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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...

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Rocky Road

The legendary Romanov jewels, like many things Russian, are more than meets the eye. Not merely pretty baubles, they’ve been used more than once to shore up the national economy. The disastrous Russo-Japanese War and 1905 Revolution so depleted the national treasury that Tsar Nicholas II, unbeknownst to all but a few officials, sold off millions of dollars’ worth of unmounted stones to ease the deficit. India was a big customer, as evidenced in the dazzling diamonds flaunted by, among other Indian families, the Nizam of Hyderabad. Gemologists are certain that many of His Exalted Highness’s rocks are Russian. After the October Revolution in 1917, the victorious Bolsheviks seized the Romanov crown jewels, which had been crated and stashed in the Kremlin Armory for...

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Speed Kills!

Russia’s emperors and empresses were forever tinkering with their homes, but few had greater consequences than Tsar Nicholas I’s decision to alter the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. Nicholas was a great architectural patron, establishing the Committee for Construction and Hydraulic Works to oversee public and private building in the capital and taking an active interest in numerous projects. In 1833, he commissioned renowned architect August de Montferrand to redesign several staterooms, the Field Marshall’s Hall and the Small Throne Room in the riverside palace. In addition to the commission, the tsar gave the Frenchman an absolutely killer deadline. Four years later, on December 17, 1837, with renovation continuing at a frantic pace, soot inflammation...

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