There’s simply no way to go through a September without talking about this incredible suite of royal sapphires! Today, our Sparkling Spotlight shines on Queen Silvia of Sweden and the Leuchtenberg Sapphires, from a glamorous appearance more than 15 years ago.
On December 10, 2004, the Swedish royal family gathered in Stockholm for the annual Nobel Prize celebrations. The family line-up looked a little different a decade and a half ago. King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia were joined by their two elder children, Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Carl Philip, as well as Carl Gustaf’s aunt, Princess Lilian. (Princess Madeleine was still at university.)
We’re here to talk about Silvia’s sapphires, but a few other jewels warrant a brief mention. Crown Princess Victoria wore the grand, unique Napoleonic Cut Steel Tiara, while Princess Lilian wore the Baden Fringe Tiara with Queen Josefina’s Diamond Stomacher Necklace.
Queen Silvia arrived at the Nobel Prize ceremony wearing a spectacular white and silver column gown with a short train. The gown was made by one of her favorite couturiers, Jacques Zehnder. She wore the gown for numerous gala occasions in the early 2000s. Here, she paired the dress with silver accessories—and, of course, the sash and star of the Order of the Seraphim, and her husband’s Royal Family Order.
The blue of the order sash and the Royal Family Order ribbon was echoed by Silvia’s choice of jewels for the evening. She wore the tiara and jewels from the magnificent Leuchtenberg Sapphire Parure, one of her go-to suites of jewels for the Nobels. The parure is more than 200 years old. It was given to Princess Augusta of Bavaria, Duchess of Leuchtenberg by her mother-in-law, Empress Joséphine of France, in the winter of 1810-11. The sapphires were a gift to mark the birth of Augusta’s son, Prince Auguste.
The sapphires came to Sweden with Augusta’s daughter, Princess Josephine of Leuchtenberg, when she married the future King Oscar I of Sweden. They’ve been in the Swedish royal vaults ever since, and they’re considered one of the most important sets of jewelry in the royal collection. They’re generally earmarked for wear by the most senior royal woman in the family. Since 1976, that’s been Queen Silvia. She’s been the only person to wear the tiara since then, though other family members have very occasionally worn some of the other pieces from the set.
Such a grand sapphire and diamond tiara needs major tiara hair to support it, and Silvia didn’t disappoint in December 2004. This profile image gives you an excellent side view of the intricate hairstyle she wore for the ceremony and banquet.
Queen Silvia wore all of the major pieces from the suite on this occasion. Here, you’ll note the large cluster brooch, as well as the impressive necklace, with design elements (clusters, pendants, symmetrical arrangement) typical of the first half of the nineteenth century. The original earrings from the set left the family during the reign of King Gustaf V, and the earrings worn here by Silvia were made later to replace them by using some of the hair pins from the original suite.
Queen Silvia also added a few more pieces of jewelry to her impressive ensemble. On her right wrist, she wore a gold Cartier Love Bracelet, as well as a diamond and sapphire bracelet with a Greek key design.
On her left wrist, she added another diamond bracelet (which I believe is an evening watch). She also wore rings on both hands, including an impressive-looking cocktail ring on her right hand.
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