What Really Happened to the Mysterious Romanov Family Jewelry?

By: Carol Kingston | Published: May 30, 2024

The Romanov family was the last Russian imperial dynasty to govern the nation. The royals suffered a terrible fate during the Russian Revolution, which saw many of the nobles killed.

Many questions surround the end of the family’s reign, including what happened to their precious jewelry.

Romanov Rule of Russia

Historians agree the Romanov dynasty began after the period of instability in the nation known as the Time of the Troubles, ending in 1613.

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Tsar Nicholas and Alexandra Pose with third Children Before the Revolution

Source: Buyenlarge/Getty Images

In the wake of this period, “the assembly of the land” elected Michale Romanov as Russia’s new tsar, and thus began the Romanov Dynasty’s rule.

Rulers of Russia For Three Centuries

For over 300 years, the Romanov dynasty would rule over Russia. Yet, they would be forced to surrender rulership of the nation by a democratic government in 1917.

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An old photograph of Tsar Nicholas II Romanov pictured alongside his sons and daughters

Source: Laski Diffusion/Getty Images

Bolshevik Revolutionaries, led by Vladimir Lenin, would soon take over power from the democratic government. While the family was initially kept as prisoners, Lenin would organize for the entire Romanov family to be murdered.

Romanovs Taken to Their Death

The Romanov family was awoken early in the morning of July 17, 1918, in their fortified home in the Ural Mountains.

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A small gravesite with five individual headstones

Source: Freepik

Ex-tsar Nicholas II, his wife Alexandria, their five children, four servants, and family doctor Eugene Botkin were taken by the Bolshevik soldiers to the cellar and shot by 12 men.

Family Riches Disappear

The killings marked the end of the Romanov dynasty’s rule of Russia. Following the executions, much of the family’s rare jewelry went missing.

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Collection of golden royal jewelry placed on a small white table

Source: Freepik

On the morning of the killings, Bolshevik soldiers took whatever jewelry the deceased Romanov family members had been wearing. Yet, various pieces were unaccounted for and wouldn’t be found for many more years.

Grand Duchesss Maria Pavlovna

The former tsar’s aunt, Grand Duchess Maria Pavolna, managed to flee Russia in 1919, two years after the devastating murders of Nicholas II and his family,

A portrait of a middle-aged Grand Duchess of Russia, Maria Pavlovna

Source: Wikipedia

In 2021, a pair of ear clips and an exquisite oval broach, which once belonged to the grand duchess, went up for auction in Switzerland (via CNN).

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Stored in Vladimir Palace

According to the story, the pieces had been left behind by the duchess and were secretly stored in Vladimir Palace.

Photograph of the Vladimir Palace on a sunny day

Source: Wikipedia

The pieces were hidden in old newspapers and placed in a secret vault during the Bolshevik Revolution. Eventually, those loyal to the Romanov family planned on sending them to London.

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Maria Places Jewels in the Hands of a Trusted Associate

A specialist at the Sotheby’s auction house, Oliver Wangener, claims the duchess’ precious jewels were placed in the hands of a trusted associate.

A selection of royal jewels, diamond-inlaid necklaces, and pearls

Source: Freepik

“During the revolution, Maria Pavlovna handed over the jewels to someone she trusted. The English diplomat Albert Henry Stopford was tasked with protecting them in London,” he said (via MSN)

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Jewels a Long Way from Home

The jewels traveled secretly by train from St. Petersberg to Finland and onward to Norway. Due to arising problems, they were sent from southern Sweden to Scotland and on to London.

An old train makes its way down the tracks close to a small town

Source: Freepik

Back in 2021, the jewels were finally auctioned off in Geneva. A broach made from sapphires, diamonds, and matching earrings fetched $883,641.94 at auction, according to CNN.

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Auction House Speaks on Rare Sale

It’s infrequent that such royal pieces ever make it to auction, explained a spokesperson from Sotheby’s.

Jewels of Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna before they went on sale at the auction house

Source: Sotheby’s Auction House

“Jewels with a more storied provenance rarely come to auction, and the appearance of these stunning sapphire and diamond pieces sparked interest from collectors worldwide,” Sotheby’s told CNN.

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Collection of the Royal Family

The collection of precious jewels and jewelry held by the former royal family of Russia was one of the most valuable in history.

Queen Elizabeth II's Vladimir Tiara is displayed at Buckingham Palace

Source: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

One of the most extravagant pieces was the Vladimir Tiara, which comprised many diamonds and pear-shaped pearls.

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British Royalty Purchase Tiara

The tiara eventually made its way into the hands of Queen Elizabeth II’s grandmother, Mary of Teck.

Queen Elizabeth II pictured wearing the Vladimir Taira during a trip to Germany

Source: Tim Graham Photo Library/Getty Images

Since the purchase, a number of British royals have been pictured in the tiara, including the recently deceased Queen Elizabeth and the current Princess of Wales, Catherine.

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Romanov Jewelry Legacy

The Romanov family’s collection of jewelry stands out for its opulence and historical significance. This legacy, built over three centuries, features an array of stunning pieces adorned with diamonds, sapphires, and other precious gems.

Russian flag flying against a blue sky

Source: Freepik

Each piece reflects the grandeur of the Russian Empire, symbolizing the wealth and power of the Romanov dynasty.

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British Royal Collection

The British Royal Family’s jewelry collection is renowned for its historical depth and variety. Key pieces include the Crown Jewels, the Imperial State Crown, and the Koh-i-Noor diamond.

Crown with diamonds

Source: Royal Collection Trust

These items, used in royal ceremonies and state functions, highlight the long-standing tradition and continuity of the British monarchy, showcasing its rich heritage.

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French Royal Jewels

The French Royal Jewels are famous for their elegance and craftsmanship, epitomized by pieces like the Regent Diamond and Marie Antoinette’s Pearl Necklace.

A picture of the city of Paris from above during a sunny day

Source: Freepik

These jewels, often associated with the lavish lifestyle of the French court, reflect the artistic and cultural influence of France during the reigns of Louis XIV and his successors.

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Unique Characteristics of Romanov Pieces

Romanov jewelry is distinguished by its intricate designs and use of rare gemstones. Pieces like the Vladimir Tiara and the Romanov sapphires exhibit exceptional craftsmanship.

Blue Romanov Sapphires

Source: Sotheby’s/The Court Jeweller

These jewels often incorporated Russian themes, such as the double-headed eagle and Orthodox crosses, emphasizing their cultural and national significance.

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British Royal Jewels: Historical Significance

The British royal jewels not only represent wealth but also the nation’s history. Items like the Cullinan Diamond, incorporated into the Crown Jewels, symbolize the British Empire’s global reach.

An image of Queen Elizabeth II before a tour in 1959

Source: Wikimedia

These jewels have been worn by generations of royals, playing a crucial role in coronations, weddings, and state occasions.

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French Royal Collection: Symbolism and Power

French royal jewels often symbolized the absolute power and divine right of the monarchy. The Fleur-de-Lis motif, prominently featured in many pieces, represented purity and the French crown.

Fleurs-de-lis adorn St Edward's Crown, reflecting former British monarchs' claim to the French throne

Source: Francis Sandford/Wikipedia

These jewels were not just ornaments but also powerful political statements, reinforcing the monarchy’s dominance and prestige.

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Romanov and British Royal Connections

The Romanov and British royal families shared close ties, often intermarrying and exchanging gifts. The Vladimir Tiara, initially owned by Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna of Russia, became part of the British collection after being purchased by Queen Mary.

A handshake between two people, symbolizing compromise or agreement.

Source: Chris Liverani/Unsplash

This piece symbolizes the deep connections and shared history between the two dynasties.

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French Influence on Romanov Jewelry

French influence on Romanov jewelry is evident in the adoption of styles and techniques from French jewelers.

Pierre Cartier

Source: Bain News Service/Wikipedia

During the 19th century, many Russian nobles commissioned pieces from renowned Parisian houses like Cartier and Boucheron. This cross-cultural exchange enriched the Romanov collection, blending Russian grandeur with French elegance.

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Craftsmanship of Romanov Jewels

The craftsmanship of Romanov jewels is renowned for its precision and artistry. Russian jewelers, such as Carl Fabergé, created masterpieces like the Fabergé eggs, which combined innovative design with meticulous workmanship.

The Imperial Coronation egg, one of the most famous and iconic of all the Fabergé eggs.

Source: Miguel Hermoso Cuesta

These pieces remain iconic, representing the peak of Russian decorative arts.

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British Royal Jewels: Cultural Impact

The cultural impact of British royal jewels extends beyond the monarchy.

Princess Diana pictured wearing a red cardigan and sunglasses during at the Guards Polo Club

Source: Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images

Pieces like Princess Diana’s sapphire engagement ring, now worn by Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, have become globally recognized symbols of elegance and tradition. These jewels continue to influence fashion and jewelry design worldwide.

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French Royal Jewels: Legacy and Preservation

The legacy of French royal jewels is preserved through careful curation and exhibition. Many pieces, such as those in the Louvre Museum, offer insight into France’s royal history and artistic heritage.

Glass pyramids in the courtyard of the Louvre, 2023 in Paris, France

Source: Mika Volkmann/Getty Images

These jewels serve as cultural treasures, maintaining their allure and historical importance through public display and scholarly study.

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Comparing Legacy and Influence

While the Romanov, British, and French royal jewels each have unique characteristics, they all share a common legacy of representing their respective cultures and histories.

A selection of royal jewels, diamond-inlaid necklaces, and pearls

Source: Freepik

The Romanov jewels reflect Russian imperial grandeur, the British jewels symbolize national continuity, and the French jewels embody artistic elegance. Together, they illustrate the universal language of royal power and prestige.

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