10 jewelry of the legendary french crown collection
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The French Crown Jewelry is a special collection created by François Ist in 1530. Its tumultuous history and the exceptional pieces it contains make this collection one of the most legendary in the world. Therefore we have chosen to tell you the details of its creation and its 10 most impressive jewelry.
The Creation of the French Crown Jewelry
Origin (16th century)
Originally, the collection consisted of 8 "diamonds". The latter term was a generic name for all beautiful pieces. It was set in rings and carefully preserved. It was protected by the inalienability’s law: on the death of the king, the jewelry worn by the queen must be handed over to the Royal Treasury. But it was not applied as the financial difficulties of the kingdom forced Henry III to pawn it. Thus, the initial collection disappeared excepted the "Côte de Bretagne".
Ancient regime (1610 - 1789)
A few decades later, the funds dedicated to this collection were considerably increased. In 1661, Mazarin gave Louis XIV eighteen exceptional diamonds. The largest of these was named Sancy, while the others bore the name of the donor. Their number increased during the reign of the Sun King. Some of them were pawned during the wars but they were always recovered.
Revolution (1789 - 1799)
The French Revolution was a major historical period which put an end to absolute monarchy in favour of varied regimes. It ended when Napoleon Bonaparte tooks power in 1799.
Following the fall of the absolute monarchy, the Crown Jewelry collection no longer belonged to the king, who was imprisoned. They were moved from Versailles to the Garde-Meuble de la Couronne. During the week of 11 to 17 September 1792, thieves trained by Paul Miette stole a large part of this collection in what would later be called the greatest theft of the millennium. The bandits were caught, but several major pieces were never recovered.
The collection was strengthened by the emigrants’ goods and the jewelry of the King of Sardinia. But the latter were soon sold abroad to fill a financial gap.
Reconstitution (1799 - 1870)
With finances restored by the Consulate, Napoleon Bonaparte had the jewels dispersed abroad returned to France. In 1814, it had 57,771 diamonds, 5,630 pearls and 1,671 coloured stones (424 rubies, 66 sapphires, 272 emeralds, 235 amethysts, 547 turquoises, 24 cameos, 14 opals, 89 topazes). In 1830, the collection was valued at over 20 millions francs.
10 legendary jewelry owned by the French Crown
1 - The White Diamond known as "The Regent”
It is a White Diamond of 140,64 carats considered as the purest and the most beautiful diamond of the world. It was discovered in 1698 in Golconde in South India when it was 426 carats. One of its first purchasers was the regent Philippe d'Orléans who gave it his name.
It was worn by many French kings including Louis XIV who wore it on his coronation crown. His wife Marie-Antoinette wore it as a piece of jewelry while Napoleon Ist placed it on the hilt of his sword at his coronation. During the occupation of the territory by the Germans (World War II), it was hidden in the plaster sealing the marble of one of the many fireplaces that make up the Château de Chambord. It is now exhibited in the Appolon Gallery of the Louvre Museum.
2 - The Pale Yellow Diamond called "The Sancy”
This 55.23 carat White/Pale Yellow diamond is the first cut diamond worn by a King. It was worn by Charles the Fearless on his hat along with two rubies. He lost it and the jewel, probably discovered in India in the 15th century, was then passed from hand to hand. In 1717, Philippe D'Orléans acquired it from Mazarin and it joined the royal collection. It was used, among other things, to set the fleur-de-lys in the crown of King Louis XV and the bust of Marie-Antoinette. It now rests in the Galerie Appolon of the Louvre.
3 - The Blue Diamond of Louis XIV known as "The Hope Diamond”
Originally, it is a 69-carat Blue Diamond. It is called the Blue Diamond of the Crown of France, Bleu de France or Bleu de Tavernier, the name of the man who brought it back from India in 1668 to sell it to Louis XIV. It is the largest blue diamond discovered to date. It was lost after the 1792 theft until it turned up in England. It was cut to form the 45.52 carat Hope Diamond. Contrary to its name, this diamond has a reputation for being cursed. Indeed, many of its owners met a tragic end. Currently, it is kept at the National Museum of Natural History, in Washington, D.C., in the United States.
4 - The Blue Sapphire known as "The Great Sapphire”
This is a Blue Sapphire of 138.80 carats in the shape of a parallelepiped. Louis XIV acquired it in 1669 from the wealthy Roman Ruspoli family, who owned another sapphire bearing their name and which has often been confused with the stone that now belongs to the French Crown. Some say that the King wore this gem on his tie, although there is no historical evidence to support this. Originally from Sri Lanka, this gemstone is now on display in the "Treasures of the Earth" exhibition at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris.
5 - The large chain of 45 diamonds
This is a chain of table-cut diamonds, with the exception of a single 8.5 carat piece cut into a point. They were set in bezels that were linked together to form a huge ceremonial necklace. A quarter of them were coloured diamonds, some of which are legendary. They included the "de Guise", the "Second Mazarin", the "Miroir de Portugal", the "Grand Mazarin", and the "Mazarins" "VIII", "X", "XII", "XIII", "XIV", ... The whole set is valued at nearly 2 million pounds. Unfortunately, this exceptional jewel disappeared during the theft of 1792.
6 - The Spinelle, also known as "Côte-de-Bretagne”
Spinel is a precious stone often confused with ruby because of its colour. This one has a rich history linked to that of France. It belonged to 3 duchesses of Brittany before being recovered by François I. Originally, it’s a 212 carats stone which was then cut by Jacques Guay at the request of Louis XV. It then became part of the Golden Fleece in the form of a dragon pig. It is currently on display in the Appolon Gallery at the Louvre Museum.
7 - The Pink Diamond called "Hortensia"
It is an orange-pink diamond of 21.32 carats. Its five-sided cut earned it the name "five-sided diamond" before taking the name "Hortensia" in homage to the Dutch queen, Hortense de Beauhamais, who wore it in the 19th century. Much earlier, King Louis XIV, in reference to King Louis XIV, wore it on the third buttonhole.
8 - The King Louis XVI's diamond sword
This sword would have belonged to Louis-Charles de France (1785-1795). He was the second son of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. His sword has reduced proportions: it is that of a princely child.
The hilt and pommel are made of agate and the hilt of gilded silver enriched with jewels set in chatons. The triangular blade is engraved with flowers on three sides. The scabbard is made of sharkskin, with gilt fittings, all decorated with gems.
Louis-Charles seems to have had a pronounced taste for military games. According to Madame de Tourzel, his nurse, "One of his greatest pleasures was to fire small cannons in his garden and to order the sabre to be fired". Another of his games consisted in putting on a suit of armour that had been given to him, helmet on his head, lance in his hand and thus presenting himself as the knight Bayard.
9 - The Richelieu's chapel
This is a crown worn by the Cardinal of Richelieu. It has many precious stones. It is stored in the Louvre Museum.
10 - The King Louis XV's Golden Fleece
Louis XV was awarded the Golden Fleece in 1749. For this occasion, the jeweller Pierre-André Jacquemin (1720-1773) made a coloured badge of the Golden Fleece. It consists of several large colored gems whose stones are now separated. The king had a second insignia, the so-called "white set", which consists of 4 large diamonds, 175 smaller ones and 80 rubies. The latter two have now disappeared and only exist on the basis of reconstructions made after the event.