Born in Boulogne-sur-Seine, France, his parents are Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia and Princess Maria Pia of Savoy, his paternal grandparents: Prince Paul of Yugoslavia (Regent in 1934) and Princess Olga of Greece and Denmark. On his mother’s side, he is the grandchild of the last King of Italy, H.R.M. Umberto II and Princess María José of Belgium.In addition to Michel, his twin brother, the prince has two other siblings (also twins): Sergio and Helena. He grew up with his family at Versailles, next to the Palace and across from Marie Antoinette’s hameau de la Reine. Serbo-Croatian was never spoken at home, only Italian. The pain caused by the exile imposed by the communists on the Yugoslav Royal Family, as well as the total annihilation of their national identity and all their vital records, was always extremely intense for him.
He spent his summers at Villa Demidoff Pratolino; a beautiful Renaissance palace built in 1569 in Vaglia, Italy, by the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Francesco de Medici. In 1872, his heirs sold it to Prince Pavel Pavlovich Demidoff, who restored it gave it the new name. Prince Paul of Yugoslavia, Dimitri’s grandfather inherited the property, which is located to the North of Florence. Even today, after all these years, Dimitri’s eyes light up when he remembers the beauty of the gardens designed by Bernardo Buontalenti, adorned with glorious sculptures such as the Appennine Colossus by Giambologna, precious old trees and sublime landscapes where he spent some of the happiest moments of his life.
Alexander and Maria Pia divorced when Dimitri was only seven years old. His mother was remarried to Prince Michel of Bourbon and Parma in 2003. His father, who is currently living with his new family in Paris, also remarried in 1973 to Princess Barbara of Liechtenstein with whom he had another son, Dushan.
After attending boarding school in Switzerland and France, Dimitri graduated in business law from the University of Paris. He remembers that one day as he was driving through the French capital, a police officer stopped him alleging that he had run a red traffic light. When Dimitri replied the light was not red but orange, the police threatened him: “For you rich kids, that is a red light”. For the young prince that sounded like the communists, who brought an end to royalty in Yugoslavia through their hatred and resentment towards capitalism, the monarchy and the upper classes. In 1984, he enrolled in an 18-month training program at E.F. Hutton, Wall Street, New York. He was starting a new chapter in his life.
The American Adventure, an encounter with the world of jewels in New York.
Even before he finished his training, Alfred Taubman, who at the time was Chairman of the auction house Sotheby’s in New York, offered him a job in the Jewelry Department. For the first time, Dimitri could give free rein to the great passion he had felt from a very young age: jewelry! “I loved to see and touch my mother’s and my grandmothers’ jewels, inherited by the family from my great-grandmother Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna, and from her grandmother and my great-great grandmother, the Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna of Russia,” a collection which gained worldwide fame as one of the most significant in the world at the time. “They were so beautiful, I loved playing with them,” he says. “It’s a passion that runs through my family: my grandparents, King Umberto II of Italy and Paul of Yugoslavia also designed jewelry… Even Prince Albert did it for his wife, Queen Victoria of England,” he says.
Thanks to his exquisite taste, creativity and talent, he soon was promoted to Senior Vice-President in the jewelry Department at Sotheby’s, a position he held for 17 years overseeing all aspects, from auctions to appraisals, catalogs, etc. During that time, he also studied Gemology at the prestigious Gemology Institute of America (GIM) and became an appraiser.
In 2002, and amidst a crisis in the auction market, Dimitri left Sotheby’s to head the Jewelry Department at Phillips de Pury & Luxemburg, which had just been bought by Bernard Arnault. By then Prince Dimitri had already spent three years creating his own jewelry. It all started as a game when his Chilean friend Álvaro Cuadrado returned from Brazil with a spectacular bounty of precious stones. Cuadrado had a set of cufflinks made with some of the stones, but Dimitri was not impressed with the results. The pair began designing their personal cufflinks, creating designs that were never sketched, just setting each stone by hand. Such was the success among their inner circle that, in 1999, they launched their own line of cufflinks, which were sold to private clients, as well as at Bergdof Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue. Their collection grew to include a line of women’s necklaces, rings and earrings, all made with stunning precious and semi-precious stones that both partners brought from Brazil. These exclusive pieces were also sold to private clients and at Barney’s New York and Neiman Marcus. The next step for the talented prince was a partnership with Salvador Assael, one of the principal importers of pearls, to create a completely different line: Prince Dimitri for Assael: The New Look of Pearls.
In 2008, the prince launched his new label, Prince Dimitri Company, an exclusive line of jewelry inspired by many cultures and carefully crafted for the modern woman. Dimitri offers, from his magnificent headquarters in Manhattan, a bespoke service for his select clientele: the royal jeweler restores, redesigns or reassembles antique jewelry and loose stones, infusing them with a contemporary sensibility.
For more information on Prince Dimitri jewelry please go to our story Prince Dimitri Company: Royal Jewels for Today’s Woman in our fashion section. ■