Empress Maria Feodorovna's Russian Field Diadem.
Empress Maria Feodorovna (1759-1828), the second wife of Emperor Paul I of Russia, commissioned a diadem from the famous Duval Brothers. François and Jacob Duval were brothers who’s father, Louis-David became the the court jeweler to Grand Duke Paul (Emperor Paul I). His sons, remained in service of Paul as court jewelers. In 1803, the elder brother Jacob-David left Russia. Hence, 27-year-old François remained the sole proprietor of jewelry workshop in service of widowed Empress Maria Fedorovna. He remained in St. Petersburg until 1816.
The Empress wanted something that would remind of the Russian fields, and so the brothers created a diadem of oak and laurel leaves, bordered by sheaves of wheat. Maria Feodorovna was fond of the piece and called it “Mon diademe en epis” (“my diadem of sheaves”). In her will, Maria Feodorovna left this piece, along with several other jewels, to the Diamond Fund. (The Diamond Fund is a unique collection of jewellery and gems that dates back to the Russian Crown Treasury instituted by Peter I of Russia in 1719. The collection is currently stored and exhibited in Kremlin.) The original Field Diadem was sold by the Soviet Government in 1929 and is now lost, probably dismantled. However, Russian jewellers recreated the piece after months of painstaking research in order to achieve a near-identical result, jewellers Nikolaev and Aleksakhin studied photographs and archival information. The only changes they made was substituting platinum for silver, and using stones of Russian origin-only. The centrepiece is a beautiful yellow diamond of over 35 carats (the original featured a citrine of a similar size), surrounded by hundreds of white diamonds which weigh 129.62 carats.