|Photos (from left): Tsarina Alexandra of Russia; tiara detail; Tsarina Alexandra of Russia|
Nothing says imperial Russia like a giant pearl and diamond kokoshnik tiara, if you ask me. This tiara is one of the pieces most frequently associated with Alexandra, the last empress of Russia, and it includes a thoroughly impressive array of diamonds and pearls, including a series of suspended pearl drops.
The tiara is sometimes said to date from the era of Catherine the Great. If that's true, it would make it one of the oldest tiaras that any royal family has ever owned, as tiaras weren't generally in fashion until the nineteenth century. To me, a more likely story may be that the stones themselves are from Catherine's reign, while the piece itself was constructed later. (But that's just my guess, of course.)
Although some of Alexandra's jewels were her personal possessions, this tiara was a part of the imperial collection. (The Romanovs were one of the first royal families to develop the concept of a family foundation for their jewels.) Whenever she wore it, Alix had to check it out as if it were a library book, and then return it to the jewel room afterward. The tiara was worn as a part of court dress, and it was generally only taken out on special occasions.
You can probably guess where this tiara ended up after the revolution in Russia: that's right, on the famous table with the inventory of imperial jewels. (It's the second tiara from the left.) There's no clear answer to where this one ended up. It apparently was sold; some think it was broken up after the sale. Yet another Romanov mystery!