After a public auction in 1887, the French Crown Jewels were sold and dispersed around the world. However, after more than a century away, some of those jewels would find their way home. We’ve already talked about Empress Eugénie’s Pearl and Diamond Tiara returning home to France. Let’s take a look at another bejeweled treasure once owned by Empress Eugénie.
Eugénie de Montijo, a Spanish countess, was born in Granada, Spain in 1826. She became the last Empress of France when she married Napoleon III in 1853. Empress Eugénie, a fashionista, was considered one of the most beautiful queens of her era. As such, she commissioned a number of bejeweled items. One such item was the Diamond Bow Brooch made in 1855 by Parisian jeweler François Kramer.
The Diamond Bow Brooch was originally meant to be used as a belt buckle, however Empress Eugénie, to accommodate her fashionable needs, had it converted into a stomacher. Her jeweler enhanced the brooch’s grandeur by adding five diamond pampilles, a design that imitates icicle-shaped cascades, and a pair of diamond tassels.
After Napoleon III lost his throne, the brooch, along with the other French royal jewels, was sold in the infamous auction of 1887. This particular piece was bought by jeweler Emile Schlesinger on behalf of Mrs. Caroline Astor (1830-1908), the famous Astor millionaire and matriarch. It stayed with the Astor family for over 100 years. The family even referred to it as “Mrs. Astor’s diamond stomacher.” After her death in 1908, Mrs. Astor’s jewelry collection was dispersed between her five children. Exactly one hundred years later, the brooch was being prepared to be sold at auction via Christie’s.
When the Louvre and the Friends of the Louvre learned that this French 19th century brooch was up for auction they couldn’t allow the historic brooch to slip through their fingers. Christie’s must have been in agreement because at the last minute the brooch’s public auction, scheduled for April 15, 2008, was cancelled. Instead, with the full support of the brooch’s owner, a private sale was conducted between Friends of the Louvre and François Curiel, the President of Christie’s Europe.
The Diamond Bow Brooch has been on public display at the Louvre Museum ever since.
Yesterday when we chatted about Empress Eugénie’s pearl and diamond tiara, we also had a glimpse of her coronation crown. The crown was nestled within Winterhalter’s painting of Eugénie wearing her pearl and diamond tiara. So I thought you might like to see a photograph of the bejeweled crown.
Gabriel Lemonnier, who became the crown jeweler in 1853, designed and created the coronation crowns of Napoleon III and his consort, Eugénie. While the original coronation crown of Napoleon III is lost to history, Eugénie’s coronation crown is intact and on display at the Louvre Museum. Her crown is a smaller, lighter version of the crown made for Napoleon III.
It’s a unique piece; eight of the crown’s arches are shaped like the wings of eagles. The other arches are diamond-studded palmettes. The gold globe and cross are also made of diamonds. In total, there are 2,480 diamonds and 56 emeralds.
Empress Eugénie, consort of Napoleon III, was the owner of numerous magnificent jewels and tiaras. Though many of her jewels were made by court jeweler Bapst, other jewelers also had a hand in creating jewelry for her. Today’s subject is Empress Eugénie’s beautiful pearl and diamond tiara created by jeweler Gabriel Lemonnier.
The tiara has 212 drop-shaped and round pearls weighing 2,520 metric grams. The pearls are surrounded by 1,998 small diamonds weighing 63.3 carats. The tiara was once accompanied by a matching coronet, which had 274 round and drop-shaped pearls, though sadly this piece is now lost to history.
Unfortunately, along with the other crown jewels, the tiara was sold in 1887. It came into the possession of a German princely family, Thurn und Taxis, where the tiara remained intact through the years.
Decades later, in 1980, the pearl headpiece was worn as a bridal tiara on the wedding day of Countess Gloria von Schönburg-Glauchau to Johannes, 11th Prince of Thurn und Taxis. When the prince died ten years later, Gloria had to sell the tiara to settle financial debt.
The Louvre Museum purchased the tiara, returning it home to France, where it’s been on display ever since.
The Louvre Museum
Tiaras: A History of Splendour by Geoffrey C. Munn
The Duchess of Angoulême Emerald Tiara was created by Maison Bapst, jeweler to the French Court, for the only surviving child of King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette, Princess Marie-Thérèse Charlotte of France.
The tiara was created many years after the French Revolution; between September 1819 and July 1820 with stones already in the French Treasury. It’s made out of gold. The emeralds and diamonds are set in silver. The large center emerald weighs almost 16 carats. The tiara is set with 40 emeralds for a total weight of 79.12 carats. The emeralds are surrounded by over one thousand diamonds. (1,031 to be exact.)
Princess Marie-Thérèse, Duchess of Angoulême, may have been in need of regal jewelry because in 1799 she married an heir to the throne, her first cousin Louis Antoine, Duke of Angoulême, son of Louis XVI’s younger brother, Charles X. (As an aside, the Duke of Angoulême briefly reigned as Louis XIX for about 20 minutes, before he abdicated.)
Later, the emerald and diamond tiara became the favorite tiara of the beautiful Empress Eugénie, wife of Napoleon III. After the defeat of Napoleon III in 1870, the jewel became the property of the state. However, the French sold it in 1887, along with the other crown jewels.
In modern times, the tiara came into the possession of Lady Belinda Lambton, wife of the Conservative Defense Minster, Lord Lambton. Throughout Lady Lambton’s ownership, it was kept safe inside Wartski’s vaults. Before Lord Lambton’s death in 2006, it was sold to the Louvre, where it’s been on display ever since.
Tiaras: A History of Splendour by Geoffrey C. Munn
Wartski: The First One Hundred and Fifty Years by Geoffrey C. Munn
It was tradition for French kings to have their own coronation crowns made. The coronation crown of Louis XV is composed of a satin cap encircled by a band of gilded silver and topped with diamonds forming a fleur-de-lis. It was worn only once, at the coronation in 1722. Shortly thereafter, the crown was delivered to the Royal Abbey Church of Saint-Denis (today it’s the Basilica of Saint-Denis) where it resided with other regalia. In 1729, Louis XV requested that the 282 diamonds, 64 gemstones and 237 pearls be replaced with paste. The crown, with its imitation paste jewels, has been at the Louvre since 1852.