The Grand Duchess Vladimir tiara, or Vladimir for short, was originally owned by Duchess Marie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, a German princess. She married in to the Russian Royal Family in 1874, and became known as Maria Pavlovna, Grand Duchess Vladimir.
It was around the time of her marriage that Russian imperial court jeweller Bolin created the diamond and pearl piece for Maria.
The pearls could be removed, as could part of the diamond structure, allowing her to wear it as smaller closed coronet.
Over 20 years on from her wedding day in 1917, revolution swept Russia, and Maria left St Petersburg for a villa in Kislovodsk.
Her jewellery, including this tiara, were hidden in a safe in her St Petersburg home, the Vladimir Palace. Maria was placed under house arrest, unable to return and collect her jewels.
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Vladimir tiara: The Queen’s favourite diadem has a thrilling history & is said to be worth £10mill
Vladimir tiara: As with much of the jewellery in the Queen’s collection, Queen Mary bought this item
During the summer, her son Grand Duke Boris & a friend, Bertie Stopford, planned a dangerous mission to retrieve her jewellery.
The two men dressed up as workmen, and with the help of a Palace caretaker, snuck in to the building and smuggled out the contents of the safe.
Stopford – an aristocratic British art dealer – took the jewels to London, where they were put in a safety deposit box.
In February 1920, Maria became the last Romanov grand duchess to escape from Russia. She headed to Venice, and from there to France. The journey took its toll on her health, and she died a few months later.
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Her daughter, Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna, inherited the tiara. Elena had become Princess Nicholas of Greece and Denmark when she married into the Greek royal family in 1902.
In 1921, Elena sold some of her mother’s jewels, and Queen Mary purchased the Vladimir Tiara.
Queen Mary immediately gave the tiara to Garrard to make repairs – it had been damaged during its secret journey from Russia to the UK.
Three years later, Mary commissioned Garrard to work on it again. In her jewellery collection, Mary had the Cambridge emeralds. These had belonged to her mother’s family.
Vladimir tiara: Queen Elizabeth has loved this diadem for many years, and wears it often
She had the Vladimir adapted so that it could be worn with 15 cabochon drops from the Cambridge emerald collection.
This meant the tiara could be worn with in three ways – with emeralds, the original pearls, or without either, in a style described as “widowed”.
In 1988, Queen Elizabeth, who had inherited the tiara when Mary died in 1953, had Garrard renovate the piece once again, building it a completely new frame.
Speaking about the piece, Alexandra Michell Gemologist Prestige Pawnbrokers of Channel 4’s Posh Pawn said: “The Vladimir Tiara has a very illustrious history.
“These days, you can often see Queen Elizabeth II wearing the emerald version, which is very impressive, as the emeralds alone look to weigh 20-30cts each, and that’s not counting the numerous natural pearls.
“This piece would attract major buyers globally due to its historic interest and could fetch in excess of 10 million at auction.”
How many tiaras are there in the royal collection?
There are dozens of priceless tiaras owned by the Queen and other members of the Royal Family. Many of the British aristocracy also own tiaras, wearing them at state banquets and on wedding days.
As well as tiaras currently in existence, there are a couple which have been dismantled to make other diadems. This includes The Surrey Fringe and The Nizam of Hyderabad.
Some tiaras have formed part of iconic moments in the history of the Royal Family. The Cartier Halo for instance, was worn by Kate Middleton on her wedding day to Prince William in 2011.
Similarly, the Queen Mary Diamond Bandeau was admired around the world thanks to it being the choice of Meghan Markle for her wedding to Prince Harry in 2018.
And it is the Lover’s Knot that is most often seen today, as it is a favourite of the Duchess of Cambridge. It was closely associated with Diana, Princess of Wales during her marriage to Prince Charles, so holds special significance for Kate.