Russia’s Great Imperial Crown Recreated
The great imperial crown has been the symbol of power for Russian rulers for more than two centuries and is one of the country’s most admired jewels. Made of fine silver set with 4,936 diamonds totalling 2,858 carats and set with a world record size spinel atop the crown, it is not only a national Russian treasure but also an important world artifact. Jewelers from Smolensk sought to recreate the crown this year with great success.
Created for Catherine the Great’s coronation in 1762, the imperial crown was worn by all emperors of the Romanov family, ending with the last czar Nicholas II in 1917. Court jewelers were given only two months to complete it; legend has it that the diamonds for the original crown were hurriedly assembled from the royal inventory of diamonds and gemstones, resulting in the creation not being symmetrical. The base consists of crossed palm leaves holding two hemispheres that are bordered with large white pearls in an open basketwork design, representing the unity of East and West empires. The central arch is a myriad of twisted oak leaves and acorns, topped with a 398.70 carat red spinel, the second largest spinel in the world.
The recreation of the imperial crown entailed the recruiting of sixty jewelers, sourcing a 384 carat rough rubellite stone, 74 matched pearls and nearly 11,000 diamonds. Of the diamonds, the largest was a ten carat oval, followed by three five carats and nine four carats, with all the diamonds sourced from Russian mines. The jewelers sought not to make an exact replica, but a unique creation in its own right. At first glance, the two crowns look the same, but upon closer inspection the differences can be seen. The recreated crown has more seamless and elegant lines, with distinguishable features. The original crown’s diamonds were old cuts and not as defined and brilliant as the modern cuts, and coupled with the silver metal gave the original a slightly more regal feel.
The finished recreation will travel for a year throughout Russia, in the hopes of landing a permanent spot in one of Russia’s museums. The real imperial crown is housed in the Moscow Kremlin Armoury.
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