The great French diamond collection


- October 2016 -

The story of the French diamond collection started in the 17th century with Louis XIV who purchased the most diamonds and precious stones for the State.


de MontespanOf course, one of the best known diamonds was the Blue Diamond of the Crown. Originally mined in India, this superb diamond of 115.28 carats was sold to Louis XIV by Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, the great traveller and gem merchant in India. The King had it cut into a heart-shape to wear it as a pin. This mythical diamond became legendary for the curse it supposedly puts on all its owners. According to the legend, the curse goes back to Madame de Montespan, the King’s mistress, who wore it at Black Mass ceremonies. In 1792, it was stolen from store rooms along with the rest of the French Crown jewels. It reappeared in Britain when Henry Philip Hope bought it in 1830. It was re-cut to hide its origin and Hope named it after himself.


Evalyn Mc Lean and the diamond Blue HopeLater, the diamond was sold to Pierre Cartier, grandson of the famous Louis-François Cartier, founder of the Cartier jewellery house. Pierre Cartier then sold it to Evalyn Walsh McLean, a rich American heiress who wore it at worldly events. In her autobiography, she said: “When I forget to wear my diamonds, astute members of my family call the doctor because they know that I must be falling ill.” The McLean’s were great jewellery collectors: as well as the McLean diamond which later became part of the Duchess of Windsor’s collection and the “Star of the East” which was later acquired by King Farouk of Egypt, they also possessed the 126 carat Jonker diamond. In 1949, Harry Winston bought the Hope diamond. As Cosmopolitan said in 1947 if Evalyn Walsh McLean was nicknamed the queen of diamonds because of her fabulous collection, then Harry Winston was the king. In 1949, He was reputed to possess the most beautiful diamonds after the English Crown jewels. In 1958, he donated the famous diamond to the Smithsonian Institute of Washington. He sent it by post so as to remain anonymous.

France had by far the most beautiful collection of jewellery in Europe. Throughout the 18th Century, the art of French jewellery was at its height. Elegant women, both French and foreign, had their jewels re-set in Paris in keeping with the latest fashion. Royal courts of foreign countries also ordered their jewels from Pouget, Bapst or Mondon.

The French revolution was a blow to the supremacy of France and consequently to the monarchies of Europe as a whole. Nobles fled abroad, mostly to England and to Belgium, taking their precious jewels with them. It is often said, with a touch of irony, that the French Revolution was as good a source of gems as were India or Brazil! The monarchs’ personal belongings disappeared forever and the Crown jewels were dispersed following the theft of 1792. Fortunately, some were found later….


Text ©World Luxury Jewellers




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