Today marks the 175th Anniversary of the Birth of Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna of Russia, who was born on this day in 1847! The Danish Princess who married the Russian Tsar and became the mother of the tragic last Tsar, the Empress possessed a spectacular collection of jewels, though the Pearl Wave Tiara and Parure is synonymous with her public identity!
Created in the latter half of the 19th century, the Pearl Wave Tiara was composed of geometric diamond wave elements topped with eighteen large pear-shaped pearls. The accompanying identical necklace was made of Brazilian diamonds with 19 pear-shaped pearls, and the Parure also included a large Pearls and Diamond Brooch.
After the marriage of Princess Dagmar of Denmark to Tsarevich Alexander Alexandrovich of Russia in 1866 following the death of her first fiancee, his elder brother, Tsarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich, the Pearl Wave Tiara and Parure became favourites of the new Tsesarevna Maria Feodorovna, who notably wore the Tiara for a drawing done on a visit to London in 1868, with her sister, the later Queen Alexandra (who was wearing her Wedding Gift Parure).
In the 1870s, the Necklace of the Pearl Wave Parure was worn by the Tsesarevna for a series of portraits, which formed the basis of many portraits and thus the necklace also featured in imagery surrounding the Coronation of the Imperial couple in 1883.
The Parure continued to be a favourite after acceding to the Imperial Throne, and in the 1890s, Empress Maria Feodorovna wore the Pearl Wave Tiara for a painting by Francois Flameng, cementing the association of the Parure with her public image.
In 1894, the Empress loaned five elements of the necklace to her elder daughter, Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna, to decorate her Kokoshnik for Prince Sheremetyev’s costume ball.
The Tiara and Parure remained favourites of the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna after being widowed in 1894, with the necklace being depicted Having been worn for the New Year Celebration at the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg in 1903.
At some point, the Dowager Empress seems to have a smaller Aigrette created in an almost identical style to elements of the Pearl Wave Parure, which she seems to have worn for the Proclamation of her nephew, King Haakon VII of Norway in 1906, and a Dinner in 1911.
It is unknown if the Parure was kept in the Dowager Empress’ safe at the Anichkov Palace or with the rest of the Crown Jewels in either Moscow or St Petersburg 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 the Pearl Wave Parure along the rest of the Russian Crown Jewels, which also included the Pearl Drop Tiara and Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna’s Jewels. The Parure was photographed by the Bolsheviks in 1922 and in 1925, but since then has disappeared without a trace. It may have been broken up and sold separately or the Parure may be one of the pieces still in the vaults of the Kremlin.
As it was not an heirloom of the Crown, the Aigrette remained with the Dowager Empress in exile, and in 1921, she wore the piece for Wedding Ball of Prince René of Bourbon-Parma and her niece, Princess Margaret of Denmark.The piece remained with her until her death in 1928, and was either piece the designated as a “diamond bow with hanging pear-shaped pearl (GBP 120)” or a ”diamond brooch set with one large diamond and one large pearl (GBP 1150-1700)”, of which one was left to Grand Duchess Xenia and the other sold for GBP 1187. The current location is unknown.