Today marks the Anniversaries of the Deaths of Empress Maria Feodorovna of Russia and of Gladys, Duchess of Marlborough, so today we are featuring a spectacular Heirloom that belonged to both ladies and is now in the Philippines: Empress Maria Feodorovna’s Pearl Drop Tiara!
Featuring 25 pear-shaped Pearls hanging from pointed arches, this Tiara was commissioned from the Court Jeweller Bolin for Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna, the wife of Tsar Nickolas I, in 1841. The Tiara was a part of the Russian Crown Jewels. An identical Tiara in emeralds was created for the Tsarina’s daughter, the later Queen Olga of Württemberg, in 1846.
The Tiara became a favourite of Tsarina Maria Feodorovna, the wife of Tsar Alexander III, who, while she was not depicted in the piece, continued to use it in her widowhood, leaving it in her safe at the Anichkov Palace when she went to the Crimea at the outbreak of the Russian Revolution in 1917. The Dowager Empress sent her grandson-in-law, Prince Felix Yusupov, to retrieve jewels and items from the Anichkov Palace, but they had already been removed by the Bolsheviks, who displayed it along the rest of the Russian Crown Jewels.
In 1927, Empress Maria Feodorovna’s Pearl Drop Tiara was sold by Bolsheviks on Auction at Christie’s, when it was bought by Holmes & Co., and later by the 9th Duke of Marlborough, for his second wife, Gladys, Duchess of Marlborough. The Duchess took a series of ‘selfies’ wearing the Tiara at Blenheim Palace and retained it after being widowed. The Tiara remained in the Bank Vault when the Duchess was forcibly moved to a mental hospital in the 1960s, until being auctioned in 1978, the year after her death.
The Tiara eventually ended up in the collection of Imelda Marcos, the First Lady of the Philippines, who accumulated excessive amounts of shoes, art, jewels, with parts of her collection confiscated when the Presidential Couple fled in 1986. The Pearl Drop Tiara was among those jewels and remains in a bank vault under the control of the Portuguese Government, with plans to exhibit or auction them, with the jewels being brought out and valued every few years, though no plans have ever materialised. The newly elected Filipino President is the son of Imelda Marcos, and it remains to be seen if the confiscated jewels will be returned to her. However, in 1987, a replica of the Tiara was made for the Russian Diamond Fund in Moscow.