The Cap of Monomakh is the oldest crown among the crown jewels of Russia. An ancient symbol of Russian autocracy, the crown consists of an onion shaped skullcap manufactured from eight joined panels of filigreed gold which sit on top of a wide sable brim. The crown is ornamented with large cabochon jewels and smaller pearls. It is topped by a cross with a pearl at each end (which was added centuries after the cap was originally made). It was worn by the grand princes of Moscow and then by the first Czars up until Peter the Great, who commissioned a new crown when he styled himself as an Emperor.
The cap of Monomakh was probably manufactured by Central Asian goldsmiths of the late 13th or early 14th century. Some Russian historians have theorized that the cap was a gift to the grand prince of Moscow from Uzbeg Khan who reigned over the Golden Horde from 1313–1341. If such is the case, the crown probably represented Moscow’s political subjugation to the Khan, however, the crown’s true origins are lost in the puzzling depths of Russian history.
During the 15th century a story was confabulated that the cap was a present from the Byzantine emperor Constantine Monomachus to Vladimir Monomakh, prince of Kiev, in the 12th century. The legend was probably engendered to give credence to the Russian monarchs’ assertion that the Tsars were the heirs to the Caesars and that Moscow was a “third Rome” (with Constantinople being the second). Today the cap of Monomakh can be found under heavy guard at the other great onion shaped symbol of Russian autocracy, the Kremlin (along with the other crown jewels of the Russian monarchy).