07 July 2018

Empress Alexandra's Boucheron Coronet

Empress Alexandra Feodorovna of Russia wears her Boucheron coronet in a portrait, ca. 1914 (Wikimedia Commons)

The Romanov jewelry vaults were massive, including some of the most elaborate diadems and tiaras worn at the turn of the twentieth century. But Russia's last empress was partial to a much smaller sparkler: a sentimental pearl and diamond coronet.

Empress Alexandra's pearl and diamond coronet

The tiny tiara, composed of diamond floral and scroll designs surmounted by a series of natural pearls, was made by Boucheron in the 1890s. In 1894, shortly after his proposal to Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine was formally accepted, the future Tsar Nicholas II purchased the coronet for his fiancee as an engagement present.

Alexandra wears the coronet, ca. 1898 (Grand Ladies Site)

The purchase of the diadem actually happened in Britain. Nicholas visited Alix and her grandmother, Queen Victoria, at Windsor in the summer of 1894, following the official engagement annoucnement. In his book on the Romanov jewels, Stefano Papi includes an image of a note written from Windsor Castle on Nicholas's behalf by Prince Dmitry Borisovich Galitzine. The note requests that Mr. Aubert, a representative from Boucheron, should bring "the things you should like to show" the future tsar to Windsor, scheduling the appointment for July 17, 1894, at five o'clock in the evening. Presumably Nicholas purchased the coronet from Aubert at Windsor Castle on that date. (The date would later be an unfortunately significant one for Nicholas, Alix, and their children.)

Alexandra wears the coronet, ca. 1906

Alix, who took the name Alexandra Feodorovna when she married Nicholas in November 1894, wore the little pearl and diamond coronet for the rest of her life. Here, she wears the coronet in one of a series of portraits taken in 1906, pairing it with other pieces of pearl jewelry.

Alexandra wears the coronet, ca. 1906

She also wore the tiara in other poses from this portrait series, including photos taken with her son, Grand Duke Alexei, and her sister, Princess Louis of Battenberg.

Alexandra wears the coronet in a family portrait, ca. 1914

Near the end of her life, Alexandra wore the coronet for another family portrait session, which took place in either 1913 or 1914 (sources differ -- Papi says 1914). Here, she poses with all four of her daughters: Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia.

Alexandra wears the coronet in a family portrait, ca. 1914 (Wikimedia Commons)

And here, she wears the coronet with her entire family, including Tsar Nicholas II and Grand Duke Alexei. There's something particularly poignant about her decision to continue wearing her tiny engagement coronet even after she was empress of one of the world's largest nations. And, of course, there's more poignancy about the coronet itself, which -- as you may have already guessed -- was confiscated by the Bolsheviks and has not been seen since, vanishing into the mists of time just like its famous wearer.