18 February 2014

Jewel History: Criticise Royal Gems (1910)

Empress Augusta Viktoria of Germany [1]
"Criticise Royal Gems"
(originally appeared in the Washington Post on 6 Feb 1910)

The socialist journals of Germany have seized upon the descriptions of the jewels worn by the empress at the court festivities just ended to criticise the extravagance revealed by the "mother of the nation."

Empress Augusta Viktoria [2]
It is said that at important court balls and banquets the empress wore jewels valued at $1,750,000. They included a huge diamond tiara, a necklace of pearls and diamonds, several diamond bracelets, many diamond rings, and a diamond chain around her waist. Even the train of her majesty's dress was decked with wonderful precious stones, and a few superfluous jewels were affixed to the imperial fan.

During the court function two pages watched incessantly to make sure none of the gems were lost. Most of the jewelry is the property of the Prussian crown, and descends from empress to empress. The empress's own jewelry is worth less than that of many middle-class ladies. At the conclusion of each court festivity the crown jewels are replaced in fireproof safes and guarded day and night by military sentinels. No one but the ladies in waiting is allowed to remove the jewels from the empress. Four court ladies attend to this work and sign a statement witnessing the safe return of the valuables to the safes. The greatest formalities are always observed.

1. Detail of Philip de László's Portrait of Auguste Viktoria, Deutsche Kaiserin (1908); source here. The original painting hangs in the dining room at Huis Doorn, the Dutch manor house where the kaiser and kaiserin lived in exile after World War I. The house is now a museum.
2. Photograph available via Wikimedia Commons; source here.