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Empress Josephines Sapphire Parure

Empress Josephine’s Sapphire Parure

Since 1985 can be seen in the "Gallerie D'Appollon" of the Paris Louvre a collection of historical sapphires, which have a versatile connection to the Crown of France.

The major reason for purchasing them might have been that these sapphires were in the former possession of the House of Orléans. In 1821 King Louis Philippe acquired a tiara, a necklace, a pair of earrings and a brooch for his spouse Marie-Amélie, in whose family these sapphires were handed down until they were sold to the Louvre.

This perfect provenance has legitimized these stones to become a national treasure of France.

However, not only the House of Orléans was in the possession of these sapphires, but until 1821 they had been the personal property of Hortense de Beauharnais.
Hortense de Beauharnais possessed a magnificent collection of jewellery, which she gathered during her time as the queen of Holland. Her collection was unbelievably enriched again by the legacy of her mother Joséphine in the year 1814.
Among the jewels which were inherited by Hortense, might have been this sapphire parure, which B.A. Marguerite had listed in a detailed inventory after the death of the Empress:
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 remodeling by Marie-Amélie, it can not be stated anymore by whom or when it was created, because marks which could suggest a jeweller, are not available anymore. The acquisition of the tiara may not have been later than 1810.
However the quality of the sapphires, which are all first-class Ceylon sapphires of miscellaneous cuts are an undisputed fact; also the diamonds are all of a fine, white water.

The pictured parure documents the actual condition after the remodeling by Queen Marie-Amélie. It is easy to recognize the shortened tiara. 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.

The imposing portrait of Henri François Riesener, which is originated in 1806, illustrates empress Joséphine >>, 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.
There was surely manufactured a tiara and a comb to match the parure, but as a sign of her outstanding position as an empress, she has chosen to wear a crown together with a golden tiara, a combination which was very common during the Napoleonic period.

After the divorce of Napoléon Bonaparte in 1810, Joséphine kept almost all her jewellery, which she received from Napoléon.

In the already mentioned inventory of B.A. Marguerite, are listed the most magnificent parures, which were completely present at all, up to the sapphire parure, which consisted at this time just of tiara, a necklace and two pairs of earrings.

What had happened to the remaining pieces?

It seems that the empress had given during her lifetime parts of the sapphire parure 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 Joséphine.

And did she give the belt and maybe the comb 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".

Diadème : H. : 6,20 cm. ; L. : 10,70 cm.-
Necklace : H. : 3,40 cm. ; L. : 40 cm. -
Brooche : H. : 10,60 cm. ; L. : 5,10 cm. -
Earpendants: H. : 5,10 cm. ; L. : 2,20 cm. -
source: Louvre

Thank you Uwe Ripka for his generous help!


More picture and the text in german:

Die Saphire Parure der französischen Kaiserin Josephine>>


Ruby and diamond jewel for the Empress Josephine >>

Broche de laurier en rubis et diamonts de L`imperatrice Josephine "spray Beauharnais" XIXe siècle >>


Rubin Parure der französischen Krone | The Imperial Ruby-Diamond-Parure

Modell der Rubin Parure aus dem 19.Jhdt | Replica of the Imperial Ruby-Diamond-Parure

Die Orginalversion der Smaragd Parure | The Imperial Emerald-Diamond-Parure

Die Kaiserin mit der Smaragd-Garnitur | The Empress wearing the Emerald-Parure

Spätere Versionen der Smaragd Tiara | Later Versions of the tiara

Das Smaragdcollier und die Ohrringe| The Emerald-Diamond-Necklace and the Earrings with Emeralds

Königliche und Kaiserliche Juwelen | Royal and Imperial Jewels of France


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