The Extravagant Jewelry Collection of Marie-Antoinette

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About the former jewelry collection of Marie-Antoinette and its history. As a queen Marie-Antoinette was a symbolic figure of the extravagance displayed by the French royal family from the early Baroque period.

Marie-Antoinette was born in France in 1755 as the fourth daughter of Maria Theresa and the Emperor Francis I. By the time she came of age she was betrothed to the Dauphin of France, who became King Louis XVI. As a queen Marie-Antoinette was a symbolic figure of the extravagance displayed by the French royal family from the early Baroque period. However her tastes in jewelry were more refined than her predecessors. This became apparent when she had the entire crown jewels reset with less ostentatious settings.

Marie-Antoinette was also outspoken in her opposition to the radical French politics of the day. These attributes and her reputation as a collector of valuable jewelry ultimately made her unpopular and led to her eventual trial and execution at the guillotine.

The Necklace of History: this extravagant 17th century diamond necklace has a controversial history and was said to have been owned by Marie-Antoinette. The necklace was first commissioned by King Louis XV in the 1770’s as a gift to Madame Dubarry, with whom the king was said to have been infatuated with. The French royal jewelers Bohmer & Bassenge made the necklace which took over two years because such a large number of diamonds were difficult to acquire at that time. Unfortunately for the jewelers by the time the necklace was finished King Louis XV had died. The necklace was offered to Louis XV successor Louis XVI and his consort queen Marie-Antoinette. Marie-Antoinette is said to have turned down the necklace because France was at that time on the eve of war with England and needed more important things than diamonds. The commission of the necklace had apparently bankrupted the royal jewelers, an incident that was later brought up at the trial of Marie-Antoinette and used against her with the accusation that she had defrauded the jewelers.

The Necklace of History is also called the Affair of the Necklace.

The Marie-Antoinette Blue Diamond: Marie-Antoinette’s private jewelry collection contained a 5.64 carat blue heart shaped diamond which the queen had set in a ring. The queen gave the ring to her close friend Princess Lobomirska, shortly before her trail in 1791. After the Polish princess died her estate was passed to her four daughters. The diamond became the property of Count Wladimir Potocki through his marriage to one of the daughters. The blue diamond was displayed at a number of prestigious exhibitions throughout the 19th century. In 1967 it was sold to a private collector at the Palais Galliera in Paris, and in 1983 it came up for auction at Christie’s in Geneva. It belongs to a private collector in Europe and is not on displayed to the public.

The Maire-Antoinette Blue diamond.

The Marie Antoinette earrings:  At the Smithsonian Institute in Washington there are a pair of diamond earrings that are believed to have been the property of Marie-Antoinette. The diamonds in the earrings weigh between 13 and 19 carats respectively; their exact weight is not known because of their settings. The earrings were a gift to the queen form Louis XVI at the beginning of their marriage. In the 19th century the earrings became the property of the London jeweler Pierre Cartier. The earrings came with a letter which explained their history and supposedly validated their authenticity from the late 17th century onwards. The earrings were sold in 1928 to Marjorie Merriweather Post. Later they came into the possession of Mrs. Eleanor Close Barzin who offered the earrings to the Smithsonian Institute in 1964, where they have remained on display since.

The Marie-Antoinette earrings. 

Marie-Antoinette also once owned the Hope Diamond (The Smithsonian Institute) diamond pins and a brooch that are now on display at the French Natural History Museum. The queen also wore the Regent diamond as a hat adornment (140.64 carats) at the coronation of King Louis XVI in 1775.

All photo's from commons.wikimedia.com

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Peter Bilton

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