08 August 2019

Queen Marie-Jose's Turquoise Parure


Yesterday, we discussed jewels stolen from Emanuele Filiberto of Savoy, son of one of the pretenders to the Italian throne. Today, we've got a closer look at a suite of jewels that belonged to his grandmother: Marie-Jose of Belgium, the last Queen of Italy.


The gorgeous set of diamond and turquoise jewels dates to the 1830s, and its design is definitely typical of the era. The set includes a pair of girandole-style earrings, a necklace with pendants, and a grand devant de corsage.


A pair of identical diamond and turquoise bracelets are also included in the set, which is worn above by a model in 2007. Like many suites of jewels from this era, the pieces can be rearranged to be worn in various alternate configurations. The bracelets can be combined to make a choker necklace, while the set's necklace can be transformed into a tiara.

The Countess of Flanders, ca. 1879 (Wikimedia Commons)

The first documented royal owner of the jewels was the Countess of Flanders, who was born Princess Marie of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen. She joined the Belgian royal family in 1867, when she wed the Count of Flanders, who was the second son of King Leopold I and Queen Louise.

King Albert I and Queen Elisabeth of Belgium, ca. 1909 (Wikimedia Commons)

The Belgian throne eventually passed to Albert, the younger son of the Count and Countess of Flanders. The turquoises were also inherited by Albert and his wife, Elisabeth.

Umberto and Marie-Jose during their engagement, 1929 (Wikimedia Commons)

In 1930, Albert and Elisabeth passed the suite of jewels to the next generation, offering it as a wedding gift to their only daughter, Princess Marie-Jose. She married Crown Prince Umberto of Italy in January 1930. (You can read my extensive write-up on their wedding festivities over here!) For a ball held two nights before the wedding, Marie-Jose wore the turquoises with a custom-made gown by an Italian couturier, Ventura. According to later auction notes, the dress featured "a royal train, embroidered in silver thread with flowers entwined with the Savoy knot, to match the parure." The princess arranged the necklace fashionably as a bandeau-style tiara for the occasion, similar to the bandeaux worn in the engagement portrait above.


The parure remained in Marie-Jose's jewelry box for the rest of her life, which famously featured a month-long tenure as Queen of Italy. After her death in 2001, many of her jewels were sold at auction. In June 2007, the turquoises were sold at Christie's in London. The lot notes from the sale described the set as "a fine antique turquoise and diamond parure consisting of a necklace designed as a series of graduated oval turquoise and old-cut diamond clusters, each suspending a similar drop to the diamond collet spacers, the six main diamonds can be unscrewed; a pair of bracelets with detachable clasps, can be worn as a choker; a pendent brooch and two pendants en suite, mounted in silver and gold."


Estimates for the parure were set between 30,000 and 40,000 pounds, but when the hammer fell, the suite sold for three times more, fetching 120,000 pounds.