On June 8 in New York, Christie’s will offer a complete parure of antique amethyst jewelry as part of one of their Magnificent Jewels auctions. Here’s a closer look at the set, which is fit for a Georgian aristocrat—or, perhaps, for a devoted fan of the Bridgerton series?
Yesterday, we chatted about a lovely suite of diamond and sapphire jewels being sold at Christie’s this month. Today, we’ve got another piece of royal jewelry being offered at the same auction by the same former royal family: the grand diamond and sapphire tiara that belonged to Queen Maria II of Portugal.
|Queen Maria II’s sapphire and diamond tiara (Christie’s)|
The lot notes from the Christie’s website list the jewel as an “important 19th century sapphire and diamond crown.” I quibble a bit with the use of the word “crown” to describe this piece—I tend to agree with definitions of that word that are restricted to ornaments that are part of state regalia, often used for coronations. I think this piece is better described as a diadem or a large tiara. It’s big, and part of the base is a complete circlet, but I think the term “tiara” is a better descriptor here.
|Queen Maria II of Portugal is depicted wearing the tiara, ca. 1846 (Wikimedia Commons)|
The tiara, though, did belong to a royal woman who was a reigning monarch. Queen Maria II was the eldest daughter of Emperor Pedro I of Brazil. Maria’s path to the throne was complicated. When her grandfather, King Joao VI, died in 1826, there were serious disagreements about who his successor should be. Joao’s elder son (and Maria’s father), Pedro, was already reigning on the throne of Brazil. Joao’s younger son, Prince Miguel, had been exiled for his role in a revolt two years earlier. Pedro decided to pass the Portuguese crown to his daughter, Maria, abdicating in her favor. Pedro and Miguel’s sister, Isabel Maria, was named regent for the young Queen Maria II, who was only seven years old. To satisfy Miguel and his supporters, it was decided that when she came of age, Maria II would marry her uncle Miguel. Eventually, Pedro decided to name Miguel as Maria’s regent, too.
In a move that probably shouldn’t have shocked anyone, Miguel took the regency opportunity to seize the throne for himself. He declared himself king in 1828, kicking off a war-torn reign that lasted until 1834, when he was exiled again and Maria II was restored to the throne. Thankfully, the marriage plan was ended, too. Queen Maria II married twice. Her first husband was Prince Auguste, 2nd Duke of Leuchtenberg (son of Eugene de Beauharnais and Augusta of Bavaria—and, interestingly, the baby whose birth inspired the gift of the Leuchtenberg sapphires). After Auguste’s premature death, Maria married Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (a first cousin of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert). Per Portuguese royal tradition, he was elevated to the title of King Ferdinand II after the birth of their son and heir, Pedro, in 1837.
|Winterhalter’s portrait of Infanta Antonia, ca. 1866 (Wikimedia Commons)|
Queen Maria II and King Ferdinand II reigned jointly for the rest of her life, which was occupied in large part by difficult pregnancies and births. She died giving birth to her eleventh child, Infante Eugenio, in 1853. Seven of her children survived her, and her grand jewels were divided among them in roughly equal portions. This diamond and sapphire diadem was bequeathed to her fifth child, Infanta Antonia, who married Prince Leopold of Hohenzollern in 1861. They had three sons, one of whom was King Ferdinand of Romania. (Huge thanks to one of our readers, Portuguese royal jewelry enthusiast Arrigo, for sharing some of his research on the chain of ownership with me!)
|Prince William of Hohenzollern with his second wife, Princess Adelgunde of Bavaria, ca. 1917 (Wikimedia Commons)|
The sapphires were inherited by Leopold and Antonia’s eldest son, Prince William of Hohenzollern. (He also inherited the Baden sapphire parure we discussed yesterday.) The tiara has stayed with the family in the years since. Prince William’s daughter-in-law, Princess Margarete Karola of Saxony, was photographed wearing the jewel in a formal portrait. She also wore it during the celebrations of the wedding of her son, Prince Johann Georg of Hohenzollern, to Princess Birgitta of Sweden in 1961. Birgitta also wore the tiara, including an appearance in the jewel at the royal wedding of her cousin, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, in 1967. (You’ll note that Birgitta is also wearing the earrings, necklace, and one of the brooches from the Baden sapphire suite.)
|A side view of the tiara (Christie’s)|
Now, the tiara is being offered for sale at Christie’s in Geneva. They describe the tiara simply as being made of gold and set with “octagonal step-cut and oval-shaped sapphires” and “varied old-cut diamonds.” They note that the tiara was made in the 1840s, during Queen Maria II’s second tenure as Portugal’s queen regnant. To me, the design of the piece shares significant similarities with the original Cambridge Sapphire Tiara.
|The top elements from the tiara, removed and arranged as separate ornaments (Christie’s)|
The photos from the auction house also show the versatility of the jewel. The top portions of the tiara can be taken off the frame, forming nine individual sapphire and diamond ornaments.
|The diamond base of the tiara (Christie’s)|
The base of the tiara, with its trefoil embellishments, can be worn separately as a much smaller bandeau-style tiara.
The tiara will be sold by Christie’s in Geneva on May 12. Rumor has it that the Portuguese government is keen to acquire the piece and reunite it with other historic royal jewels from the nation. The auction estimate for the royal jewel is set at between $186,000-380,000 USD.
Royal auction lovers, rejoice! We’ve got some major royal jewels coming up for sale in May. We’re going to be highlighting some of the grandest pieces over the next few days, starting with an extensive parure of diamond and sapphire jewels with French imperial heritage.
This nine-piece suite of sapphire and diamond jewels is being sold as separate lots by Christie’s in Geneva on May 12. The set is designed around a classic motif: large sapphires surrounded by diamond clusters. The parure includes a tiara, a necklace, a bracelet, a pair of earrings, two pendants, two brooches, and a ring.
|Stephanie de Beauharnais, Grand Duchess of Baden (Wikimedia Commons)|
The parure’s original owner comes from a very famous royal family. Stéphanie de Beauharnais was a cousin of Alexandre de Beauharnais, the first husband of Empress Joséphine of France. When Joséphine’s second husband, Napoléon Bonaparte, was crowned emperor in 1804, Stéphanie found herself at the heart of the new imperial family. Her “uncle,” Napoléon, soon arranged a grand marriage for her. After adopting Stéphanie, raising her to imperial status, and giving her the title of Princesse Française, he brokered a match for her with Prince Karl of Baden, heir to that region’s throne. Karl wasn’t thrilled—he had apparently wanted to marry Princess Augusta of Bavaria—but the marriage went ahead in 1806. (Napoléon had plans for Princess Augusta, too: she was married to his stepson, Eugène de Beauharnais. They became the Duke and Duchess of Leuchtenberg.)
As a reward for Karl’s decision, Napoléon elevated his grandfather to the title of Grand Duke of Baden. Karl inherited that title in 1811, after which he and Stéphanie began living together and had several children. Grand Duchess Stéphanie had a jewelry box filled with pieces suitable for a grand duchess and imperial princess, including today’s sapphire parure and the delicate Baden Seed Pearl Tiara.
|Princess Josephine of Baden, Princess of Hohenzollern; Prince Leopold, Prince of Hohenzollern; Prince William, Prince of Hohenzollern (Wikimedia Commons)|
Stéphanie’s descendants have managed to keep the sapphire and diamond parure in the family until the present day. It was inherited in 1860 by her second daughter, Princess Josephine, who had married Prince Karl Anton of Hohenzollern in 1834. They had six children, including King Carol I of Romania, Queen Stephanie of Portugal, and the Countess of Flanders.
The sapphires were inherited by Josephine and Karl Anton’s eldest son, Leopold, in 1900; in turn, he bequeathed them to his eldest son, William, in 1905. The lot notes provided by Christie’s end the documented chain of inheritance there, using the phrase “thence by descent” to describe later ownership. Now, one of the descendants of Prince William of Hohenzollern is selling the jewels.
As I mentioned earlier, the parure has been broken up for sale as individual lots rather than being offered as a complete set. The first item, Lot 136, is the sapphire and diamond necklace. The notes describe the piece as an early nineteenth century jewel, made of gold and set with “octagonal step-cut sapphires, rose and old-cut diamonds.” Diamond anthemions, which were especially popular in the first decades of the nineteenth century, are also integrated into the design and are linked by diamond swag festoons. The auction estimate for the necklace is set at around $198,000-352,000 USD.
The second jewel, Lot 137, is the sapphire and diamond ring. (Very similar to an iconic royal ring we’ve discussed here recently!) The ring, which is a size 6 1/2, is also made of gold and set with an “octagonal step-cut sapphire, single and old-cut diamonds.” It’s expected to bring between $11,000-20,000 USD.
The sapphire and diamond bracelet from the parure, which features eight linked clusters, is Lot 138. Like the other pieces in the set, it is made of gold and features “octagonal step-cut sapphires” and “old-cut diamonds.” Christie’s has set the piece’s estimate at between $11,000-19,000 USD.
These gorgeous diamond and sapphire earrings are the fourth lot (Lot 139) from the set. The lot notes describe the earrings as having “pear and cushion-shaped sapphires” and “old-cut diamonds” set in gold. Intriguingly, three of the four sapphires are said to be from Sri Lanka (but not the fourth!). These have a higher auction estimate: between $33,000-50,000 USD.
This lovely diamond and sapphire brooch is being offered as Lot 140 in the auction. (It reminds me a little bit of the Connaught Sapphire Brooch.) Though its design is a bit different, it’s said to have been made at the same time as the rest of the suite, and composed of gold set with “octagonal step-cut sapphire, rose and old-cut diamonds.” Its auction estimate is between $5500-11,000 USD.
This classic sapphire and diamond cluster brooch, a design cousin of the famous Albert Brooch, is Lot 141. Like the other pieces in the set, it is made of gold set with an “oval-shaped sapphire” and “old-cut diamonds.” The sapphire in this jewel was also sourced from Sri Lanka. The estimate is set at $27,500-44,000 USD.
The set also features a pair of diamond and sapphire pendants. The first, Lot 142, features an “octagonal step-cut sapphire” and “old-cut diamonds” set in gold. It’s expected to bring between $16,500-27,500 USD.
The second diamond and sapphire pendant from the set (Lot 143), features old-cut diamonds surrounding an oval-shaped sapphire. Like its sister pendant, it is estimated to fetch between $16,500-27,500 USD.
And the final item from the parure, the diamond and sapphire tiara, is presented as lot 144. The base of the tiara is wrapped in brown velvet, likely to match the hair color of its most recent wearer, for added comfort. The notes describe the piece, which is made of gold, as containing “octagonal step-cut and oval-shaped sapphires” as well as “rose and old-cut diamonds.” Diamond anthemion elements, echoing the design of the suite’s necklace, are placed between the sapphire clusters. This is the big draw from the set: it’s expected to bring a whopping price, estimated between $154,000-275,000 USD.
The family is also selling another royal sapphire and diamond jewel in this auction—we’ll have a closer look at the piece tomorrow!