Of all the royal jewels set with amethysts, few are quite so luscious as the deep purple stones set in the Swedish royal family’s antique parure. Today, we’re talking about the Napoleonic Amethyst Parure—including a tiara that was originally something quite different.
Why are these royal amethysts described as “Napoleonic”? Because its origins can be found at the imperial court of Napoleon Bonaparte in early nineteenth-century France. It’s said that the first owner of the amethysts was Napoleon’s first wife, Joséphine de Beauharnais. When her son, Eugène, married Princess Augusta of Bavaria in 1806, the amethysts were supposedly Empress Joséphine’s wedding gift to her new daughter-in-law. In turn, Augusta passed the suite along to her own daughter, Princess Joséphine of Leuchtenberg, apparently as a wedding gift when she married the future King Oscar I of Sweden and Norway in 1823.
Joséphine, who changed the spelling of her name to the Swedish “Josefina,” is pictured above in a lovely portrait by Karl Joseph Stieler from the year of her marriage. The set she received from her mother features enormous purple amethysts set in gold, surrounded by clusters of white diamonds set in silver. The original suite included a large necklace, earrings, a pair of bracelets, and a large brooch.
The amethysts have been in the Bernadotte family collection ever since. Queen Louise, the second wife of King Gustaf VI Adolf, was especially fond of wearing the amethyst jewels with various diamond tiaras from the family vaults. Here, for a gala dinner in Stockholm with King Frederik IX and Queen Ingrid of Denmark in October 1947, she wears the amethysts with the Braganza Tiara.
Before we move on, a quick ID of the royals in the photo, plus the additional jewels worn. Bottom row, left to right: King Frederik IX of Denmark, King Gustaf V of Sweden, and Queen Ingrid of Denmark (who wears the Pearl Poiré Tiara with additional jewels from the matching married parure). Top row, left to right: Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf of Sweden, Crown Princess Louise of Sweden, Prince Carl of Sweden, Princess Ingeborg of Sweden (wearing her Boucheron Pearl Circle Tiara and pearls), Princess Sibylla of Sweden (wearing the Connaught Diamond Tiara and a diamond rivière), and Prince Bertil of Sweden. (Queen Ingrid was the daughter of King Gustaf VI Adolf, so this was a family dinner as well as a diplomatic occasion.)
Queen Louise wore the amethysts with Queen Sofia’s Tiara in June 1956 during the state visit from the British royals to Stockholm. Here, during a gala performance at the Royal Opera House, you’ll spot her standing beside her nephew, the Duke of Edinburgh. The Queen wears Queen Alexandra’s Kokoshnik with the Greville Ruby Necklace, Queen Mary’s Ruby Cluster Earrings, the Dorset Bow Brooch, and the Cornwall Rose of York Bracelet. In the second row are three of King Gustaf VI Adolf’s granddaughters. The eldest, Princess Margaretha, is wearing Queen Louise’s Diamond Tiara. Prince Wilhelm and Prince Bertil of Sweden are present in the box as well. (Princess Sibylla is just out of frame on the left hand side of the photograph. She wore the Connaught Diamond Tiara with her sapphire necklace for the event.)
A funny anecdote from this outing: you’ll see a large bouquet of red roses in the Queen’s hands in the photograph. Shortly after the picture was taken, the Queen accidentally dropped the bouquet over the edge of the royal box and into the orchestra pit. The Sydney Morning Herald wrote that she “smiled, and then broke into laughter.” Soon the entire royal box was in hysterics, and the crowd below began to applaud the Queen’s blunder.
Louise also sometimes paired the amethysts with the Baden Fringe Tiara. Here, in July 1938, she wears that combination of jewels for a dinner with Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia in New York during their royal tour of the United States. (They were accompanied by Prince Bertil, who apparently was called “Bertie” by LaGuardia.)
After Queen Louise’s death in 1965, the amethysts were worn by her step-granddaughters, the Haga Princesses. Here, Princess Christina wears the necklace and earrings with the Diamond Four-Button Tiara for the Nobel Prize festivities in December 1968. Later, in 1976, Princess Margaretha wore the amethysts with Queen Sofia’s Tiara for the concert on the night before the wedding of King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia. And in 2010, Princess Désirée wore the amethysts for the wedding of Crown Princess Victoria.
When Queen Silvia of Sweden joined the family in 1976, she became the primary wearer of the grandest Bernadotte jewels, including the amethysts. She made the decision to have the large amethyst necklace mounted on a tiara frame, so that it could be worn as a circlet-style tiara. The bracelets from the set were converted so that they could be worn together as a necklace. The size of the original necklace was reduced by one amethyst cluster when it was converted to be worn as a tiara, and that extra cluster has been used as a brooch or a hair ornament.
The photograph above shows one of Queen Silvia’s earliest appearances in the renovated amethyst parure. She wears the new tiara with the earrings and brooch for a dinner at the Spanish Embassy in Stockholm during a state visit from King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia in October 1979.
And here, she wears the amethysts again a few years later, in March 1983, during a state visit to Spain. You’ll note that she wears the new necklace created from the bracelets on this occasion as well.
And here, in September 1983, she wears the amethysts for a gala during a state visit to Luxembourg. She’s standing beside Grand Duke Jean in this official photo.
And here, two decades later, she wears the amethysts for the royal wedding of Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary of Denmark in Copenhagen in May 2004.
Queen Silvia has also shared the amethysts with the next generation of Bernadotte women. One of Crown Princess Victoria’s earliest appearances in the set came in May 2001, when she wore the tiara, earrings, and small brooch for a gala dinner at the Palace of Laeken during a state visit to Belgium. This appearance in particular shows just how much the success of the tiara depends on the hairstyle with which it’s worn. The base of the converted jewel is really substantial, and it requires major hair to conceal and support it.
Over the years, Crown Princess Victoria’s appearances in the tiara have become more and more successful. Just a year later, in May 2002, she wore the tiara and additional pieces from the parure with a more complicated hairstyle. The occasion was the wedding of Princess Märtha Louise of Norway in Trondheim.
For my money, her best outing in the tiara came in April 2013. She wore it for a gala dinner at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam on the night before the inauguration of King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands. The circlet was placed beautifully in her hair on this occasion, acting like a bejeweled halo.
Crown Princess Victoria has often also paired pieces from the set with other tiaras from the family collection, much as Queen Louise did during the previous century. This combination, the amethysts with the Baden Fringe Tiara and a diamond necklace at the Nobels in 2006, neatly echoes Queen Louise’s New York dinner appearance from 1938.
In December 2015, when she was pregnant with Prince Oscar, Victoria wore the amethysts with the Connaught Diamond Tiara for the Nobel Prize ceremony and banquet.
She even added the large brooch from the parure to her hair for the occasion!
Princess Madeleine has worn the amethysts more than once for the Nobels as well. Here, she wears the tiara and earrings for the ceremony and banquet in December 2012.
She wore the tiara and accompanying pieces from the parure for the same event in December 2017 as well.
And in December 2014, she paired pieces from the parure with the Modern Fringe Tiara for the prize ceremony and banquet.
Princess Sofia has also worn the amethysts on a couple of occasions. Here, she wears the tiara for a state banquet in honor of the Governor-General of Canada in February 2017.
And in December 2019, she paired the amethyst earrings with the all-diamond setting of her palmette tiara for the Nobel Laureates’ Dinner at the Royal Palace in Stockholm.