Today marks the 120th Anniversary of the Birth of Princess Xenia Georgievna of Russia, who was born on this day in 1903! The illustrious Russian Princess who married an American Millionaire, Princess Xenia possessed a spectacular Romance Heirloom: The Vladimir Ruby Kokoshnik!
In 1908, Grand Duchess Vladimir took several diamond and ruby jewels, including fourteen brooches, two pendants and a necklace to Cartier in Paris to be rest into a new Tiara and Corsage, that highlighted the octagonal 5-carat ‘Beauharnais’ Ruby said to originate from Empress Josephine.
Grand Duchess Vladimir possessed a spectacular Jewellery Collection, which was described by Consuelo, Duchess of Marlborough:
‘She [Maria] had a majestic personality, but could be both gracious and charming. After dinner she showed me her jewels set out in glass cases in her dressing room. There were endless parures of diamonds, emeralds, rubies and pearls to say nothing of semi-precious stones such as turquoises, tourmalines, cat’s eyes and aquamarines.’ What a night that would be! It seems Russian etiquette called for the hostess show off her jewels to honoured female guests. Not what would be called tasteful by others but I would be OK with seeing jewellery at a dinner party!
When she fled St. Petersburg following the February Revolution in 1917, the Jewels of the Grand Duchess Vladimir remained in a hidden safe in her bedroom at the Vladimir Palace, until her son, Grand Duke Boris, and a friend, Bertie Stopford, snuck into the Vladimir Palace disguised as workmen, smuggling the Jewels out in a pair of Gladstone Bags, which were then smuggled out of Russia, deposited in a safety deposit box in London. An inventory taken by Garrard in early 1920 revealed that the Vladimir Tiara was damaged during its journey, with some of the pearls and diamonds missing. The Grand Duchess Vladimir was the last Romanov to escape Russia, and passed away just a few months later, in September 1920. Grand Duchess Vladimir left her jewels to her children in groups of stones, with Grand Duke Kyril receiving the Sapphires, Grand Duke Boris the Emeralds, Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna, Princess Nicholas of Greece, the only daughter, inherited her mother’s diamonds and pearls, including the Vladimir Tiara, while Grand Duke Andrei inherited the Rubies, which included the Ruby Kokoshnik.
Grand Duke Andrei soon sold the Vladimir Ruby Kokoshnik to Cartier, who soon sold it to Princess Anastasia of Greece, whose son from her first marriage, William Bateman Leeds Jr, was marrying Princess Xenia Georgievna of Russia, who was the niece of her second husband, Prince Christopher of Greece. The Ruby Kokoshnik was described among Princess Xenia’s wedding gifts:
“Some of the presents showered upon the bride and bridegroom were superb beyond words. The diamond-and-ruby tiara given by Princess Christopher of Greece is one of the finest in the world, the centre stone being the famous Beauharnais ruby. The rubies are set in a design of diamonds.”
Princess Xenia was only pictured wearing the Vladimir Ruby Kokoshnik at the Russian Ball held at the Plaza Hotel in New York City in 1927, when she was accompanied by her uncle, Prince Christopher. Princess Xenia may have retained the Vladimir Ruby Kokoshnik after her divorce in 1930 and it may have been inherited by her daughter, Nancy Leeds, but eventually the fate of the Tiara is unknown.