‘Maybe I’ll Get Married in St. Petersburg’

PHOTO by Damiani
Nicoletta Romanoff: how the great-great-granddaughter of Nicolas I became an Italian jeweler

The Italian actress and designer Nicoletta Consolo (Romanoff), granddaughter of Nicolas Romanov and great-great-granddaughter of Tsar Nicolas I is a member of the Romanov dynasty through her mother. Nicoletta talked to Lenta.ru about her affection for Russia, her acting career in Italy and her love for Alexander Sokurov’s films.

Lenta.ru: Do you feel a connection to Russia and Russian culture?

Nicoletta Romanoff: Of course. My grandfather was not just a European immigrant of Russian descent, he was a true Russian and he passed this sense of being Russian onto me. I fully feel my connection to Russia – or should I say various, unique connections. My grandfather always talked about his Motherland, its history, and how his parents – my great-grandfather and great-grandmother – had to flee the country after the revolution. These memories were a part of my life since early childhood. I was born in Italy, but when at the age of 17 I first came to Russia, I realised that I too was a Russian by blood. I am being honest, trust me. I remember the feeling I got when I saw my grandfather crying next to the tombs of the imperial family in St. Petersburg. He told me about the family and about the lives of his parents, their lives shattered by the revolution. Because of this, everything that concerns Russia touches me deeply.

Have you visited the Armory and the Diamond Fund of the Kremlin?

Not yet. This is my first visit to Moscow but I have been to St. Petersburg several times and was incredibly impressed with the jewel treasures of the Hermitage – especially the Faberge eggs. Of course I really want to see the Kremlin and all of its museums because the Kremlin, built by Italian architects, stands proof of the cooperation between Russia and Italy since the Middle Ages. Moscow is gorgeous, especially in the winter when there is a light frost and plenty of sunshine. But I am much more familiar with St. Petersburg because I’ve been there and have visited all the imperial residences including Peterhof and Tsarskoye Selo… The beauty of that city is just mesmerising!

You are a professional actress. What is it like to design Damiani jewelry?

Today I am as much a jewelry designer as I am an actress. Damiani, a jewelry house from Milan, invited me to help design this collection based on the treasures of the Russian tsars. So I am the one who comes up with the idea and then we discuss it with professional Damiani jewelers. The main concept for the collection is to base our design on actual Romanov dynasty jewels that my great-grandfather managed to take with him after the revolution. I of course had to redesign them in a modern way. For example, jewels from our Fiori d’Arancio wedding line are inspired by the tiara and other jewelry my grandmother, the Duchess Sveve de la Gerardesca wore when she married my grandfather in Cannes in 1952. They got married at the Orthodox cathedral of Archangel Michael – as you are aware Orthodox believers and Catholics are allowed to get married in their respective churches.

Do you wear your family jewels?

Of course. When I was a girl, my mother and grandmother would allow me to try them on. I also wore them in public for several occasions. But today they belong to my mother. These are extremely expensive and valuable historical artifacts, and are not for everyday wear. They are reserved for special occasions like balls or weddings. But I can tell you that my mother’s and grandmother’s jewels were what made me fall in love with jewelry making. Because of the fact that the first jewels I tried on had a rich history behind them, I became an admirer of the classical style inspired by ancient masterpieces. I like jewels that tell a story. They don’t have to be antiques, they can be modern, but they need to have a secret. These are not just diamonds, but diamonds that have soul.

Nicollete Romanoff in Fiocco, Damiani jewels

Did you study to be a jeweler?

Not specifically, but I am thinking about it. Being an actress, I am constantly involved in film, television and theater and have little time to study.

Do you prefer film or theater?

My grandfather Romanov, when I told him that I want to be an actress, was skeptical. He was not too happy about it. When I told him I was cast in movies – he was impressed. He watched movies with me and said “this is good.”

One time, he came to my play in a theater, and after the show, came over to my room and said “Now I know that my granddaughter is a true actress and I am proud of it.” I was overwhelmed with happiness.

Only on stage do you realise what it truly means to be an actress, but films are interesting too. I want to star in one of Paolo Sorrentino’s films and also in some Russian movies. Russian cinematography is simply amazing – directors have a unique view of looking at things. I watched old Russian films with my grandparents and new ones at film festivals and was especially impressed with Sokurov’s "Russian Ark."

Which piece in your jewel collection has the most value to you?

A tiara in a shape of sheep horns with diamonds and pearls that was inspired by my grandmother’s wedding tiara.

Do you believe that precious stones have some metaphysical aspects that astrologists talk about? For example that amethyst is the stone of loyalty, sapphire is the stone of wisdom and so on?

No, honestly I don’t believe in this. I believe the opposite – that the person who chooses a certain stone embeds it with their energy, character and a piece of their soul. Favourite jewels begin to bring luck. My personal favourite stones are diamonds and rubies, and my favourite metal is pink gold. This is probably why I made the tiara out of it.

What would you wear for your own wedding?

I don’t know yet. It depends what the ceremony will be like. But I would probably wear something from both my old family jewels and something new that I designed. Catholic brides believe that you should wear both something old and something new underneath your veil. But who knows – maybe I’ll decide to get married in St. Petersburg.