Christie’s & Sotheby’s to offer imperial jewels in May

Tiaras and full sapphire suites are on offer by the two auction houses

April 5, 2021: On May 31, a collection of sapphires and diamonds jewelry once owned by Stephanie de Beauharnais, the adopted daughter of Napoleon Bonaparte who married Prince Charles of Baden in 1806, will be offered at a Christie’s live auction in Geneva. 

Christies crown auction

The pieces will be sold in separate lots that includes nine pieces: a tiara, one collier, one pair of earrings, two pendants and brooches as well as one ring and one bracelet. An important sapphire crown of Maria II Queen of Portugal, set with a remarkable Burmese sapphire in the center, is also on offer. These exclusive pieces were crafted in the 1800s with a total of 38 sapphires originating from Ceylon.

Stephanie de Beauharnais, who became the Grand Duchess of Baden, was the niece of Josephine de Beauharnais, who married Napoleon Bonaparte in 1796. Stephanie was born in 1789, but sadly her mother died just two years later. Sent to live with nuns in the French countryside, her aunt Josephine soon took her in and raised her in Versailles and Paris.

However, a month before her own wedding, she was adopted by Napoleon and became Her Imperial Highness Princess Stephanie Napoleon, which made it possible for her to marry Prince Charles of Baden. 

Sapphire suite auction Christies

The provenance of the sapphire and diamond jewelry is quite interesting: in between boxes of jewels, a written record was found. It states that they were given to Stephanie by her cousin Hortense de Beauharnais, a known jewelry lover who was immortalized in paintings wearing “precious belts.” Later the statement continues that “Hortense’s financial papers, which are kept in the Napoleon archive in Paris, give evidence of her fortune between 1817 and 1837, the year she passed away. They show that she left Paris in 1816 with little money, but a lot of jewelry.”

After Stephanie died in 1860, the sapphire parure was passed to her second daughter, Josephine, Princess of Hohenzollern Sigmaringen. The present-day tiara was probably once a belt; in Napoleon’s court, women wore belts high up, directly under their bust.

In Josephine’s will, she left the sapphire set to her eldest son, Léopold. Around this time, the crown with detachable brooches from Queen Maria da Gloria of Portugal joined the collection. The tiara is estimated to sell for CHF 140,000–250,000 ($149,000–$266,000), while the crown is estimated to fetch CHF 170,000–350,000 ($180,000–$372,000).

Turning into a grand month, May will also see the auction of a royal tiara by Sotheby’s, which has passed down through generations of the Royal family of Italy. The diamond and pearl tiara will be offered with an estimate of $1-1.5 million (CHF 930,000 – 1,395,000) as part of Sotheby’s “Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels” auction in Geneva on May 11.

Italy royal family tiara auction by Sothebys

Dating to the second half of the 19th century, the tiara hails an extraordinary provenance, having belonged to two Royal Collections of Europe, and steeped in the rich history of the House of Savoy, among the world’s oldest royal families. Likely to have been presented to Maria Vittoria dal Pozzo as a wedding gift on the occasion of her marriage to Amadeo I of Savoy, Duke of Aoste, later King of Spain (1870-1873) in 1867, the natural pearl and diamond tiara, which has remained with the family for over 150 years, is believed to have been created by Musy Padre e Figli – Court Jeweller of Turin, and one of the oldest goldsmiths in Europe. It is composed of graduated scroll motifs set with cushion-shaped, circular- and single-cut diamonds, framing eleven slightly baroque drop-shaped natural pearls.

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