Thursday, 21 December 2017

The Jewels of the Crown of 1691

In September 1691 the Crown Jewels of France was entered into an inventory that survives to this day. The inventory is divided into chapters which I have chosen to copy here. These included the following:

Chapter I
Three of the crown's most precious stones were reserved for the use of the king. These were the Sancy valued at 600.000 pounds, the Bleu de France estimated at 400.000 pounds, and a large sapphire worth 40.000 livres. Both the Bleu de France and the sapphire could be fitted onto golden enameled sticks.

Louis XIV usually wore the Sancy in his hat while the Bleu de France and the sapphire were used for pins. The Bleu de France was worn by the king in his cravat for grand state occasions. When he received the ambassador of Persia in 1715 he wore both the Sancy and the Bleu de France.


The Sancy which would be worn as a hat pin

Chapter II
45 diamonds made up a magnificent necklace connected by hooks. Of these 44 were table-cut (meaning that the top had been cut off, creating a flat surface) while a single diamond remained uncut. This one weighed 8 1/2 carat. 
This necklace held some of the most splendid diamonds in the crown's possession. Included some diamonds inherited from Cardinal Mazarin: the Mirror of Portugal, the Grand Mazarin, and the Mazarins II, VIII, X, XII, XIII and XIV. Another famous diamond was de Guise. The combined value of the diamonds were 1,996,000 pounds.


The Jewels of the Napoleon Diamond Necklace
Although this particular necklace was commissioned by
Napoleon Bonaparte it shows the same type of necklace -
diamonds connected by hooks



Chapter III
The king owned 123 buttons for his justaucorps and no less than 300 so-called "boutonnières"; these were decorations worn by men in their buttonholes. Of these 151 of the 300 consisted of five diamonds and were valued at 3738 pounds each. The remaining 149 were single diamonds worth 2500 pounds each. This meant that the king's boutonnières were worth 936,938 pounds.

Nineteen fleurons were worth 787,495 pounds while another 48 buttons amounted to 185,136 pounds.

Furthermore, the king had to have the orders of the kingdom. Two Orders of Saint-Esprit were in the king's possession: one was for pinning on the blue sash (cordon bleu) and the other to fasten on the king's coat.
The cross of this order was made up of 112 diamonds. The order was shaped as a dove the body of which was a brilliant (35,000 pounds) and two wings of brilliants (42.000 pounds). The combined value of the piece was 150,750 pounds.

Billedresultat for louis xiv ordre de saint-esprit
The Order of the Saint-Esprit on a cordon bleu (not the
one that Louis XIV owned, though)

The queen also had her own orders. On state occasions she would be adorned with the cordon bleu fastened by a cross. The cross was made of 120 diamonds worth 155,666 pounds.

The inventory also mentions a sort of aigrette made up of seven large diamonds. The largest - placed in the centre - had been brought to France by the jeweler Tavernier and measured 43 carats. That one alone cost 200.000 pounds while the entire aigrette had a value of 470.000 pounds.

Today, most people know of the ill-fated Hope diamond. Before it got that name it was a part of Louis XIV's Crown Jewels. The king would wear it on his cravat.

Chapter IV
This chapter focuses on a vast set of gemstones in every colour imaginable. The set - referred to as a "parure" - consisted of another staggering amount of buttons:

  • 168 buttons for the waistcoat
  • 336 boutonnières for the waistcoat 
  • 19 fleurons for the coat
  • 48 buttons and 96 boutonnières for the coat
  • A cross of the Order of the Saint-Esprit
  • A bejewelled sword with 66 coloured stones and 137 diamonds
  • Two pairs of garter buckles
  • An aigrette
The complete cost of these: 940,070 pounds

This 1670 portrait of Louis XIV show him
wearing two bejewelled garters

Chapter V
During time of mourning the king would often don himself with a set of pearls and diamonds. 130 coat buttons, 19 boutonnières and an aigrette made up the mourning set. The total value of this set amounted to 1,499,713 pounds.

Chapter VI
The crown owned two more aigrettes that were not counted amongst the previous chapters. One was of seven large diamonds (perhaps this is why it is not mentioned before since it may be confused with the other aigrette of seven diamonds). The diamonds were cut to specifically fit the aigrette; the worth of the jewel was 188,290 pounds.
The other might seem rather small in comparison; a single diamond made up the aigrette. However, this diamond had a beautiful "peach blossom" hue to it which made it spectacular in itself. Its worth was 43,866 pounds.

Chapter VII
Anne of Austria brought a pearl necklace with her to Versailles. It held 25 round pearls imported from the Far East and was estimated to be worth 250.000 pounds. Interestingly, it contained the so-called "Queen of pearls" which Louis XIV had purchased in 1669 and presumably gifted to his mother. The pearl originated from Bazu and valued at 90.000 livres.

Detail of Anne of Austria wearing a pearl
necklace - however the "Queen of Pearls"
is not featured since the portrait is from 1639
- 30 years before it was bought

Chapter VIII
Four pairs of earrings were recorded in this eighth chapter. 

The first pair were girandole earrings and had four diamonds on each earring. These were not just any diamonds but had the fourth and fifth Mazarin diamond in one earring and the sixth Mazarin as well as the Richelieu diamond in the other. Their value was 500.000 pounds.

Not much is mentioned about the second pair other than that it also had four diamonds on each earring. The worth was also noted: 250.00 pounds. Given the prize in comparison to the first pair it is likely that these were smaller.

The third pair were also girandoles. Each earring's loop was shaped like a pearl and held three pearls attached to four diamonds. The diamonds were neatly facetted. The combined cost was 53,400 pounds.

The final pair were girandoles consisting of 11 diamonds on each earring. The value of the stones were 44,000 pounds.

Chapter IX
Three hair pins were described in this chapter at a combined value of 41,000 pounds. The most precious - at 20,000 pounds - was a yellow heart-shaped diamond. The second was a rose-coloured diamond also cut into the shape of a heart; this one was worth 11,000 pounds. The last was cut into a point and was described as having the "colour of hay" and cost 10.000 pounds.

Chapter X
A new sword is the only object in this final chapter. It was made from Damascene steel and had a gold handle richly decorated with gemstones. These stones counted 131 diamonds and 20 small diamonds. The stones were worth a combined 23,769 pounds



So, the royal family of France had quite an impressive treasure chest. To sum up the many numbers above, the Crown Jewels consisted of:
  • 5885 diamonds
  • 1588 gemstones
    • These were referred to as "coloured stones" and includes sapphires, rubies, emeralds etc. One of the most famous was the blue sapphire of Louis XIV
  • 488 pearls (including the "Queen of Pearls"

The total value: 11,430,481 pounds! 

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