Tracking the Story of the Russian Crown Jewels

The rich history of the Russian people is reflected in the origins of the Imperial Crown Jewels of Russia. The jewels were worn by the Romanov Royal Family (1613-1917) until they were seized by the new government during the Russian Revolution and secured in secret until 1922. In 1922 the jewels were unpacked and a full inventory taken. The “Russian Diamond Fund” album dates to the same year and the photographs appear to have been part of the initial inventory.

 

 

Four previously undiscovered photos of undocumented Russian Crown Jewels were recently discovered in the USGS library. The photos appear in a 1922 album called “Russian Diamond Fund,” that was uncovered in the rare book room of the library.

The four unique photos were originally part of the personal collection of George F. Kunz (1856-1932), a mineralogist and gemologist, gentleman explorer, and employee of the USGS and Tiffany & Co. These four photos are unique because they are not included in the official documentation of the Russian Crown Jewels, “Russia’s Treasure of Diamonds and Precious Stones,” published in 1925. The USGS also has a copy of this 1925 publication in Kunz’s collection.

 

 

“Russia’s Treasure of Diamonds and Precious Stones” is considered the most complete inventory of the Russian Crown Jewels and 22 of the photographs from Kunz’s 1922 album appear to be the same images used in the official Russian 1925 publication. The four pieces portrayed in the album discovered by the USGS that do not appear in the later publication include a sapphire and diamond tiara, a sapphire bracelet, an emerald necklace, and a sapphire brooch in the shape of a bow.

 

 

Researchers have determined that the sapphire brooch was sold in London in 1927, but the fate of the other three pieces is a mystery to this day. USGS librarians are trying to trace the history with assistance from experts from around the world.

 

 

 

 

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