The Sapphires of Empress Josephine of France

 

- November 2017 -

Exceptional sapphire jewellery is still exhibited in the "Gallerie d'Appollon" of the Paris Louvre collection. But this sapphire set or parure has a versatile connection to the Crown of France. This exceptional collection was not only in the possession of the House of Orléans, when King Louis Philippe acquired the sapphire tiara, necklace, earrings and brooch in 1821 for Queen Marie-Amélie. But until 1821 they were the personal property of Hortense de Beauharnais.

 

Queen with the sapphire jewellery setShe possessed a magnificent collection of jewellery, which she gathered during her time as the queen of Holland. Her collection was unbelievably enriched by the legacy of her mother Josephine de Beauharnais in the year 1814. Among the jewels which were inherited by Hortense, might have been this sapphire parure, which was listed in a detailed inventory after the death of Empress Josephine as: Pos. 36 - "Bandeau Diadème", - necklace, - earrings (in 1814 estimated at FF 84.000). This heirloom would mean that these stones could have had their source in the imperial family of France. The sapphire tiara which Hortense inherited from her mother was in its original dimensions a truly imperial tiara. Because of a later remodelling by Marie-Amélie, it cannot be stated anymore by whom or when it was created, because hallmarks which could suggest a jeweller, are not available anymore. However the quality of the sapphires, all from Ceylon, and diamonds are important.   


sapphires from Empress JosephineBy comparing the actual state of the remodelled set of Queen Marie-Amélie and the sapphire set on paintings of Josephine de Beauharnais, it is easy to recognize the sapphire set. The imposing portrait of Empress Joséphine by Henri François Riesener in 1806, illustrates the Empress wearing an impressive sapphire parure, consisting of a very fine necklace, a pair of earrings, two bracelets, two brooches and a belt with a large sapphire buckle. The tiara has probably shorted, one of the detached side parts became the centre-part in the illustrated stomacher brooch (although modified) and the remaining three elements were used with a second parure. The pair of earrings is still in its original condition, although the necklace might have been altered however at least in its length.


After the divorce of Napoléon Bonaparte in 1810, Josephine kept almost all her jewellery, which she received from Napoléon. It seems that the empress had given during her lifetime parts of the sapphire set to her children. Hortense received the large sapphire clasp of the girdle. In the sale of 1821 there was this sapphire as well, but it is now set as the centrepiece of a brooch. But this large sapphire was not in her bequest of 1814. Hortense has stated to Louis-Philippe that all sapphires were in the former possession of the late Empress Josephine.
Only the sapphire belt was not mentioned in the sale. Would Josephine de Beauharnais gived the sapphire belt to her son Eugène, the Duke of Leuchtenberg? His daughter Josefina, the later Queen of Sweden might have used these sapphires in combination with a pearl tiara in her possession for making a complete new sapphire parure - the "Leuchtenberg Sapphires", another exceptional jewellery set.  

 

Text ©World Luxury Jewellers

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