Passionate Dates in History: A Thousand Years of Jewelry

1000 A celestial love. Pope Sylvester II gives Stephan of Hungary a crown containing 320 pearls, gems, and icons. Stephan was later made a saint.

1140 A childhood love. Eleanor of Aquitaine gives her friend Richard Animal a sapphire and gold ring with his initials. The two had studied together.

1236 A well-tressed love. Eleanor of Provence has nine jeweled chaplets and garlands for her hair when she marries Henry II. She later buys eleven more.

1299 Bridal rights. By Venetian law, only the bride may wear pearls at a wedding.

1375 A shining example. Alice Perrers, the mistress of Edward III, attends the Smithfield Joust as “Lady of the Sun,” resplendent with numerous jewels. Her jewelry inventory lists 22,000 pearls alone.

1396 A lavish love. Queen Isabella of France is wed to Richard II of England with a ring of sapphire and ruby worth £100. He also gives her crowns, a gemstone collar, a gold belt, jeweled buttons, and a pearl and gold chaplet for her hair.

1414 A nice outfit. The Duke of Burgundy pays for a dress with sleeves embroidered in 960 pearls with the lyrics and notes to “Madame, I am Joyful”.

1439 A mother’s love. Albert von Hapsburg’s pregnant widow steals the crown of St. Stephan of Hungary for her unborn son. She sells it back in 1463.

1477 A modern tradition. Mary of Burgundy weds the Archduke Maximilian of Austria. Historical records note, “At the betrothal, Your Grace must have a ring set with a diamond and also a gold ring.”

1525 A Protestant love. Martin Luther marries Catherine von Bora to “.please himself, tease the Pope, and spite the Devil.” The ruby and diamond ring is engraved with the words “Those whom God hath joined, let no man put asunder.”

1534 Love clasp. Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn: “.seeing I cannot be present in person with you, I send you the nearest thing to that possible, that is, my picture set in bracelets.wishing myself in their place when it shall please you.”

1588 A parting gift. From his deathbed, the Earl of Leicester sends Elizabeth I a rope of 600 pearls with a jewel in emeralds and diamonds as “a token of a humble faythfull harte as the last that ever I can send her.”

1599 A lust restrained. A new law in Venice permits women to wear pearls only after 15 years of marriage.

1603 “A blue jewel from a fair lady.” As Elizabeth I lays dying, a star-shaped sapphire and diamond ring is dropped from a window and brought north to summon King James of Scotland to claim the English throne.

1649 A devoted love. Charles I is beheaded wearing his favorite drop pearl earring. He bequeaths it to his daughter Mary.

1725 Riverbed bonanza. Diamonds are discovered in Brazil.

1751 White mystery. A new metal, platinum, is discovered.

1774 A brief alliance. Calling him “her husband,” Catherine the Great bestows a palace and a 51-ct. oval diamond on her lover, Count Grigori Potemkin. The “union” lasts two years.

1776 An admirable attempt. Count Grigori Orlov gives Catherine the Great the 189.60-ct. “Orlov” diamond to regain his claim as lover and favorite. His attempt fails.

1786 Platinum and cream. The royal goldsmith Janety fashions a platinum coffeepot and sugar bowl for Louis XVI.

1797 An indiscreet love. Goya paints the Duchess of Alba wearing two rings, one marked “Alba” and the other “Goya.”

1804 An old love. Josephine, the first wife of Napoleon I, gives him a watch and fob with words and symbols of love: Tender-a heart; Loyal-a dog; Passionate-a flame; Truthful-a mirror; Secret-a lock; Constant-a tower. The final links spell “united forever.”

1810 A new love. Three bracelets spell out a message with the first letter of their gemstones. They list the name, birthdate, meeting, and marriage of Napoleon I and Queen Marie Louise, his second wife.

1821 An amorous love. Alexander I of Russia is besotted with the Marchioness of Londonderry and tempts her with an intense pink topaz, a yellow diamond, and a matched set of deep Siberian amethysts. She remained “.free of guilt.”

1822 White Russia. Platinum deposits are discovered in Russia.

1829 White ice. Diamonds are found in the Ural Mountains in Russia.

1840 A true love. Queen Victoria marries Albert, Prince of Saxe-Coburg, with a ring symbolic of eternal love: a snake with its tail in its mouth.

1842 French caviar. Polynesia becomes a French colony, and black pearls are coveted throughout Europe.

1848 Midas touch. The California Gold Rush begins.

1853 A royal love. Emperor Napoleon III marries Eugenie de Montijo. Her wedding necklace is set with the Potemkin diamond, and her jewelry includes suites of rubies with white pearls and a fabled black pearl set.

1860 Silverglow. The Comstock Lode turns jewelry silver.

1866 Eureka! The Eureka diamond (10.73 cts.; also known as the O’Reilly Diamond) is found lying in the dirt in South Africa as part of a children’s game.

1886 Seeing red. Mogok ruby mines in Burma are at their height.

1908 A discreet love. King Edward VII’s “companion,” Mrs. George Keppel, gives him a Fabergé cigarette case with a rose-cut diamond snake grasping its tail. Queen Alexandra returns it after Edward VII’s death.

1910 A recurring love. Evalyn Walsh McLean visits Cartier in 1908 and gets the 94.80-ct. “Star of the East” diamond. Now, her dear husband treats her to the fabled Hope Diamond.

1917 A generous love. Morton Plant trades the keys to his mansion on Fifth Avenue to Cartier so his wife can have the pearls of her dreams.

1924 Mother lode. Platinum is discovered in South Africa.

1933 The golden rule. America abandons the gold standard. Now gold is for jewelry, not dollars.

1937 An infamous love. He could not rule “.without the woman I love.” The union of Edward, Duke of Windsor, to Wallis Warfield Simpson is “cinched” by the sapphire and diamond marriage contract bracelet, created by Van Cleef & Arpels.

1947 A loving subject. Queen Elizabeth II receives a 23.60-ct. pink diamond for her wedding from Dr. John Williamson, the Canadian geologist who discovered diamonds in Tanzania.

1956 A fairytale love. Grace Kelly weds Prince Rainier of Monaco in a gown buttoned with cultured pearls. Her pearl and diamond wedding jewelry is all by Van Cleef & Arpels.

1957 An affluent love. Stavros Niarchos presents his wife, the former Charlotte Ford, with the “Ice Queen,” a 128.25-ct. pear-shape diamond. The Ford family nicknames it “The Skating Rink.”

1967 An imperial love. The Shah of Iran makes his wife empress with a crown and necklace of enormous emeralds, pearls, diamonds, and rubies, mounted by Van Cleef & Arpels.

1968 A billionaire’s love. Aristotle Onassis weds Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy with a 40.42-ct. marquise diamond engagement ring accompanied by more than a million dollars in ruby and diamond jewelry.

1969 A good year for cleavage. Liz Taylor becomes the new owner of “La Peregrina,” the pear-shaped pearl given by Philip II of Spain to Mary I of England, and the 69.42-ct. pear-shaped “Taylor-Burton” diamond.

1979 Tickled pink. Colored and white diamonds are discovered at the Argyle mine in Australia. The ’80s are awash in colored diamonds.

1980 White-hot metal. Platinum hits $1,047 per troy ounce.

1981 A historic love. Prince Charles proposes to Lady Diana Spencer with an oval sapphire bordered by diamonds. The “Lady Di” ring is widely copied.

1987 From Wallis to Liz. Liz Taylor buys the diamond “Prince of Wales” feather brooch ($623,000) at the Duchess of Windsor’s jewelry auction.

1991 A material love. Madonna comes to the Oscars àla Marilyn Monroe in a 100-ct. diamond necklace, four bracelets, and pink diamond ring. Thank you, Harry Winston.

1993 A borrowed love. Donald Trump marries Marla Maples; the bride wears a $2 million tiara, another loaner from Harry Winston.

1996 Passion for color. Christie’s auctions a .95-ct. purplish-red diamond for a record-breaking $926,000 per carat.

1997 Titanic love. “Le Coeur de la Mer” may have gone down with the ship, but you can get a $3.2 million, 120-ct. copy or a Web site version in blue topaz.

1999 Logo love. Ben Affleck gives Gwyneth Paltrow the first pair of Harry Winston millennium logo earrings.

2000 Lucky lady. Asprey & Garrard, New York, unveils the world’s most expensive pearl necklace. Listed for sale at $3.2 million, it’s made of 26 cultured South Seas pearls that took 10 years to collect.

Lael Hagan is a jewelry historian. A portion of this timeline was developed for the Jewelry Information Center.