Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Luxarazzi 101: Grand Duchess Elizabeth Mikhailovna's Emerald Bracelet

As we are running a little thin on the tiara front and there are so many other beautiful pieces of jewellery out there that are often overlooked, we thought we'd broaden one of our Luxarazzi 101 categories a little to also include other jewellery owned by our regularly featured players a.k.a. the Grand Ducal Family of Luxembourg and the Princely Family of Liechtenstein. Today, let's talk about a (number of) bracelet(s) that have adorned the wrists of many Grand Ducal ladies. For simplicity's and distinction's sake we are are going to name them Grand Duchess Elizabeth Mikhailovna's emerald bracelets.
Paintings by Vladimir Hau and Carl Ferdinand Sohn
The first lady to wear the bracelet (to the best of our knowledge) wasn't a Grand Ducal lady in our usual sense of the word but a Grand Duchess nonetheless. Of course I am talking about Grand Duchess Elizabeth Mikhailovna of Russia, first wife of (Grand) Duke Adolph. (You might remember her from the Russian Orthodox Chapel in Wiesbaden that Adolph built for her.)

On the left, you can see a miniature of Grand Duchess Elizabeth Mikhailovna painted in the year 1843 by Vladimir Hau. That same year, she firstly met the young Duke Adolph of Nassau while he was on a visit to the Russian court in St. Petersburg. On January 31, 1844, the couple tied the knot but that wasn't their happily ever after as Duchess Elizabeth died at the age of 19 after giving birth to a stillborn daughter on January 28, 1845, almost exactly one year after their wedding. In 1847, Carl Ferdinand Sohn was commissioned to turn the miniature into a painting which you can see on the right. The fact that the miniature was the model also explains why both of the pictures look rather similar apart from the obvious age difference.

In both paintings Elizabeth is wearing a bracelet featuring a large emerald surrounded by diamonds. The stones are attached to a plain gold-coloured band. If you look closely at the miniature on the left, you can see that she is wearing a similar bracelet on the right wrist as well. (By the way, Team Luxarazzi is positive that we have also seen Grand Duchess Maria Teresa wearing a snake bracelet looking very similar to the one worn by Duchess Elizabeth though we are still on the hunt for photograpic evidence.)
Photos: Eduard Kutter / Raymond Reuter / PPE
It appears that the bracelets stayed within the Ducal Family of Nassau that later became the Grand Ducal Family of Luxembourg even after Duchess Elizabeth Mikhailovna's death. Grand Duchess Charlotte, Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte and Grand Duchess Maria-Teresa have all stepped out wearing a bracelet featuring three emerald stones surrounded by diamonds set on a plain gold band which looks suspiciously similar to the one worn by Grand Duchess Charlotte's grandfather's first wife.

The half-hidden bracelet on Duchess Elizabeth's right wrist in the miniature above does seem to feature more than just one dark-coloured stone. It also does not seem unthinkable that more emeralds and diamonds were added to the bracelet worn by her on the left wrist either: According to Point de Vue (and thanks to Valentin of the Royalement Blog) the bracelet in its current setting was created in the 1920's at Grand Duchess Charlotte's request based on three "square" emeralds. Whatever the answer to the question, I think we can safely assume that the bracelet worn by Grand Duchess Charlotte, Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte and Grand Duchess Maria-Teresa is indeed originally of Russian provenance.

(FYI, Grand Duchess Charlotte, Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte and Grand Duchess Maria-Teresa are all wearing the Emerald Art Deco Tiara. The diamond ring of Grand Duchess Maria Teresa's right hand seems to be featuring the central diamond of the Belgian Scroll Tiara. About some of the other jewellery worn we are going to talk at a later date.)

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