Jewelery smuggled into London during Russian revolution is auctioned for $ 879,000

Sapphire and diamond jewelry that was smuggled out of Russia during the 1917 revolution were auctioned off for a whopping $ 879,000 (£ 654,765).

The very luxurious lot was auctioned at Sotheby’s in Geneva today, and included a sapphire and diamond brooch and matching ear clips that had previously belonged to a woman nicknamed “The Queen of St. Petersburg”.

The gems were part of the vast collection of Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna, whose friend dismantled them and brought them out of Russia hidden in old pieces of newspaper in 1917.

The brooch includes a 26.80 ct. sapphire surrounded by cushion-shaped and rose-shaped diamonds, while the ear clips are made of step-cut sapphires – weighing 6.69 and 9.36 carats – and are surrounded by rose-cut and cushion-shaped diamonds.

Sold! Sapphire and diamond jewelry that was smuggled out of Russia during the 1917 revolution were auctioned off for a whopping $ 879,000 (£ 654,765)

Glitz and glam: the very luxurious lot was auctioned at Sotheby's in Geneva today, and included a sapphire and diamond brooch and matching ear clips

Glitz and glam: the very luxurious lot was auctioned at Sotheby’s in Geneva today, and included a sapphire and diamond brooch and matching ear clips

Her jewels: they previously belonged to the Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna, nicknamed

Her jewels: they previously belonged to the Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna, nicknamed “the Queen of Saint Petersburg”

Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna was born Duchess Marie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and married the second son of Russian Emperor Alexander II, Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich, in 1874.

She was the aunt of Emperor Nicholas II, the last Emperor of Russia.

Maria Pavlovna was famous for her jewelry, including the sapphire items that were sold today. And as the Russian Revolution escalated, she hatched a plan to escape and save her collection.

First of all, she went to her summer villa in the spa town of Kislovodsk in the Caucasus.

Then his friend Albert Henry Stopford, a British antiquarian and aristocrat, disguised himself in workman’s clothes and went to Vladimir’s Palace, where he was greeted by Maria’s son Boris and a servant.

Stopford gathered Maria’s precious jewels – 244 pieces in total – and took them apart, wrapped them in pieces of old newspaper and put them in a pair of Gladstone bags.

The brooch includes a 26.80 ct.  sapphire surrounded by cushion-shaped and rose-shaped diamonds, while the ear clips are crafted with step-cut sapphires - weighing 6.69 and 9.36 carats - and are surrounded by rose-cut and cushion-shaped diamonds

Expensive: the brooch includes a 26.80 ct.  sapphire surrounded by cushion-shaped and rose-shaped diamonds, while the ear clips are crafted with step-cut sapphires - weighing 6.69 and 9.36 carats - and are surrounded by rose-cut and cushion-shaped diamonds

Expensive: the brooch includes a 26.80 ct. sapphire surrounded by cushion-shaped and rose-shaped diamonds, while the ear clips are crafted with step-cut sapphires – weighing 6.69 and 9.36 carats – and are surrounded by rose-cut and cushion-shaped diamonds

Royal: Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna was born Duchess Marie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and married the second son of Russian Emperor Alexander II, Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich, in 1874

Royal: Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna was born Duchess Marie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and married the second son of Russian Emperor Alexander II, Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich, in 1874

Saved: During the Russian Revolution, her friend collected the jewelry, took it apart, hid it in a journal, and took it to England.

Saved: During the Russian Revolution, her friend collected the jewelry, took it apart, hid it in a journal, and took it to England.

Executed them: Albert Henry Stopford, a British antiquarian and aristocrat, successfully smuggled the jewelry

Executed them: Albert Henry Stopford, a British antiquarian and aristocrat, successfully smuggled the jewelry

He then made a three night train trip to meet Maria in the Caucasus.

In his diary he writes: “KISLOVODSK. The Grand Duchess received me in her study and we counted the money I had bought her in my Petrograd boots. It was in revolutionary thousand ruble bills, which she had never seen before.

He soon left for Sweden, Scotland and finally England, taking the jewelry to safety and despising it in a bank.

Her timing was incredibly fortuitous, for after she left Maria, she sent her a letter explaining how “the workers ‘and soldiers’ committee arrived at the house at 2:30 am and stayed until 6:00 am, opening, rummaging. and overturning everything “.

Maria will not head west for another two years, spending the remainder of 1917 and part of 1918 in the Caucasus before going to Anapa, near the Black Sea, in 1918. She spent 14 months there and left finally to Italy in February 1919, making her the last Romanov to escape from Russia.

She had arrived in Paris in July of the same year, but had never caught up with her jewelry in London: she died on September 6.

How it happened: he disguised himself in workman's clothes and went to Vladimir's Palace, where he was admitted by Maria Boris's son and a servant

How it happened: he disguised himself in workman’s clothes and went to Vladimir’s Palace, where he was admitted by Maria Boris’s son and a servant

Bling: Maria won't be heading west for two more years and died shortly after arriving in Paris.  She never found the jewelry, which was passed on to her daughter

Bling: Maria won’t be heading west for two more years and died shortly after arriving in Paris. She never found the jewelry, which was passed on to her daughter

Maria’s jewelry was passed on to her daughter, Princess Elena of Greece and Denmark, and then continued to be passed on to other families.

Some sold it to support themselves – this is how Queen Elizabeth ended up owning a tiara from Maria’s collection, the Vladimir Tiara.

It was purchased by Queen Mary and, according to Tatler, repaired and improved with 15 emeralds. The framework was then updated again in 1988.

Meanwhile, the matching brooch and earrings have now been purchased for CHF 806,500, marking their first sale since 2009.

They were only estimated between 280,000 and 480,000 CHF.

“We rarely come across jewelry with a richer provenance than these superb sapphire and diamond pieces,” said Olivier Wagner, sales manager and jewelry expert at Sotheby’s Geneva.

His now!  Some of the jewelry was later sold, which is how Queen Elizabeth ended up owning a tiara from Maria's collection, the Vladimir Tiara.

His now! Some of the jewelry was later sold, which is how Queen Elizabeth ended up owning a tiara from Maria’s collection, the Vladimir Tiara.

It was purchased by Queen Mary and repaired and upgraded with 15 emeralds.  The frame was then updated again in 1988

It was purchased by Queen Mary and repaired and upgraded with 15 emeralds. The frame was then updated again in 1988

“This is truly remarkable survival, having made its way from one of the Romanov palaces, out of revolutionary Russia, through war-torn Europe and into the vaults of a bank in London.

Often referred to as ‘the Queen of St. Petersburg’, the Grand Duchess was evidently a glittering figure who fought to retain the linings of splendor during the revolution.

“Here we get a glimpse of her long-forgotten jewelry box, bravely brought out of Russia by one of her closest friends.”

Sotheby’s also noted that the jewelry bears maker’s marks for Sophia Schwan, probably for Bolin, St Petersburg, as well as Russian dosage brands.

They come in a case, later made by Cartier, which was stamped with the crown of the Royal House of Greece, King of the Hellenes.