Antiquities roadshow: diamonds linked to illicit Russian royal love affair


The jewelry hinted at a lesbian love affair with a member of the Russian royal family (Photo: BBC)

Antiques Roadshow was treated to the story of an illicit love affair linked to the Russian royal family, thanks to two diamond jewels passed down through generations of a family.

The guest of the program brought the two stunning pieces – a diamond and amethyst ring and a platinum, diamond and pearl brooch – as well as the story of a 35-year friendship between a distant aunt and a descendant of the great- Duke Alexander Mikhailovich, Lady Zia Wernher, also known as Countess Anastasia Mikhailovna of Torby, CBE.

She also brought the jewelry, estimated to be worth £ 13,000, to the salon in “rather modest packaging”.

“I understand you bought me two royal jewels in a carry bag today!” Exclaimed expert Geoffrey Munn, before the collector explained that his grandmother had shown him the jewelry while she worked on his family tree during the lockdown.

The coins were accompanied by a note which had always accompanied them, explaining that they had been given by Mikhailovich, brother-in-law and adviser to Emperor Nicholas II, to his descendant Dame Zia, Countess Torbay, who had at his turn given to the guest’s great-great-great-great aunt Mary.

The collector said: “We were told that she [Mary] went to London to work for or with Lady Zia, and we were told they had been very good friends for 35 years.

An amethyst and diamond ring and a pearl, diamond and platinum brooch of the Russian royal family

Items which were worth around £ 13,000 (Photo: BBC)

Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna of Russia with her husband Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich and her brother Tsar Nicholas II, 1897

Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich, direct descendant of Lady Zia, with his wife Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna of Russia and brother Tsar Nicholas II, 1897 (Photo: Laski Diffusion / Getty Images)

Antiques Roadshow guest explains the story of her distant aunt and Lady Zia Wernher

The story had been shared during a lockdown family tree project (Photo: BBC)

She agreed when Geoffrey said it had to be a “very unusual friendship”, possibly romantic, given the significance and value of the jewelry.

“There is a hint in the jewelry that it could have been romantic too because the amethyst represents devotion in the law of the lapidary, and diamonds are eternal, so devotion forever is enveloped in the meaning of this jewelry. here, “he explained, gesturing to the ring, which it dated from around 1880.

The ticket accompanying Lady Zia Wernher's jewelry

The side note that linked the jewelry to Lady Zia Wernher (Photo: BBC)

He also hailed the brooch as having been made with “the most beautiful diamonds possible” and probably originated in Paris in 1900.

Considering the hope that the guest would be able to verify the story and the relationship, calling her “the perfect candidate to unravel this wonderful romantic story of a royal lady and her devoted friend,” Geoffrey rated the ring at £ 5,000 and the brooch, which he thought could be Van Cleef & Arpels or Tiffany, at £ 7,000-8,000.

Geoffrey then added a funny personal anecdote to the story, sharing that he had met Lady Zia himself, at the age of 19 in 1977, and had been “just a touch away. those things and it was a thrill for me ”.

Antiques Roadshow airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on BBC One.

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