Grand Duchess Elisabeth Feodorovna’s Emerald Tiara

Today’s striking Emerald Kokoshnik Tiara was made for a beautiful Russian Grand Duchess. It was given to her adopted daughter, who sold it after the Russian Revolution to the King of Yugoslavia. In the 1950s, the Tiara was sold to Van Cleef & Arpels and has been loaned out. It was seen as recently as earlier this year.

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Featuring seven cabochon emeralds set in a geometric diamond design with tiny lilies of the valley, the Emerald Kokoshnik Tiara included a substantial parure, with a large necklace and a heavy stomacher, all set by the Russian Court Jeweller, Bolin. The emeralds originally belonged to Tsarina Maria Alexandrovna of Russia, wife of Tsar Alexander II of Russia, who left them to her son Grand Duke Sergei in 1880.

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In 1884, Grand Duke Sergei married Princess Elisabeth of Hesse and by Rhine, and presented his new bride with his mother’s emeralds. His bride, known as Grand Duchess Elisabeth Feodorovna, wore the necklace, stomacher, and some emerald pieces on a fabric Kokoshnik, before she had Bolin make them into the tiara. She wore them for a couple of Official portraits and at a royal event. She was the sister of Princess Alix of Hesse, who met the then future Tsar Nicholas II of Russia at the wedding and eventually became the last Empress of Russia. While the couple had a happy marriage and the Grand Duchess was a success in ST. Petersburg society, making “everyone fall in love with her from the moment she came to Russia“, they couldn’t have children, and instead adopted the motherless children of his exiled brother. In 1905, Grand Duke Sergei was assassinated by a Socialist-Revolutionary in Moscow. The Grand Duchess retired from society, put away her fancy clothes and jewels, and became the abbess of a convent in Moscow. She even sold the elaborate stomacher of her emerald parure to the Sultan of Turkey. In July 1918, the same night her sister and her family were assassinated, she was thrown down a mine shaft with other members of the Imperial family and died slowly from injuries or starvation. Grand Duchess Elisabeth Feodorovna was canonized  in 1981.

However, despite its original owner being brutally murdered, the Emerald Kokoshnik tiara and necklace survived. In 1908, Grand Duchess Elisabeth had given them to her niece and adopted daughter, Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna, when she married Prince Wilhelm of Sweden. The couple divorced in 1914, and she returned to Russia with the tiara and necklace, which she wore in a portrait that year. She managed to make a daring escape from Russia during the Revolution of 1917, and had a hard life in exile. Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna opened a Russian embroidery shop, and in 1922, to fill an order for Chanel, she sold the tiara and necklace to King Alexander of Yugoslavia.

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King Alexander bought the Emerald Kokoshnik Tiara and Necklace as a wedding gift for his bride, Princess Marie of Romania, who he married in 1922. He was encouraged by his future mother-in-law, who was the first cousin of Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna. Queen Marie of Yugoslavia wore the elaborate necklace on her wedding day, and wore the tiara for most of her tenure as Queen. She even had another elaborate emerald and diamond sautoir made by Cartier to wear with the Tiara. In 1934, King Alexander was assassinated in Nice, and Queen Marie retired from most official duties. Their eldest son, King Peter came to the throne as a minor, so Prince Paul of Yugoslavia, married to Princess Olga of Greece (cousin of Queen Marie), became Regent. After a period of turmoil during WWII, King Peter came of age and spent the war in exile in London, and married Princess Alexandra of Greece in 1944.

In November 1947, the Emerald Kokoshnik Tiara and original necklace were lent by Queen Marie to her daughter-in-law, Queen Alexandra for the pre-wedding ball of Princess (now Queen) Elizabeth of the United Kingdom and Lt. Phillip Mountbatten (now the Duke of Edinburgh) in London. Queen Alexandra was a first cousin once removed of the Groom. After WWII, the Communist government in Yugoslavia had deposed King Peter, so he never returned to his country. The handover of the jewels was not peaceful, and Princess Olga wrote to King Peter:

“You must threaten her (Queen Marie) that unless she gives up the emeralds, you will cut her allowance by half”

In 1949, King Peter left the tiara for safe-keeping with Van Cleef & Arpels in 1949, as collateral for a $20,000 loan. It was eventually sold to them in 1953. Van Cleef & Arpels removed the valuable Romanov emeralds, sold them to an unknown buyer, and replaced them with paste. They loan out the Tiara to celebrities and socialites, including Mrs. Donald D. Burr in 1965, Princess Elisabeth of Yugoslavia (daughter of Prince Regent Paul and Princess Olga) in 2010, and to a lady who wore it at the Red Cross Ball in Palm Beach last month.

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For more information, check out:

Jenni Wiltz

Tiara Mania

Royal Magazin

Queen Alexandra of Yugoslavia

Queen Marie’s Fringe Tiara

Princess Olga’s Kokoshnik Tiara

Princess Olga’s Boucheron Diamond Tiara

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