Queen Marie-Amelie Sapphire, Diamond and Pearl Parure

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Origin of Name

The word "parure" was first applied in the 17th century to refer to a set of three or more matching pieces of jewelry, but later its definition was widened to include an entire wardrobe or suite of matching jewelry. Parures reached the height of its popularity in the Neoclassical period (late Georgian period in Britain) from around 1760 to 1830, particularly during the Napoleonic era that extended from around 1800 to 1814.

Napoleon Bonaparte restored Paris to its former glory as an international fashion center after the tumultuous years of the revolution, and extended his patronage to the jewelry craftsmen of Paris. Some of the renowned jewelry craftsmen whose services Napoleon Bonaparte engaged, to design jewelry for his court, noted for its brilliance and grandeur, were Martin Biennais, Marie Etienne Nitot and Francois Regnault Nitot. Napoleon's court jewelers designed expensive parures for his court made of diamonds, emeralds, rubies, pearls and sapphires or a combination of two or more of these gemstones. Napoleon lavished such expensive parures on the ladies of his court, such as his first empress consort, Empress Josephine and later his second wife and empress consort, Empress Marie-Louise.

Queen Marie-Amelie Sapphire Diamond and Pearl Parure was designed and executed for Queen Marie-Amelie, after her husband Louis Philippe ascended the throne of France as the King of the French, following the July revolution of 1830 that overthrew King Charles X. The parure was a combination of sapphires, diamonds and pearls, and hence referred to as Queen Marie-Amelie's Sapphire Diamond  and Pearl Parure. The parure which is now the property of the French Louvre Museum is considered as part of the French Crown Jewels and exhibited in the Apollo Gallery of the museum.

Constituent pieces of jewelry in the Queen Marie-Amelie Sapphire Diamond and Pearl Parure

The pieces of jewelry that constitute the Queen Marie-Amelie Sapphire Diamond and Pearl Parure are :-

1) Sapphire Diamond and Pearl Tiara

2) Shoulder Brooches

3) Belt Buckle

4) Brooch

5) A Pair of Earrings

The five pieces of the parure are still displayed in their original case, which clearly depicts the name of the designer Bapst.

1) Sapphire Diamond and Pearl Tiara

The sapphire, diamond and pearl tiara originated at the end of the Neoclassical period (late Georgian in Britain), but has Gothic revival features The main Gothic feature in the tiara are the sapphire pinnacles or spikes that arise from the upper surface of the tiara. There are seven sapphire spikes, of which the median one is the largest. The size of the other sapphire spikes decrease gradually from the center outwards. Each sapphire spike is composed of a central oval-shaped faceted blue sapphire, most probably of Sri Lankan origin, surrounded by rose-cut diamonds. The largest sapphire in the median spike is surrounded by 14 diamonds, of which the largest diamonds are at the top, gradually decreasing in size towards the base. The other oval-shaped faceted sapphires on the other spikes are also surrounded by 14 diamonds each.

Queen Marie Amelie Sapphire, Diamond and Pearl Tiara

Queen Marie Amelie Sapphire, Diamond and Pearl Tiara

The scrolls on the upper surface of the tiara is also another gothic feature. There are six scrolls, arranged in such a way that oppositely coiled ends lie just below the base of each sapphire and diamond spike. The scrolls are also set with diamonds. There are approximately 25 diamonds in each scroll, making a total of 150 diamonds on the scrolls. A second set of smaller spikes are situated at the base of each scroll, between the larger spikes. There are six such smaller spikes, whose center is occupied by a smaller round-shaped faceted sapphire, surrounded by 10 diamonds. At the base of each of these smaller spikes are two perfectly spherical pearls, thus giving a total of 12 spherical pearls for the six spikes. In the gaps between the upper scrolls and the lower semicircular band, a single large spherical pearl is situated. There are seven such gaps occupied by seven spherical pearls.

The lower semicircular band of the tiara, is two-layered, out of which the upper layer is occupied by a single row of 71 rose-cut diamonds, and the lower layer by over 35 large spherical shaped pearls. Thus there are over 54 spherical pearls, 13 blue sapphires and approximately 379 diamonds  in the tiara. The breakdown of the 379 diamonds are as follows :- 98 diamonds on the larger spikes, 60 diamonds on the smaller spikes, 150 diamonds on the scrolls and 71 diamonds on lower semicircular band. The predominant gemstones on this tiara are no doubt the blue sapphires because of their larger sizes. This is followed by the diamonds, whose dominance is due to their numbers in spite of their smaller sizes. The 54 spherical pearls, which are larger than the diamonds, are the least dominant of the three, but nevertheless a significant contributor to the beauty of the tiara. Thus the name "Sapphire Diamond and Pearl Tiara" in that order signifies the predominance of each of the three types of gemstones on the tiara.

2) Shoulder Brooches

The two shoulder brooches in the parure are perfectly matched in terms of size, shape and design. The metal work, the settings and the type of gemstones used are exactly identical. One is exactly a "carbon-copy" of the other. The features in the two brooches are so identical, that only experts in the field would be able to identify one from the other.

Designs and motifs used are characteristic of jewelry of the Neoclassical or Late Georgian period, during which the parure originated. The two scroll works and the two rosette-like mosaics are the most prominent of these Neoclassical motifs. Overall the design is a combination of leaf work, scroll work and rosette-like mosaics. The two brooches being perfectly identical a detailed description of just one of them would suffice, in our consideration of this historic parure.

At the top of the brooch is a rosette-like mosaic of blue sapphire, diamonds and pearls. The center of the rosette is occupied by a round faceted blue sapphire, which is surrounded by an immediate whorl of diamonds followed by a whorl of white spherical pearls. The pearls in the outer whorl are larger than the diamonds of the inner whorl. There are 10 diamonds in the inner whorl and 13 pearls in the outer whorl.

Just below the upper rosette are two large rose-cut diamonds, from which arise two identical leaf-like motifs on either side, set with smaller rose-cut diamonds. Just below the two leaf-like motifs are the main scroll and leaf work designs of the brooch, also set with diamonds and only two pearls. The right and left scroll works follow an anticlockwise  and clockwise orientation respectively. The center of each scroll work is set with four large rose-cut diamonds. Somewhere in the middle of each scroll is a single white spherical pearl. The centerpiece of the brooch which lies between the two oppositely oriented scrolls is occupied by a large cushion-cut blue sapphire. A single large rosette pendant arises from below the cushion-cut blue sapphire. The upper end of the rosette pendant is occupied by three spherical pearls arranged as a triangle. The rosette itself is made up of a central oval-shaped faceted blue sapphire, surrounded immediately by a whorl of 16 rose-cut diamonds, followed by a whorl of 12 spherical white pearls. The pearls are larger than the diamonds.

Queen Marie Amelie Belt Buckle and Shoulder Brooches

Queen Marie Amelie Belt Buckle and Shoulder Brooches

3) The Belt Buckle

The centerpiece of the belt buckle is a large octagonal-shaped cabochon blue sapphire, which is surrounded by a single row of white rose-cut diamonds. The size of the central octagonal cabochon blue sapphire, is almost equivalent to the size of the largest oval-shaped faceted blue sapphire in the central sapphire spike of the Sapphire Diamond and Pearl Tiara. Thus the blue sapphire in the belt buckle is one of the largest blue sapphires in the entire parure.

4) The Brooch

The design of the brooch is in all respects similar to the design of the shoulder brooches, except for the upper rosette, which has been replaced by a different floral motif. The length of the brooch is also slightly shorter than the length of the shoulder brooches. This is because the stem of the lower pendant is shorter in the brooch than in the shoulder brooches. Another significant difference is that the rosette of the lower pendant in the brooch is surrounded by only a single layer of white spherical pearls. The inner layer of diamonds found in the shoulder brooches is missing. The leaf work and scroll work in both brooches are exactly identical.

Queen Marie Amelie Sapphire, Diamond and Pearl Parure

Queen Marie Amelie Sapphire, Diamond and Pearl Parure

5) A Pair of Earrings

The pair of earrings in the Marie Amelie Sapphire Diamond and Pearl Parure, are pendant earrings, based on a design similar to the shoulder brooches and the single brooch, with scroll and leaf work and rosettes. The lower pendant part of the earring hangs from the upper stud part made up of a rosette with a central oval-shaped faceted blue sapphire surrounded by a layer of diamonds. The lower pendant part has the same scroll and leaf work design found in the shoulder brooches and the single brooch. The pendant rosette has a single large oval-shaped blue sapphire surrounded by a single layer of diamonds, and the stem has three spherical white pearls arranged as a triangle, as in the shoulder brooch.

History of the Queen Marie Amelie Sapphire Diamond and Pearl Parure

Circumstances that led to Marie Amelie becoming the Queen of the French

The French revolution of 1789-93, was the beginning of a period of uncertainty and instability in France that lasted  until 1870-71, when France declared its 3rd republic after the defeat of Napoleon III in the Franco-German war. The 1st republic that was declared immediately after the revolution and the abolishing of the monarchy, ended after Napoleon I took power as the absolute dictator of France and crowned himself as the Emperor of France in 1804. With the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1814, the Allies restored the Bourbon monarchy, and installed Louis XVIII, a brother of the executed Louis XVI, as the new monarch of France. The country and its people were now deeply split into three major factions, the republicans, the monarchists and the bonapartists. The period of instability in France was a power struggle between these three factions, the monarchists and bonapartists regaining control for short periods of time, until the republicans finally prevailed and were able to consolidate the gains of the revolution.

After the restoration of the monarchy by outside forces in 1814, two of Louis XVI's brothers,  Louis XVIII and Charles X ruled France from 1814 to 1824 and 1824 to 1830 respectively. In 1830, following the abdication of Charles X in favor of his 10-year old grandson, Henri,  during the July revolution, Louis Philippe was appointed as regent to the young king. Louis Philippe was entrusted by Charles X to convey his desire to the elected Chamber of Deputies, to have his grandson succeed him. But, Louise Philippe betrayed Charles X, and did not convey his wishes to the Chamber of deputies, probably to increase his own chances of succession. The deputies were already aware of Louis Philippe's liberal policies and his popularity with the masses, and the fact that he originated not from the senior branch of the House of Bourbon, but the cadet branch that would succeed to the French throne, should the senior branch die out. Thus the deputies deliberately chose Louise Philippe as the successor, disregarding the claims of the senior branch to continue the succession, and Louise Philippe was proclaimed as the new King of France. Louis Philippe ascended the throne of France in August 1830, and assumed the title "King of the French" and his Queen Consort Marie Amalie became the "Queen of the French."

Louise Philippe, the "Citizen King" or the "Bourgeois monarch"

Louise Philippe fully aware of the change in attitude of the common man towards the monarchy, after the French revolution, adopted a simple and austere life style, devoid of the pomp and pageantry of the court of his bourbon predecessors and their lavish pending styles. During the initial years of his rule he became very popular, and was much loved by the French citizens, who referred to him as the "citizen king' or "bourgeois monarch." His popularity surged further when he requested that Napoleon's remains be returned to France.

The Queen Amalie Sapphire, Diamond and Pearl Parure was probably part of the queen's personal jewelry collection ?

It is said that during his period of rule, in keeping with his austere policies Queen Amalie did not make use of the crown jewels of France, reassembled by Napoleon I, after the French revolution, and further enhanced by Louis XVIII and Charles X. Queen Amalie only wore her personal jewelry during the 18-year period she served as the Queen of the French. In this context, the Queen Amalie Sapphire, Diamond and Pearl Parure, the subject of this webpage, was most probably part of the personal collection of jewelry that belonged to the queen, that was designed and executed by Bapst, the court jeweler, using jewels purchased by Louis Philippe from the jewelry markets of Paris. The parure was probably inherited later by Queen Amalie's descendants, with whom it remained, until it was acquired by the Louvre Museum of France. This probably explains why the parure still remains in tact as it was produced over 160 years ago, for if the parure was part of the crown jewels of France, it would have undoubtedly undergone modification or reset in a different setting, when the jewels passed through the hands of the next queen consort of France, Empress Eugenie de Montijo, wife of Napoleon III, a great connoisseur and collector of jewels, who was known to have reset most of the crown jewels of France to suite her own tastes and the fashions of the time.

Louvre Museum of France

Louis Philippe's abdication in 1848 and exile to England

Louis Philippe's popularity declined towards the later years of his rule, and his government was perceived as increasingly conservative and monarchial. During his rule the condition of the working classes deteriorated, and the gap between the rich and the poor further widened. The economy of the country was mismanaged and the country was heading for an economic crisis. Moreover Louis Bonaparte, the nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte who was living in exile in England, was spearheading a campaign for the restoration of Bonapartism in France, and was advancing his cause as a possible successor. The people of France still cherished the days of prosperity and greatness the country achieved, under the mighty dictator, and were not averse to Louis Bonaparte's propaganda. With the country plunging into an economic crisis in 1847, the people of France again revolted against their king in February 1848, known as the February 1848 Revolution. King Louis Philippe abdicated in favor of his nine-year old grandson Philippe on February 24, 1848 and fled the country with his wife and children to England, where he took up residence in Claremont, Surrey, and died in exile on August 26, 1850. On February 26, 1848, France proclaimed the second republic, and on December 10 the same year, Louis Bonaparte was elected the President of the second republic, by a landslide victory polling 5.5 million votes, as against 2 million votes for all other candidates combined.

Louis Philippe- King of the French

Louis Philippe- King of the French

Marie Amelie - A short biography

Marie Amelie who was born on April 26, 1782, in Caserta,  Italy, was the daughter of the King of Naples, Ferdinand IV  and his wife Maria Carolina, who was the sister to Marie Antoinette, the queen consort of King Louis XVI. She was engaged as a child to marry her cousin, Marie Antoinette's son, the future King of France, a marriage which never materialized as her young fiancé died in 1789 of consumption. During the turbulent times in Italy in the early 19th century, she was forced to leave her home at the age of 18, and take refuge in various royal houses, when she first met her future husband Louis Philippe, who had also fled from France in the aftermath of the French revolution.  Three years after she first met Louis Philippe in Italy, the two were married in 1809, and she became the Duchess d'Orleans. The couple, who already had four children, returned to France after Napoleon Bonaparte's downfall in 1814, where they set up home. 

Queen Marie Amelie- Queen of the French

Queen Marie Amelie- Queen of the French

Louis Philippe who had reconciled the Orleans family, the lesser branch of the House of Bourbon, with the elder branch of the House of Bourbon, represented by Louis XVIII, while in exile, was given the Palais Royale, the former home of his father, the previous Duc d'orleans, after Louis XVIII was installed as King by the Allies, after the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte. Marie Amelie had six more children after she settled down with her husband in France, making ten children in all, out of whom eight survived into adulthood. She had already delivered her 10 children, by the time she became the Queen of the French in 1830, when her husband Louis Philippe, ascended the throne of France, as the King of the French, in the immediate aftermath of the July Revolution. She kept a low profile as the Queen of the French, and did not play an active role in politics, nor try to exert undue influence on her husband the King. Thus she managed to be above the suspicion of the French people. This was in sharp contrast to the behavior of her aunt Marie Antoinette, who paid the supreme price for exerting undue influence over her husband King Louis XVI. After her husband's abdication during the 1848 revolution, she escaped with her husband and her family to England, where she took up residence in Claremont, Surrey. Her husband Louis Philippe died two years later in 1850. Queen Marie Amelie continued to live in England, and died 16 years later on March 24, 1866.

You are welcome to discuss this post/related topics with Dr Shihaan and other experts from around the world in our FORUMS (forums.internetstones.com)

Related :-

1) Emerald and Diamond Parure of Marie Louise

2) Marie-Therese, Duchess d'Angouleme Emerald and Diamond Tiara

3) La Regente Pearl - La Perle Napoleon

References :-

1) Maria Amalia of the Two Sicilies - From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

2) Louis-Philippe I, King of the French

3) Neoclassical Jewelry - from the Antique Jewelry University

5) Gothic Jewelry - from Antique Jewelry University 


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