The Missing Crown Jewels of Russia.


 After the 1917 revolution, Russia's new rulers debated what to do with the crown jewels. This 1925 photo shows the collection. However, a 1922 album at the U.S. Geological Survey includes photos of four items that are not described in the official 1925 inventory. www.usgs.gov


After the 1917 revolution, Russia’s new rulers debated what to do with the crown jewels. This 1925 photo shows the collection. However, a 1922 album at the U.S. Geological Survey includes photos of four items that are not described in the official 1925 inventory.
http://www.usgs.gov

Well after the communist revolution of course the crown jewels of Russia (known as the Diamond Fund) went missing. Right? Well no actually. There was much debate by the communist after they took over. Many saw the Diamond Fund as symbols of exploitation of the people and wanted them sold. But, the curators at the Kremlin in Moscow were able to convince the leaders of the communist revolution that the Diamond Fund had great historical significance saving the jewels. Some minor pieces of the Diamond fund were sold and auction records of the sales have been kept. There was also an official photographic record made of the Diamond Fund which was published in 1925. The book and records of the Kremlin match. So then there are no missing jewels from the Diamond Fund – right? Not so fast.

About a half dozen years ago Richard Huffine, the director of the US Geological Survey Library was in the rare books section when he came across an odd book. This book had no markings on the cover or spine. When they opened it up the title page was an elaborate hand-drawn page. They had the title translated into English “The Diamond Fund.” Now you are saying “so?” This hand-made book was published in 1922, three years before the official book was and it has photographs of four pieces of jewelry (a brooch, necklace, diadem and bracelet) not in the official 1925 edition.

So the USGS Library called in the experts. They found out that the brooch was sold at an auction in London in 1927. No one knows what happened to the other three pieces. The man who originally acquired the book was George Kunz. He was a mineralogist who worked for Tiffany & Co. and in the 1890’s he traveled extensively in Russia.

Another expert brought in was historian Igor Zimin, (head of the history department at the St. Petersburg State Medical University). He is skeptical of the book though because it was dated in 1922 and the first official photographic inventory of the Diamond Fund was taken in 1925. If you would like to see photographs of the missing pieces and learn more about this remarkable 1922 book you can go to the USGS website.

 

Photo of Russian royal regalia on display in the Kremlin Armoury, Moscow, photograph taken August 2003 by Stan Shebs

Photo of Russian royal regalia on display in the Kremlin Armoury, Moscow, photograph taken August 2003 by Stan Shebs

 

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