A magnificent and highly important diamond-set Badge of the Order of St. Andrew, unsigned, circa 1800
- 130.5mm by 87.8mm, weight 161.75g, including approximately 45 carats of diamonds
The Russian Crown Jewels, circa 1800
Presented to Duke George of Oldenburg (1784-1812) in 1809
Oldenburg Family, notably Duke Peter of Oldenburg (1812-1881)
Given to Empress Maria Feodorovna by the Oldenburg family, 1890
Thence by descent
Christie's Geneva, 11 May 1983, Lot 186
The Order of St. Andrew in Diamonds was worn by the Tsar and his immediate family on State occasions and was also bestowed from time to time upon foreign rulers who had shown particular favour to the Russian Empire. The present badge is one of a number of sumptuous pieces commissioned during the reign of Paul I (1796-1801) or in the early years of that of his successor, Alexander I.
Alexander's favourite sister and confidante, the Grand Duchess Catherine Pavlovna, married Duke George of Oldenburg in 1809. To mark the occasion Oldenburg, the second son of the reigning Duke, was appointed a Knight of the Order of St. Andrew. As a special token of affection and esteem for his sister and her new husband, Alexander conferred upon him the insignia in diamonds and further honoured him with the bestowal of the title 'Imperial Highness'.
Two sons were born to the couple before Duke George's early death in 1812, when the boys came under the protection of Alexander I until Catherine's second marriage, to William I of Württemberg, in 1816. By 1830 the younger son, Prince Peter of Oldenburg, had survived his mother, elder brother and grandfather and was recalled from Germany to Russia by his maternal uncle, Tsar Nicholas I.
Peter was to serve Russia with distinction for 50 years. He achieved the rank of Lieutenant-General in the Life-Guard before becoming a Senator, educational reformer and noted philanthropist. He was also an accomplished musician and composer, and most of the Imperial Family attended a reception held in his honour in 1880. He died in May 1881, shortly after the assassination of his first cousin Tsar Alexander II to whom he was very close.
Peter's heir was Alexander of Oldenburg (1844-1932), and it is believed to be he who presented his grandfather's diamond St. Andrew badge to Maria Feodorovna on the Feast Day of St. George 1890, as recorded on the gold plaquette fixed to the reverse. Alexander's only son Peter Alexandrovich of Oldenburg (1868-1924) subsequently married Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna (1882-1960), the youngest of Tsar Nicholas II's siblings, in 1901.