much mystery around the tiaras of the Russian Empire, it can be hard to know fact from fiction. Today’s #TiaraTuesday beauty is definitely a mystery but one to which someone somewhere holds the answer. The Russian Field Diadem may be lost to us commoners, but it may just live on for some…. if you hang out in the right circles.

Royal Russian Tiaras: The Wheat Sheaf Diadem
The black and white photo of the diadem from the Christie’s archives.

Thank goodness that Christie’s Auction House was photographing auction items back in 1927 when they auctioned off a plethora of Russian Crown Jewels, lest we tiara enthusiasts be left out of the loop (see what I did there?) forever. The tiara was created for Empress Maria Feodorovna (wife of Paul I) and was commissioned from the famous Duval Brothers. As the story goes, she wanted something that would remind her of the Russian fields, with the resulting piece featuring oak and laurel leaves, bordered by sheaves of wheat. In her will she left this piece, along with several other jewels, to the Diamond Fund, an extensive collection of jewelry that dates back to the Russian Crown Treasury, instituted by Peter I of Russia in 1719. That collection is currently stored and exhibited in Kremlin. And this tiara should be there too.

Royal Russian Tiaras: The Wheat Sheaf Diadem
Another artist’s rendition of what the tiara likely looked like.

But in 1927 the Russian government sold off the original tiara via an auction at Christie’s and it’s now lost… possibly dismantled (I like to hope that it’s in some special royal or heiress’s collection, still intact). The diamond briolettes and wheat sheaves are lovely, weighing in at a reported 129.62 carats, but it’s the center stone that remains a bit of mystery. Listed by Christie’s in a catalog as a light yellow sapphire of 37 carats, it’s also listed elsewhere as a white sapphire and yet still elsewhere as a citrine. Adding to the intrigue is a second nearly identical tiara, created by jewelers Nikolaev and Aleksakhin who studied old photographs and other archival information. They made a few changes, substituting platinum for silver and using stones of Russian origin. The centerpiece is now a beautiful yellow diamond of over 35 carats.

The famous photo taken by the Soviet commission in 1922 shows the large part of the Romanov crown jewelry collection, some of which was sold off, or merely disappeared. It appears that the Wheat Diadem is on the table, towards the back at dead center.

Wouldn’t it be nice to know that BOTH the old Russian Field Diadem and the new remain and to hope that one day, we’d get to catch a glimpse of the Duval original? What do you think? Is it still out there somewhere? Do tell!


4 Responses

  1. The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA holds what is called a Russian Crown. Maybe the lost diadem? It was brought over by Richard Teller Crane when he was part of the Root Commission that through propaganda toppled the Russian Provisional Government. Many of the security guards talk about seeing it daily or moving it throughout the years. Crane donated heavily to get Wilson elected president.

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