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Imperial Jewelry Case

Since the 1917 Revolution, all manner of wild tales have circulated about the fate of the Romanov jewels. Some are completely fanciful while others are at least rooted in fact, including the use of precious gems used as collateral when the Bolsheviks secured a desperately needed $25,000 loan from the Irish Republic in 1919. The jewels traveled to New York where they were given to Irish envoy, Harry Boland who then took them to Ireland where he stashed them in his mother’s home in Dublin. Mrs. Boland kept the jewels hidden until 1938 when they were removed to government buildings and, believe it or not, forgotten for a decade! A new Irish government discovered them and proposed auctioning them off, but negotiations with the Soviets finally secured repayment of the loan, and the gems were returned to Moscow in 1950.

Irishman Henry Boland used the crown jewels as collateral for a loan to the Soviets.

Irishman Henry Boland used the crown jewels as collateral for a loan to the Soviets.

Then there’s the fantastic tale from Los Angeles socialite Patte Barham, stepdaughter of George Meshki-Gleboff, a Russian purporting to be an intimate aide to the imperial family at the time of the revolution. The Empress Alexandra supposedly ordered him to take seven coffins (!) filled with Romanov treasures and deposit the contents in Beijing’s Bank of China. Enroute, Meshki-Gleboff claimed he was set upon by bandits in Mongolia but managed to escape and bury the loot in the middle of the Gobi Desert. Barham says she lost her stepfather’s map to the site but insists she knows the treasure’s location. Historians say the tsarina might have entertained the notion of sending a few gems to London, but never somewhere as unstable as the Bank of China. It has not gone unnoted that the imperial family totaled seven members, the same number of the alleged coffins.

Are seven coffins of Romanov treasures buried in the Gobi?

Are seven coffins of Romanov treasures buried in the Gobi?

And finally we have those jewels that disappeared along with the imperial family. When Nicholas and Alexandra were placed under house arrest and told to pack for Tobolsk, they took enough luggage to fill an entire train car. Their baggage contained plenty of jewelry and unset stones as they still nurtured the dream of asylum in England. In Tobolsk, their trusted valet smuggled, according to some, several jars of jewels to the Mother Superior of the Tobolsk Ivanovski Monastery. Before her death she entrusted them to her assistant who in turn gave them to a close friend, Vasily Kornilov, who took them from the convent before it was closed by the Communists. In 1933, under interrogation, Kornilov revealed the location of the jewels, and they were subsequently photographed, catalogued and sent to Moscow to be broken up. The larger stones, those over 25 carats, were kept by the Diamond Fund, and the remainder were privately sold. The truth about the jewels was a closely guarded secret until 1996, and the other jars, if indeed they existed, were never found.

The Impatiev House where the Imperial family was murdered.

Were jewels left in the Impatiev House where the Imperial family was murdered?

Despite leaving so many jewels behind, the imperial family took plenty to Ekaterinburg as well, some of which were stitched into the girdles of the four daughters. They were accidentally discovered after deflecting bullets when the Romanovs were murdered in 1918. These and other jewels, along with icons, books and other personal possessions, were recovered from the house where the family had been imprisoned. They too were catalogued, photographed and sent to Moscow and included an incredible eight pounds of diamonds and other precious stones.

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A portion of the recovered Romanov jewels.

The Romanovs are the subject of my time travel book, Past Time.

3 Comments

  1. Bebe
    Aug 5, 2015

    One cannot imagine the wealth! Also, one cannot imagine the attempts to find the missing jewels.

  2. Mary Sibley
    Aug 5, 2015

    Thank you for this informative article. There are several facts in it that I was not aware of concerning the Imperial Family. Also, I had never seen the photograph of the diadem, either. Keep up the great work with your travel book and I hope that you include more articles about the Romanovs!

  3. Barbara
    Aug 6, 2015

    Oh Michael, how I miss you and your beautiful mind!

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