18 February 2017

The Russian Pearl Bandeau

The Russian Pearl Bandeau (Clive Limpkin/Daily Express/Getty Images)

They may not sit on the British throne, but of all the branches of the Windsor family tree, it’s actually the present-day Kents who can boast of the greatest royal ancestry. This is thanks to Princess Marina, who was descended from the Greek, Danish, and Russian royal families. Today’s tiara, the Russian Pearl Bandeau, also made its way into the Kent collection through Marina’s regal connections.

Princess Nicholas of Greece and Denmark wears the tiara, ca. 1910

The tiara, which can also be taken off its frame and worn as a necklace, allegedly originated in the collection of Marina’s grandmother, Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna (the Elder) of Russia. (You’ll probably recognize Maria Pavlovna under another name: Grand Duchess Vladimir.) Geoffrey Munn says that the tiara was probably given by Maria Pavlovna to her daughter, Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna, on the occasion of her marriage to Prince Nicholas of Greece and Denmark in 1902.

Princess Nicholas wears the tiara, ca. 1910 (Grand Ladies Site)

This tiara is sometimes called the "pearl swirl" tiara, and each "link" of the piece does indeed feature diamonds curled around a central pearl. I’ve also seen this designed referred to as the "snake" necklace, with the diamond elements representing snakes and the pearls representing their eggs. However you want to interpret the design, at some point, two of these swirl elements were removed from the piece to make a pair of earrings. The maker of the tiara is apparently unknown.

In 1934, the tiara once again served as a wedding gift. Princess Nicholas bestowed the tiara on her daughter, Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark, who was marrying the Duke of Kent, one of the younger sons of King George V. Marina wore the pearl tiara on multiple occasions, including during a tour of Asia in 1952. In the photograph above, she wears it on a trip to the theater with Queen Mary in 1935.

Princess Alexandra wears the tiara, December 1967 (Clive Limpkin/Daily Express/Getty Images)

Marina’s only daughter, Princess Alexandra, wore the tiara several times as a young woman. But unfortunately, this was one of the items of jewelry that the family was forced to sell to pay the estate tax after Marina’s death in 1968. The tiara/necklace and earrings was photographed for Geoffrey Munn’s tiara book in 2002, but the piece was attributed merely to a "private collection."