Christie's and Sotheby's each sold a royal wedding tiara made by Fabergé at their May auctions in Geneva for a combined total of $1.5 million: one belonging to Princess Alexandra of Hanover and the other to her sister-in-law, the German Crown Princess Cecilie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin.
The lavish diadem that sold at Christie's in Geneva on May 15 for $1.03 million was designed in 1904 for Princess Alexandra of Hanover, in celebration of her marriage to the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Frederick Franz IV.
As a fervent admirer and collector of Fabergé objects, the Grand Duke's mother, the Grand Duchess Anastasia Mikhailovna of Russia, proposed that her son use the workshop of the famous jeweler for the design of his wedding gift.
According to the archives, the specifics of the confection were negotiated in a correspondence between the official cabinet of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Eugène Fabergé. A letter dated May 10, 1904 offers the options of "a diamond tiara for 10,000 rubles or a diadem of aquamarine and diamonds for 7,500 rubles".
Another note refers to a series of drawings that Fabergé had sent to the Grand Duchess in order to obtain the approval of her son. The sketches representing the possible upper section of the diadem were however lost, and just two weeks before the wedding, Eugène Fabergé remained without precise instructions on the final design of the tiara.
After having asked for the sketches again, Fabergé declared that he was unable to deliver the tiara in such a limited period of time, just days before the June wedding.
Princess Alexandra of Hanover was thus obliged on her wedding day to wear the traditional Hanoverian wedding crown, a jewel kept in the family for a century that was commissioned in 1761 by King George III of England, for Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.
Princess Alexandra of Hanover received the tiara from Fabergé some time later. Since then, the elegant piece has not been revealed to the public for more than a century.
The diadem has details designed especially for the royal event. A frieze of forget-me-not floral designs interlaced with ribbons embodies true and eternal love, while the arrows refer to the figure of Cupid, symbolizing commitment and affection. Nine aquamarine stones carved in pear shapes overhang the diadem, whose structure is dotted with more modest diamonds. Originally expected to fetch up to $340,000 on May 15, it tripled its estimate and achieved over $1 million at Christie's.
The Fabergé diamond tiara auctioned by Sotheby's on May 14 for $434,346 belonged to Princess Alexandra's sister-in-law, the Duchess Cecilie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Crown Princess of Germany. Duchess Cecilie was the youngest daughter of Grand Duke Friedrich Franz III of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Grand Duchess Anastasia Mikhailowna of Russia, and the sister of Grand Duke Friedrich Franz IV.
In fact, Duchess Cecilie met her future husband, Crown Prince Wilhelm, the heir to the Prussian throne, at the June 1904 wedding of Princess Alexandra to her brother. The couple was married a year later, in June 1905, in Berlin, the capital of the German Empire. The diamond tiara was a wedding gift to the Princess from her mother's royal Russian relatives and features three circular diamonds set in lattice-work of diamonds. Although it is not signed by Fabergé, the tiara is almost certainly to come from the house because it was the Russian royal family's jeweler of choice.
It was passed down within the family and worn by Princess Cecilie's daughter, also named Cecilie, at her wedding in 1949 to an American soldier, Clyde Harris, at her family's castle in Germany. This tiara, like Princess Alexandra's, had remained in the family until May 14 when it sold at Geneva for over $434,000, over its estimate of $200,000-300,000.
The most expensive tiara ever sold at auction belonged to the wife of Napoleon III. It was auctioned in 2001 at Sotheby's for $12.8 million.