Thursday, 12 September 2019

The Royal Gemstones of 1791

When the revolution had swept the royal family forcibly from Versailles to Paris, an inventory was made over the content of the royal treasury - including the jewels and precious stones owned by the royal family. These were the accumulated stones gathered over centuries and worth a staggering fortune. The treasury housed every imaginable gemstone - and lots of them. Below is an illustration of what the French Crown Jewels could boast of in the very last decade of the 18th century. For a full description of every stone see gallica.bnf.fr.

Since the full inventory is several hundred pages long, I have focused on the sheer numbers of each type of gemstone. It should be noted that these were "loose" stones and therefore does not account for gemstones mounted on jewellery such as necklaces, brooches, aigrettes, earrings etc.

Diamonds

A total of 367 diamonds were accounted for; these included "the Regent" and other very famous diamonds. The majority of the diamonds were clear diamonds or white diamonds but some were of a more exotic colour such as pink.

Their estimated worth: 16.730.403 livres.

Pearls

No less than 204 individual pearls were identified and assessed. Most pearls were categorized as "Oriental". Their shape varied a lot; some were described as beautifully shaped while others were simply said to be "ill formed". Some pearls were arranged in rows of at least 28 pearls each.

Their estimated worth: 996.700 livres

Billedresultat for regent diamond
"The Regent"

Rubies

The inventory recorded 146 rubies in the royal treasury. Their colours varied from deep red, to pale rose and even a so-called "vinegar" colour. The largest was a massive, rectangular-cut Spinel ruby of 56 carats and worth 50.000 livres.

Their estimated worth: 126.422 livres

Emeralds

The crown possessed 139 emeralds by 1791. Of these 109 were described as having flaws where the stones had been cut. The largest single emerald was 16 carat and was apprised at 12.000 livres. It had been cut in a square shape and was of a remarkably beautiful colour. 

Their estimated worth: 32.020 livres.

Sapphires

There were 52 sapphires to be found in the royal treasury. Their colour varied greatly; some were described as "beautiful" and "strong" in hue while others were "weak". The collection featured a massive sapphire weighing no less than 132 carats! That particular stone was estimated at 100.000 livres alone. Every single sapphire was noted as originating from "the Orient".

Their estimated worth: 152.930 livres

Topazes 

69 topazes were accounted for. A great deal of them were labelled as being yellow rather than the more common amber-like tone. The biggest stone in the collection was a rectangular topaz of 27 carats.

Their estimated worth: 41.850 livres

Amethysts

Just 3 amethysts were recorded and all were described as being of a "weak colour". The largest was 13,5 carats which is considerably larger than the other two which were only 3 and 2 carats respectively.

Their estimated worth: 6.800 livres

Garnets

8 garnets completed the inventory. Among them, the so-called "Syrian" garnets are the most prominent. The collection included a square-shaped Syrian garnet of "fine colour".

Their estimated worth: 3.100 livres



The total worth of the inventory was estimated to be 18.090.225 livres.

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