The jewel collection of Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna (the Elder) of Russia -- better known to many as Grand Duchess Vladimir -- was the royal gift that just seemed to keep on giving in the wake of the Russian Revolution. But although some of her tiaras, including the famous Vladimir Tiara, were sold off after the family had gone into exile, this sapphire kokoshnik was the tiara that MP the Elder used to buy her way out of Russia as many of her family members were being murdered by the Bolsheviks. The buyers weren't just jewel collectors -- they were the Romanian royal family.
Quick backstory: when the political situation in Romania became precarious during World War I, Queen Marie of Romania's jewels, along with an incredible number of treasures and valuables from the country, were sent to Moscow for safekeeping. Marie had important ties to the Romanovs: her mother was Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia before she married Queen Victoria and Prince Albert's son Alfred. She wasn't the only one who sent her jewels to Russia thinking they'd be safe there: members of the grand ducal family of Hesse did as well. (The tsarina was, after all, born a Hessian princess.)
|Marie wearing the now-lost Massin tiara before the war [source]|
|Maria Pavlovna wears the tiara [source]|
The tiara was one of the more extravagant pieces in a truly remarkable collection, but when the revolution happened, the need to escape from Russia was greater than the need to retain the diadem. Maria Pavlovna sold the tiara to her niece, the queen of Romania, in 1917. Maria Pavlovna used the money to buy her passage out of Russia and into exile; Marie of Romania used the tiara as the cornerstone of her replacement collection. Her husband later purchased an astonishing sapphire pendant from Cartier as a coordinating piece.
Queen Marie's tiara was an important part of her new collection; she underscored this when she chose to wear the tiara when she was painted by Philip de László in 1924. But there came a time when she decided to hand it along to the next generation. She passed the tiara on to her daughter, Princess Ileana, when she married an Austrian archduke in 1931. Four years later, Ileana actually lent the tiara back to her mother to wear for the Silver Jubilee of King George V of the United Kingdom. At that point, political tensions were already strong in Romania, so Marie left the tiara in her London bank for safekeeping, probably mindful of what had happened to her wedding jewels. Ileana was only able to reclaim the tiara shortly before the outbreak of World War II.
|Marie wears the kokoshnik [source]|