An absolutely breath taking piece of fine jewellery, this exquisite Diamond Bow Brooch showcases the heights of artistry that a jeweller can achieve. It also carries the unique distinction of being not only an Imperial Russian Jewel but a Royal British jewel as well.
During the 1800’s, Gem-studded Bow brooches became popular with European aristocrats looking to enhance the fashionable, bow styled garments that were in style at the time
Probably the most famous example of this trend is Bow Brooch belonging to Empress Eugenie, which can now be found in the Apollo gallery in the Louvre. Queen Victoria also had a set of three bow brooches made up by the Crown Jeweller, Garrad in 1858.
Princess Marina’s Diamond Bow Brooch is thought to have been made in the 1850’s. Exhibiting “the softness of [the] velvet, satin, and lace bows of the 19th century” (Lisa Hubbard, Sotheby’s), in their 2012 Catalogue, Sotheby’s describes the piece as:
“A double ribbon bow centred by an oval-shaped diamond weighing approximately 3.50 carats, accented by numerous pear-shaped and old mine-cut diamonds weighing approximately 38.00 carats, further set with numerous old mine and rose-cut diamonds weighing approximately 64.25 carats”
As with her Pearl Bandeau and her sister’s Diamond Kokoshnik Tiara, most people like to think that this piece came from the legendary jewel collection of Princess Marina’s grandmother, Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna, the Grand Duchess Vladimir of Russia. When her only daughter, Elena (pictured) married Prince Nicolas of Greece in 1902, it has been assumed that the brooch would have been part of her lavish wedding presents. However, Cecil Beaton, the famous society photographer, wrote that Princess Marina had told him that her mother received the bow brooch from Tsar Nicholas II who was her paternal first cousin. Neither version has been confirmed.
Prince Nicolas and Elena had three daughters; Olga, Elizabeth and Marina. All three made suitable royal marriages and all three were to inherit elements of their mothers jewellery collection
In 1934, Princess Marina married George, Duke of Kent, Fourth Son of King George V of England.
As was tradition, she received many bejewelled gifts from both her family and her new in laws. Along with her Pearl Bandeau Tiara, she also received her mother’s Diamond Bow Brooch.
After her marriage, Princess Marina became a prominent member of the British Royal Family and as such, she was required to attend important state functions.
In 1937, she attended the Coronation of her brother in law, King George VI at Westminster Abbey. For the solemn occasion, she chose to wear her most important jewels which included the Diamond Bow Brooch.
Known as ‘the Dazzling Pair’, Prince George and Princess Marina were the leaders of London High Society during the 1930’s. Marina became a great muse for the famous photographer Cecil Beaton. In his memoir he quotes:
“The Duchess looked excessively beautiful in a huge brown tulle crinoline, ruched like a Queen Anne window blind, or a lampshade, with old fashioned jewellery. She looked like a Winterhalter painting and it was thus she was photographed, slightly nervous at first and very royal with her deep, clipped accented voice but soon she was a pliable as any sitter I have ever had and we made many jokes and got along splendidly”
After Prince George’s tragic death in 1942, Marina was still a valued member of the extended Royal Family. It has been said that while courting Princess Elizabeth, her first cousin Prince Phillip would use Marina’s country home to see her away from the prying eyes of the courtiers.
When Queen Elizabeth ascended to the throne in 1952, Princess Marina attended her Coronation and once again wore the Diamond Bow Brooch.
In addition to serving the British people and the Monarchy at ceremonial events, Marina would often attend many Royal gatherings across Europe.
When she died in 1968, Princess Marina divided her jewellery amongst her three children. Unlike his brother Prince Michael, the Duke of Kent was forced to sell several important pieces from his mother’s collection to pay her death duties. Jayne Wrightsman, the famous American philanthropist and fine art collector would be the one to buy the Diamond Bow Brooch.
The brooch remained in Mrs Wrightsman’s collection until the December of 2012, when it was sold at Sotheby’s to an unknown buyer, with the final sale price of $842,500