Monday, 14 December 2015

The Austrian Crown Jewels

Emperor Francis I wearing the imperial mantle and regalia
The Austrian Crown Jewels (Insignien und Kleinodien) is a term denoting the regalia and vestments worn by the Holy Roman Emperor, and later by the Emperor of Austria, during the coronation ceremony and other state functions.

There are crowns, sceptres, orbs, swords, rings, crosses, holy relics, and the royal robes, as well as several other objects connected with the ceremony itself. The Imperial Crown of Austria was originally the crown of Rudolf II, the Holy Roman Emperor of the House of Habsburg. After 1806, it became the crown of the Austrian Empire.
This crown was created for the last German Kaiser, Wilhelm II in 1888. He never had a coronation so it was never worn.
The Austrian Crown Jewels are kept at the Imperial Treasury (Schatzkammer) in the Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Austria.

Imperial and royal regalia and jewels date from the 10th century to the 19th century. They are one of the biggest and most important collections of royal objects still in existence, and reflect more than a thousand years of European history.
The regalia were normally kept in Nuremberg, and a smaller part in Aachen. With the advance of the French in the French Revolutionary Wars, they were taken away in 1796 and brought to Vienna for safety.

They have remained in the Schatzkammer ever since, even after the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806. The regalia briefly left Vienna when Hitler had them sent to Nuremberg in 1938. After the war they were found by American troops in a bunker and eventually returned in 1946.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Jewel Collection of the Romanovs

In 1613 Michael Romanov, the first Tsar of the Romanov Dynasty was crowned.

In 1719, Tsar Peter the Great founded the earliest version of what is now known as the Russian Federation's State Diamond Fund. He placed all of the regalia in this fund and declared that the state holdings were inviolate, and could not be altered, sold, or given away. The Romanovs had one of the most impressive jewellery collections ever assembled. None of the current Houses, not even the British, can match the former splendor of the Romanov Court.
The House of Romanov was the second imperial dynasty, after the Rurik dynasty, to rule over Russia, reigning from 1613 until the abdication of Emperor Nicholas II on March 15, 1917, as a result of the Revolution.

Photograph of the Romanov treasures taken by the Bolsheviks.
The Empress Maria Feodorovna. is depicted wearing a parure in the famous portrait by Konstantin Makovsky.

Emperor Nicholas II and many members of his extended family were executed by Bolsheviks in 1918 and it is believed that no member survived, ending the main line definitively.
The Soviets looted the Romanov collections of art, jewelry, furniture and books. In the 1920s and ’30s foreigners could browse and buy the treasures from the Communist government.

Much of the Romanov legacy (including Faberge eggs and other cultural treasures) were broken up, melted down and sold for scrap – with the proceeds disappearing.
Curators are now tracking down scattered imperial possessions. More material has recently surfaced from palaces and even the Romanov family’s assassination site at Yekaterinburg, Russia. A pearl-and-diamond earring rescued in 1918 from the crime scene. It belonged to Czarina Alexandra. It was long kept at the Russian Orthodox Church on Park Avenue at 93rd Street, New York.

Just one earring was retrieved from the evidence trail of carnage in the woods.
The family’s former possessions regularly turn up on the auction market. In November 2013 at a sale of Romanov books and memorabilia at Christie’s in London, a heartbreaking batch of 1910s postcards that Nicholas and Alexandra’s four daughters sent to a friend brought $30,000.

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Sunday, 18 October 2015

Rare Collector Orchids good as Gold

According to detectives it was a professional job and the thieves, who left no trace, knew exactly what they were after. Bearing all the hallmarks of an audacious art gallery heist this was the scene at Kew Gardens in 2014 where a rare African water lily was snatched. It is now thought to have been sold to an unscrupulous private collector on the growing black market for stolen plants.
The legal plant trade amounts to £9 billion a year worldwide. Dr Richard Thomas says: “There is a kudos in owning anything rare. Although it’s impossible to give precise figures for plants there is a limited but thriving black market involving fanatical but unscrupulous private collectors. If someone wants a species badly enough they will pay vast amounts of money.”
Monkeyface orchid

Hochstetter Butterfly Orchid
Rare and new discoveries of wild plants are most prized sending collectors into a frenzy and it’s feared that some species are being driven to the brink of extinction by over-harvesting.

One of the world’s rarest orchids was re-discovered in 2014 by British botanists on a volcanic island in the Atlantic. There were only 250 plants of the unique species on the island of Sao Jorge in the Portuguese Azores, making it the rarest in Europe.

Bee Orchid

Lady's Slipper orchids

The albino form of the Vanda sanderiana or the Waling-waling is a rare and prized plant for orchid collectors and breeders.

Bulbophyllum kubahense

Phragmipedium kovachii was first found in 2001 and is referred to as one of the most important natural history discoveries of the last decade.

Cypripedium calceolus. It receives round-the-clock police surveillance where it grows on a Lancashire golf course.

Paphiopedilum rothschildianum, an orchid that is on top of the endangered species list.
The contemporary orchid-breeding business in Taiwan and its main rival, the Netherlands, centers on the Phalaenopsis, or the moth orchid.

In Victorian Europe, orchid hunters, hired by wealthy collectors, sometimes killed each other in pursuit of new breeds.

Bornean slipper orchid

Shenzhen Nongke orchid was developed in the lab by agricultural research corporation Shenzhen Nongke Group. The orchid took eight years to develop and in 2005, it was sold for about $ 200,000.