A collection of sapphire and diamond 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 Christie’s Magnificent Jewels auction in Geneva on May 12.
The parure was fabricated in the 1800s and boasts a total of 38 sapphires originating from Ceylon (present-day Sri Lanka). The pieces will be sold in separate lots and comprise a tiara, a necklace, a pair of earrings, two pendants, two brooches, a ring, a bracelet, and an important sapphire crown that belonged to Maria II, queen of Portugal, that’s set with a Burmese sapphire in its center.
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, and her mother died two years later—so she was sent to live with nuns in the French countryside. But Aunt Josephine soon took her in and raised her in Versailles and Paris.
A month before her own wedding, Stephanie was adopted by Napoleon and became Her Imperial Highness Princess Stephanie Napoleon, which made it possible for her to marry Prince Charles of Baden.
The provenance of the sapphire and diamond jewelry is equally interesting: A record in writing, found between the boxes of jewels, 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,” according to a statement from Christie’s. Furthermore, reads the statement, “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’s death 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 140,000–250,000 Swiss francs ($149,000–$266,000), while the crown is estimated to fetch 170,000–350,000 Swiss francs ($180,000–$372,000).
Top photo: Diamond and sapphire tiara (all photos courtesy of Christie’s)
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