This rare jewel up for auction once belonged to Napoleon’s daughter

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Written by Jacqui Palumbo, CNN

A rare set of nine jewels once belonging to Stéphanie de Beauharnais, Grand Duchess of Baden and adopted daughter of Napoleon Bonaparte, is auctioned 200 years after the death of the French Emperor.

The sapphire and diamond set includes a tiara, earrings, ring, bracelet and pendants. They will be sold individually at Christie’s in Geneva on May 12, with high estimates ranging from 10,000 to 250,000 Swiss francs ($ 11,000 to $ 275,430) per piece. The tiara and bracelet jewels – which were once part of a belt – have been remodeled by the Grand Duchess’s daughter, Princess Josephine.

The tiara was once a belt but was remodeled by the daughter of the Grand Duchess.
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The tiara was once a belt but was remodeled by the daughter of the Grand Duchess. Credit: Courtesy of Christie’s

“Under Napoleon’s court, jewelry was a staple of fashion and women wore matching tiaras, necklaces, bracelets, brooches, rings, earrings and belts decorated with precious stones,” Christie specialist Lukas Biehler said in an email. “Fashion dictated that the waist was very high on dresses and court ladies needed a belt, which was placed just below the neckline. High quality sapphires were incredibly rare as it was long before the era of industrial mining. “

Christie’s sale also includes a crown of sapphires and diamonds that once belonged to 19th-century Portuguese monarch Maria II, whose daughter, Infanta Antónia, eventually married Stephanie de Beauharnais’ grandson, Prince Leopold of Hohenzollern. The high Crown estimate is 350,000 Swiss francs ($ 385,602).

The crown of Maria II, whose daughter married Stéphanie de Beauharnais' grandson, is also part of Christie's sale.

The crown of Maria II, whose daughter married Stéphanie de Beauharnais’ grandson, is also part of Christie’s sale. Credit: Courtesy of Christie’s

The Beauharnais set was made in the early 1800s from 38 sapphires originating in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), according to a press release from Christie’s. The earrings are crafted with pear and cushion shaped sapphires, while the necklace is made from octagonal sapphires, all rimmed with diamonds.

A written note found with the jewelry boxes indicated that the cousin of the Grand Duchess of Baden, Hortense de Beauharnais, had given her the set, according to Christie’s.

“It is possible that Stephanie bought her dear cousin’s adornment,” said Biehler, pointing out the close relationship between the two which has been documented through their numerous letters, which reside in the collection of the Fondation Napoléon in Paris.

The nine-piece set, including this brooch, was most likely given to the Grand Duchess by her cousin.

The nine-piece set, including this brooch, was most likely given to the Grand Duchess by her cousin. Credit: Courtesy of Christie’s

The jewelry is similar in style to an emerald and diamond necklace and earring housed in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, believed to have been a gift from Napoleon and his wife Josephine to the Grand Duchess. According to the museum’s description, “the large stones and the simplicity of the design are typical of the jewels favored at the court of Napoleon”.

It is believed that the set of Victoria & Albert Museum, which is also part of a larger finery, was a wedding gift for her arranged marriage to the Grand Duke of Baden in 1806. Napoleon himself did not have of direct heirs at the time of his death.

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