What Really Happened to the Mysterious Romanov Family Jewelry?

By: Carol Kingston | Published: Jan 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.

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.

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.

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.

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).


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.


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)


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.


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.


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.


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.