The French are famous for their love of coloured gemstones, and sapphires are no exception. Among the multitudes of jewels to come from France, there are pieces of sapphire jewellery that undoubtedly stand out.
The earrings which hold the Sapphires Richelieu are some of the most beautiful sapphire earrings in the world. Two magnificent cushion cut sapphires are set into the earrings, which bear the name of Odile de Richelieu, Countess Gabriel de La Rochefoucauld, Princess de La Rochefoucauld. The sapphires, one 26.66 carats in weight and the other 20.88 carats in weight, were originally given to Richelieu in 1905 as a wedding gift when she married Count Gabriel de la Rochefoucauld, Prince de La Rochefoucauld. Following Richelieu’s wedding the gems were reset, and then reset again before being offered at auction in 2013. At the time of auction the sapphires were mounted in a pair of earrings featuring star motifs made of pear and round diamonds with cushion cut diamond spacers. The earrings sold for the equivalent of $8,358,520 on November 13th, 2013 at the “Magnificent Jewels” auction held by Sotheby’s in Geneva Switzerland. After coming into the possession of their new owner, the sapphires were reset a third time by Cartier into earrings featuring the jewellery house’s famous baguette and round diamond lily-of-the-valley motif.
The Orleans Sapphires may be the most resplendent of all French sapphire jewels. First existing as a single set of jewellery, the Orleans Sapphires are composed of two large sapphire parures: the Montpensier parure, and the Comte de Paris parure. The sapphires are believed to have been the possessions of Napoleon Bonaparte’s wife, Empress Josephine, which then were passed on to her daughter Hortense after Josephine’s death in 1814. During the fall of the French empire, Hortense was exiled from France and fled to Italy. While in Italy, Hortense sold the sapphires to their namesake Louis Philippe, Duke of Orleans, in 1821, who then gave the gems to his wife Marie Amelie. After Louis Philippe was crowned the French king in 1830, the sapphires were given to French jeweller Bapst to be used in the creation of a grand sapphire parure. Bapst created a parure featuring a sapphire and pearl tiara with matching, earrings, necklace, and numerous brooches. The sapphire and pearl tiara was partially dismantled to become what is now called the Montpensier parure, and the sapphire brooches were used in the creation of a second sapphire and diamond set, the Comte de Paris parure; both sets of jewellery featured the Orleans sapphires set into different scrolling motifs accented with diamonds. Following Marie Amelie’s passing, the two sapphire parures were separated and inherited by her son and grandson, gaining their names in the process; the sapphire and pearl parure was inherited by Duke of Montpensier, Prince Antoine, and the parure without pearls was inherited by Comte de Paris, Prince Philippe. The two sets joined each other once again in 1864 when Prince Philippe married Prince Antoine’s daughter, Marie Isabelle. The sapphires remained in the care of each successive Comte de Paris until after Henri, son of Comte Jean, married Isabelle Braganza Palermo of the Braziian Royal family in 1931. Isabelle frequently wore the Comte de Paris parure and often lent the Montpensier set to Marie-Thérèse of Württemberg, her daughter-in-law, but Henri and Isabelle sold both sets in order to recover from extensive political expenses. The current location of the Montpensier sapphire parure is unknown, but the Comte de Paris sapphire parure was ultimately acquired by the Louvre Museum in 1985, where it can still be viewed by the public to this day.
These amazing pieces of sapphire jewellery are among the finest pieces of sapphire jewellery known in recent times. In the next part of this series, read about famous sapphire jewellery of Eastern Europe.
Here is some of our favourite sapphire jewellery from the Skyjems catalog:
© 2020 Yaĝé Enigmus a.k.a. Kevin Back