Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Great Sparkle Quest

As you may remember from this picture, I wear sparkles (usually a tiara) when I need a mood boost.  I also shop for sparkles when I need a mood boost, and in all of these ebay exploits I keep my eyes posted for kokoshnik tiaras.

Growing up I heard many fabulous stories about my family in Eastern Europe and their trials immigrating to America.  Maybe it's just in my blood, or maybe it's because of all those stories, but there's something about the Russian monarchs that really fascinates me.  It might also have something to do with how much I loved the animated movie Anastasia too.

Anyways, while I am always on the lookout for sparkles I can wear with various ballgowns, someday I would love to own at least one tiara in the kokoshnik style.  
Kokoshnik refers to the traditional headdress for Russian married women, which was worn into the 19th century.  Historically the kokoshnik is a decorated crescent (sometimes rounded and sometimes pointed, with appliques, embroideries, precious stones, etc.) tied with ribbon at the back in a bow.  The specific design for each kokoshnik was associated with a particular region of Russia (called gyberniya) and it was at times actually possible to tell where a woman was from based on her particular kokoshnik.

traditional dress of a wealthy peasant from the early 19th century

Ballerina Anna Pavlova in traditional dress c. 1920s
Naturally, during the cultural revival of the nineteenth century that meant the monarchs needed their own 'regional' version, which eventually took on the form of a tiara.  
The imperial family of Tsar Nicholas II in kokoshniks--see the similarity in shape to the tiaras?

The most famous of these are fringe tiaras: the George III Tiara (aka The Russian Fringe Tiara) and the Russian Kokoshnik Tiara.  Both are made of graduated stiff rows of diamonds (which is where the term fringe comes from).  
George III Tiara

The George III Tiara was originally commissioned in 1830 from diamonds in the collection previously belonging to King George III.  Worn by Queen Victoria multiple times throughout her reign, this tiara is still worn by the current Queen Elizabeth II.

Kokoshnik Tiara

The Russian Kokoshnik was an anniversary gift to Alexandra, Princess of Wales in 1888 on behalf of the peeresses of the kingdom.  The princess had specifically requested a kokoshnik tiara, as they were already quite fashionable.  In fact, the Empress of Russia, Maria Feodorovna (Alexandra's sister) also favored this style.

Empress Maria in her kokoshnik fringe, 1882
While the fringe tiaras are probably the most iconic of the kokoshnik tiaras, this is by far not the only type.  Here are some other favorites of mine!

Empress Consort Alexandra in Romanov Pearl Drop Tiara,  1896

Romanov Drop Pearl Tiara

Maria, Queen of Yugoslavia c. early 1920s

Maria's emerald and diamond kokoshnik, which originally belonged to Tsarina Maria Alexandrovna in the mid 19th century 

Empress Maria Feodorovna (formerly Dagmar) while Empress Consort, 1874

black diamond kokoshnik of Queen Maria of Romania

Westminster Kokoshnik by Chaumet, early 20th century
Aren't they lovely?  I will be ever-vigilant until I find the perfect one.  In the meantime, I will have to content myself with other beautiful sparkles.

Oh, and a little further proof that Anastasia was a formative film: the titular character and the Dowager Empress in their kokoshnik tiaras.

One is a fringe and one is the more rounded style--my two favorites. Hmm.

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