Thank God it’s not a brooch but it IS part of Queen Elizabeth’s collection: the Grand Duchess Vladimir Tiara. This icon of headgear was probably made around 1890. Those pearls are pure eye-candy and I’m not usually a fan of pearls. Especially when you can swap these alabaster tears out for:
Emeralds! You all know by now what a ho I am for those colored gemstones…Leuchtenberg sigh* Check out the Cambridge Earrings (1911) just below the tiara. The eleven diamonds surround emeralds are so finely crafted they almost look like marbles! The Duchess of Cambridge won the gems at a charity lottery in 1914. Don’t you love when sets come together like that?
It would appear that the Queen preferred the emeralds to the pearls when she was younger and “grew into” those crustacean treasures later on in life. It’s sweet to have options. (BTW, how adorable does her Majesty look in the above picture?)
The Grand Duchess Vladimir Tiara is a magnificent example of 19th Century Russian craftsmanship. As the story goes, the Grand Duchess Vladimir “despised” the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, her nephew Tsar Nicholas II’s wife or as we know her Alix of Hesse and set up her own court at Vladimir Palace where she dazzled Westerners with her resplendent jewels, including this piece that looks like it was made with a diamond-bedazzling Spirograph. [Remember those toys?]
In 1918, the Grand Duchess and her family had to flee the revolution, hiding out in the Caucus Mountains. In 1920, the family fled again stowed-away on an Italian ship headed for Venice where they intended to live. By the end of 1920, the family was living in Paris. The Grand Duchess Vladimir died later that year.
The last of the Vladimir jewel collection was left behind and remained hidden, undetected by the Bolsheviks, safely inside Vladimir Palace. A British Secret Service Agent, a friend of the Grand Duchess, smuggled the gems out of Russia in a “large diplomatic bag” and delivered to the Grand Duchess in Paris. She then distributed her fabulous collection amongst the Vladimir family.
The Grand Duchess Vladimir Tiara was given to her daughter, Princess Nicholas of Greece, who then sold it to Queen Mary in 1921. It was Queen Mary who “accommodated” the tiara to flaunt fifteen of the famous Cambridge Emeralds in place of the original pearls.
In 1953, Queen Elizabeth II inherited it from her grandmother (Queen Mary). It it still one of her favorites and she enjoys wearing it with other piece of the Delhi Durbar Parure.
(The Delhi Durbar Tiara was MIA for awhile…but we’ll touch upon that lovely halo another day!)