Once upon a diamond

I read somewhere that “gems are the flowers of the mineral kingdom and flowers are the gems of the vegetable kingdom”.

Living for beauty, it was so obvious, that as I was reading this, it felt like it was coming from my own heart.

My whole life, I worshipped beauty. All beauty. Spiritual, intellectual, musical, material, human, animal, vegetable, mineral.

At a young age I discovered Greek and roman mythology, fascinated by their cult of beauty and intriguing stories that rang

Prince Dimitri’s grandmother HRH Princess Olga of Greece & Denmark with her sisters, HRH Marina, Duchess of Kent and HRH Princess Elisabeth, Countess von Toerring-Jettenbach
H.I.H Grand Duchess Elena Wladimirovna of Russia, Prince Dimitri’s paternal great-great grandmother.
HRH Princess Olga of Greece and Denmark and her sister Princess Marina of Kent at the wedding of Prince Dimitri’s parents, H.R.H Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia and Princess Maria Pia of Italy.
This photo was taken at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. From left to right: H.I.H Princess Marie Bonaparte and her husband H.R.H Prince George of Greece and their daughter Princess Eugenie and her husband Prince Raimondo della Torre e Tasso. Princess Eugenie is wearing the most beautiful sapphire earrings and necklace by Mellerio.
H.R.H Princess Olga is wearing her fabulous Boucheron tiara and her diamond necklace from Queen Olga. Photo by Cecil Beaton.
Prince Dimitri’s godmother, H.R.H The Countess of Paris, de jure Queen of France, born Isabelle d’Orleans-Braganza. She was a great granddaughter of the last emperor of Brazil.
Her Majesty Queen Maria Jose of Italy, born Princess of Belgium. The Prince’s maternal grandmother.

so true as they revealed various facets of the human character. All that was very useful; it opened my mind to culture as it gave me the ability to immediately recognize the characters of most paintings and sculptures from the renaissance on, as well as Greek statues and their later reproductions such as the ones in the park of Versailles where I lived with my family.

More than useful, it was an unending source of that rarest of pleasures, the aesthetic emotion you feel when a masterpiece stirs the soul and frees you from the stream of compulsive thinking by gently taking you back to your true home, the eternal present, basking in stillness and beauty.

I felt the same thing from a young age with the intense fascination I had with stones, gems, and jewellery. I was mesmerized by my mother’s and grandmother’s jewels, especially the emeralds. When my mother would get ready to go out, I would inspect them from every angle, fascinated by every gem, every pearl, even the colour of the metal and its patina.

When we stayed with my grandparents in the summer in Tuscany, there were endless visits from relatives. I remember vividly as they appeared for dinner like celestial visitations wearing every gem imaginable. These aunts, one more beautiful than the other, always let me look at their jewels and told me their history. Later, during the year, I would see them in various magazines, which was always such fun as I would sometimes recognize their jewellery and admire their fabulous tiaras.

If I saw a jewellery store, I had to go in. Place Vendome in Paris, the land of magic for me, was a source of endless joy as I stopped in front of every shop, staring at every single jewel on display.

The most memorable experience of all was the Meli Bank in Tehran. My mother took me there to see the legendary crown jewels, many from Mughal times. Room after room full of them. There were mountains of diamonds and loose stones, swords, saddles, vases, and boxes all made of gems. Here was the most fabulous globe on earth, made of 75 pounds of gold and 51,366 precious gems, next to it was the 17th century Shah Jahan peacock throne set with 26,733 precious stones, the empress’s coronation robe, also entirely covered in gems … The cave of Ali Baba! I was so obsessed that I had to go back three days later!

In 1984 I joined Sotheby’s jewellery department in New York and studied gemmology. I appraised jewellery for 20 years, seeing fantastic things all year long.

Later, I discovered design when I helped a friend remount his cufflinks. It gave me an idea that led to a first collection and a few more as well as many one-of-a-kind pieces illustrated here in this book.

To those who listen even stones speak…so I explored every culture in history, as well as unusual materials and turned them into my own style of jewellery, my gift of beauty to those who wear them.

Cultural appropriation? Absolutely! I went back to ancient Greece and designed things based on sacred geometry and from there, on to explore the Middle Ages, India, China, Africa, Russia, the art deco period…everything…

Culture is humanity’s patrimony, as the great artists of the renaissance taught us.

All this slowly crystalized into a book:

ONCE UPON A DIAMOND, published by RIZZOLI and available on AMAZON.

The exhibit showcases numerous family photos and remarkable royal jewellery, including the tiara of my great-great grandmother Grand Duchess Vladimir, which is now in the possession of the queen of England. The story will tell you about her unbelievable escape from Russia in the middle of the revolution and how someone miraculously managed to smuggle her jewelry out of St. Petersburg.

Never before seen Romanov photos will be discovered by you… you will discover the glorious jewels of the queens of Italy… you will read riveting stories such as how my great grandmother Queen Elizabeth of Belgium saved Albert Einstein from Nazi persecution! and many more…

This volume richly illustrates the stories of my paternal grandparents, Prince Regent Paul and Princess Olga of Yugoslavia, among other royals.

The exquisite photography and family albums of Grand Duchess Elena of Russia (later Princess of Greece and my great-grandmother) present remarkable never-before-seen images of pre-revolutionary life of the Russian imperial family, their court, and their many European royal family members and friends. The inventory notebook of the jewels belonging to Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna records each jewel in elegant penmanship, accompanied by a detailed watercolour illustration.

This luxurious tome also includes exclusive and previously unpublished designs of mine that channel my family’s historical connoisseurship into timeless and elegant contemporary jewels.

Brimming with 150 illustrations and photographs – both archival and contemporary – ONCE UPON A DIAMOND is a pure catnip for anyone whose interest encompasses the history of high jewelry as well as the fascinating lineage of European royalty.

Medieval style cross in 20K yellow gold and oxidized bronze. In the centre is a 6.29 carat peridot, surrounded by blue topaz, moonstones, diamonds, tsavorites, green spinels and pink sapphires.
Emerald Tree Brooche inspired by the cachepots of the Orangerie at Versailles in oxidized bronze and 18K yellow gold. The three emeralds weigh 79.65 carats; the octagonal baguette brown diamond weighs 7.36 carats. Demantoid garnets and diamonds.
Dodecahedron Diamond Pendant in 18K white gold s1 carats of diamonds. It hangs on a silver sash enamelled in black. One of the five volumes of Plato and inspired by the Greek Divine Proportion aka the Golden Ratio.
The arabesque earrings inspired by the dome of the mosque at Isfahan. Two sugarloaf Burmese sapphires (42.94 carats), four Ceylan sapphires (35.98 carats), moonstones and white and blue pave diamonds. Mounted in platinum.
The Flame & Fire amber earrings in 18K yellow gold and set with rubies, yellow diamonds, garnets, and sapphires (28 carats of coloured stones and 9.16 carats of diamonds)
The body of this sapphire ring is made with a block of turquoise mounted on 24K yellow gold, a sugarloaf cabochon sapphire of 9.41 carats, 4 cabochon emeralds and numerous tsavorites.
A 15.52 carat heliodor, 30.79 carat peridot, 4.91 carat red spinel, diamond and moonstone brooch mounted in 18K yellow gold.
The explosion of Colour necklace. The centre amethyst of 42.44 carats,originally from the Russian imperial mines, was part of a collection given by Tsar Alexander III to Queen Elena of Italy. Next to it is a collection of multicoloured gems.
Tiara topped with algrette feathers with 18K yellow gold, citrine, green quartz,diamonds and Tahitian pearls.
Pearl and Diamond Devant de Corsage. This image of a Cartier Devant de Corsage is from a photographic album that was the property of Grand Duchess Wladimir. The album is part of the collection of photographs in the Cartier Archives library. This brooch is the same Sapphire & Diamond Devant de Corage created by Cartier in 1910. Here set with pearls. This is just one of the pieces of the Grand Duchess’ jewel collection that were left behind when, for her safety, she moved her family to her state in the Caucasus in 1917. An Englishman Named Albert Stopford salvaged her jewels later, when in feat of true friendship, he returned to St.Petesburg and was able to smuggle her entire collection out of the country just before the Wladimir Palace was seized and ransacked by the Bolsheviks. Years later, in London, where he had placed the jewels in a bank safe, Stopfor was able to reunite the jewel collection with the Grand Duchess’ family.
Sapphire Parure of Princess Eugenie of Greece and Denmark. This important necklace and earrings suite once belonged to Princess Eugenie of Greece and Denmark. It is designed as a chain of eleven clusters, each set with an oval sapphire within a cushion-shaped diamond border framed by diamond sags. The front of the necklace is further highlighted with three detachable drops, each set with an oval sapphire within a border of cushion-shaped diamonds. Each drop cluster is also by a diamond ribbon bow motif holding three sapphires and diamond attachments. The pair of matching earrings is mounted in gold and silver and show French assay marks and maker’s marks by Mellerio. The Mellerio family from Valle Vigezzo founded the firm in 1613 under the patronage of Marie de Medicis.
The Musy Tiara. Queen Margherita preferred to buy her jewellery in Italy, from places such as Musy in Turin. The queen commissioned this elaborate tiara from Musy to celebrate the birth of her grandson in 1904. The queen sent some pieces of her personal jewels to Musy to be crafted into this new diadem. This extraordinary piece can be worn in sveral different ways, as it dissembles to create either a simpler or more elaborate design. Her grandson, Umberto, was named after Margherita’s late husband, King Umberto I, who was assassinated in 1900. She wore the tiara in public for the christening and on formal occasions for the rest of her life.
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