Royal Jewels of France
Marie Antoinette is wearing one of her most valuable jewelry pieces.
Marie Antoinette’s first large collection of jewels came as a wedding gift from her grandfather-in-law Louis XV.
According to sources, the King presented her with a coffer “covered in richly embroidered crimson velvet…[and stood] nearly as tall and three times as wide” as Marie Antoinette. Inside it was lined in “robin’s-egg blue silk” and contained a “magnificent array of necklaces, earrings, fans and snuffboxes, bracelets and buttons all glittering with diamonds and other precious gemstones” valued at 2 million livres.
It is no surprise that Marie Antoinette had such a large collection of jewels. Before the Revolution, the royal family had some of the most fabulous jewels in the world.
The most famous of the royal jewels is probably the French Blue.
Today, it is known as the Hope Diamond. It was originally part of the Emblem of the Golden Fleece, made for Louis XV. During the Revolution, it was stolen and cut down to its present shape.
The famous “curse” of the Hope Diamond is said to have befallen Marie Antoinette.However, she never actually wore it. Because of its value and importance, only the King could wear it in the Emblem of the Golden Fleece. Recently, this piece of jewelry has been recreated and is now available to be seen at the French Royal Storehouse.
Emblem of the Golden Fleece. The “Hope Diamond” is shown in it original setting above the gold fleece.
The only other major piece of the crown jewels to survive to the present day is the crown of Louis XV. This crown is set with many large diamonds and is housed at the Louvre.
Louis XV’s Crown
One large diamond Marie Antoinette did wear is known as the Regent Diamond. It is approximately 410 carats. She is recorded to have worn it attached to a large black hat. Napoleon eventually possessed it, and wore it as a decoration upon his sword. Another large diamond belonging to the Royal Family is the 55.23 carat Sancy Diamond. However, there is no mention of Marie Antoinette ever wearing it.
A replica of the famous diamond necklace
The Diamond Necklace Affair, the most famous scandal Marie Antoinette was associated with, centered around a 2,000,000 livres diamond necklace. Originally intended by Louis XV for Madame du Berry, the necklace found itself without a home upon the King’s death. Marie Antoinette refused to buy it, thus the jewelers found themselves gravely in debt. Jeanne de Saint-Remy Valois, a con-artist, set up an elaborate scheme in which she had the Cardinal de Rohan purchase the necklace in secret for “the Queen.” Once the scandal came out, the Queen’s name was blackened though she had nothing to do with it.
Marie Antoinette’s Personal Jewels Still In Existence
As any good queen, Marie Antoinette loved jewels. Though most were lost during the Revolution, a few of her personal items remain today.
One of the most stunning pieces is a pair of diamond earrings. The earrings weigh between 13 and 19 carats. They were supposedly a gift to the queen from Louis XVI at the beginning of their marriage. They are now housed at the Smithsonian Institute.
Marie Antoinette’s Diamond Earrings
Another piece is a stunning 5.64 carat blue heart shaped diamond which the queen had set in a ring. During the Revolution, Marie Antoinette gave the ring to her close friend Princess Lobomirska. The ring had been up for auction several times and is now in the possession of a private collector.
Marie Antoinette’s Blue Diamond Ring
Marie Antoinette’s also had diamond and pearl jewelry smuggled out of France before the Revolution. A set of these pearls have recently gone up for auction.
Though not in their original setting, the pearls were originally part of a necklace worn by the queen. During the Revolution, she gave the pearls and some diamonds to Lady Sutherland, the wife of the British ambassador Lord George Leveson-Gower for safekeeping. Because she was an ambassador’s wife, she had diplomatic immunity and could safely smuggle the jewels out of France. She planed to keep them until the Queen was able to escape to England.
The Sutherland Diamond Necklace
However, this never happened. Thus, the pearls were kept by the Sutherland family, re-set and given to Lady Sutherland’s son upon his wedding. The diamonds were fashioned into the Sutherland Diamond Necklace. Both still exist.
The few personal jewels the Queen did keep during the Revolution are now lost. According to Weber, Marie Antoinette possessed only her wedding ring, a small jeweled ring, a locked containing pieces of her childrens’ hair, and a small gold watch once belonging to her mother.
Marie Antoinette wearing a fichus.
Just as few clothing items belonging to Marie Antoinette survive, neither do her accessories, such as shawls, shoes, and hats.
Once such accessory, the fichus, became very popular during Marie Antoinette’s reign, and somewhat resembled a shawl. Several portraits of the Queen show her wearing one. It quickly replaced the need to wear expensive and large jewelry pieces as the Queen become “au natural” at the Petit Trianon.
As any woman will testify, shoes are extremely important to an outfit. Marie Antoinette did not lack in the shoe department. Surprisingly, a few pairs of her shoes still survive today. This is probably because she usually only wore a pair once, then passed them on to a lady-in-waiting.
One of Marie Antoinette’s shoes, originally lost when the Queen and the royal family fled the Tuileries when it was stormed in 1792, possibly still survives at a chateau in the Loire Valley along with embroidered garters once belonging to Marie Antoinette, and an embroidered bonnet once belonging to her daughter, Marie Therese.
Marie Antoinette shoes and garters.
Another piece to survive is a fragment of a dress, now turned into a handkerchief with a lace border, recently auctioned for $76,000. A purse, said to be embroidered by Marie Antoinette fetched $133,000.
Sadly, little else remains. If you know of any surviving artifacts I have missed, please leave a comment!