Since the 2019 restoration work, the French Crown Jewels are enthroned in majesty in the Louvre Museum in three showcases in the 17th century gallery of Apollo. From the crown of Louis XV to the Le Régent diamond of 140 carats, from the diadem of the Duchess of Angoulême, niece of Louis XVIII, to the crown of Empress Eugénie: everything shows the fever that had the monarchs, especially Louis XIV, to collect the gems, and to make jewels of goldsmithery. Louvre Museum facts.
The crown was created for King Louis XV in 1722 and used at his coronation. Made by Laurent Ronde, the French Crown jeweller, it originally contained a collection of Mazarin Diamonds, the Sancy diamond in the fleur-de-lis at the top of the arches, and the famous 'Regent' diamond, as well as hundreds of other precious diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires. All of France's about 20 crowns of the Ancient Regime, kept in the Basilica of Saint-Denis, were destroyed in 1793 during the French revolution. The crown of Louis XV was the only one to survive and counts, with those of the 19th century, among the only six remaining French crowns. In 1885 the French Third Republic decided to sell the Crown Jewels. Given its historic importance, the crown of Louis XV was kept, though its precious stones were replaced by glass.
This 426 carats stone was discovered in India, in the region of Golconde in 1698. In 1702, Thomas Pitt, the English governor of the fort of Madras, founded in 1654 by the English East India Company, acquired the diamond and had it cut in England by jeweler Harris in a brilliant square. Out of jealousy, evil tongues tried to destroy Pitt's reputation by spreading the rumor that Pitt had obtained it dishonestly. Since 1717, this diamond belonged to the Treasury of the French Crown. Indeed, it was bought for 135,000 pounds by Philippe d'Orléans, nephew of Louis XIV and Regent of the kingdom during the minority of Louis XV from 1715 to 1722. He was called the "Millionaire" before naming him the "Regent" . During the Revolution it was worth 12,000,000 pounds!
Shortly after his marriage to Eugénie, Napoléon III ordered a new set of pearls and diamonds for her, comprising a tiara, a crown and a large corsage brooch, which were executed by Lemonnier, and two shoulder brooches and two bodice pins, which were the work of jeweler Kramer. The pearls and diamonds came from a set created by Nitot for Marie-Louise from 1810 to 1812, and modified in 1819-1820. Lemonnier's diadem is visible in the famous portrait of Eugénie by Winterhalter. When the Crown diamonds were sold in 1887, the tiara was awarded to the jeweler Jacoby and luckily was not cut up; it was acquired in 1890 by Albert de Tour-et-Taxis, on the occasion of his marriage.
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The Crown Jewels collection was deliberately formed in 1530 by king François Ier who isolated a small group of eight stones or jewelry in his possession and declared them inalienable. This first collection, of which only the ruby known as the Côte-de-Bretagne remains, was considerably increased thereafter, particularly by Louis XIV. The stones were sometimes pledged but were always recovered. The treasure was lessened by the famous theft which took place in the week of September 11 to 17, 1792, at the Hôtel du Garde-Meuble de la Couronne, in Paris, where it was kept. But it was again increased under Napoléon, so that it included, in 1814, 65,072 stones and pearls, most of them mounted in jewelry, that is 57,771 diamonds, 5,630 pearls and 1,671 colored stones (424 rubies, 66 sapphires, 272 emeralds, 235 amethysts, 547 turquoise, 24 cameos, 14 opals, 89 topaz). Sheltered during the 1870 War, the Crown Jewels were successfully exhibited in Paris in 1878, on the occasion of the Universal Exhibition, then in 1884, at the Louvre, in the Salle des Etats.
But already they were threatened, not out of greed but out of hatred for the monarchy. The still fragile Republic wanted to forever deprive the pretenders of the possibility of using the Crown Jewels. The latter’s most effective adversary was Benjamin Raspail, a member of parliament. He tabled in the House in 1878 a motion calling for the sale, which was approved in June 1882 only, by 342 votes to 85. In the same year 1882, a commission of experts was appointed to prepare the sale; it happily proposed and succeeded in saving a few stones and pearls which were attributed to the Louvre (the Regent, the Côte-de-Bretagne), the Museum of Natural History and Ecole des Mines. After discussions in the Senate, the alienation law, adopted in December 1886, was published in the Official Journal on January 11, 1887, being signed by Jules Grévy, President of the Republic, and by Sadi Carnot, Minister of Finance: "Diamonds , precious stones and jewels belonging to the so-called Crown Jewels collection (…) will be sold at public auction. The proceeds of this sale will be converted into government annuities. "
At that time, the collection, rich in 77,486 stones and pearls, included two groups of jewels: the first, the oldest, dating from the Restoration and the second executed under the Second Empire, the Crown Diamonds not having been used under the July monarchy. During the Restoration, Louis XVIII brought up for his nieces, the Duchess of Angoulême and the Duchess of Berry, the adornments executed for Marie-Louise: thus the sale of 1887 included the adornment of rubies and diamonds, the adornment of sapphires and diamonds, the set of turquoises and diamonds and the diadem of emeralds and diamonds executed for these princesses, who had also served for the Empress Eugénie. As for the jewelry made during the Second Empire, it was bursting with opulence and imagination. It was in particular on the occasion of the Universal Exhibition of 1855 that Napoléon III had the greatest Parisian jewelers make magnificent jewels: a crown for him, whose mount was broken and melted at the time of the sale, a crown for the Empress, sumptuous jewelry for the latter, in particular a diamond belt knot ending in two tassels and a set of diamond currant leaves, comprising a garland serving as a necklace, a corsage and a front bodice. Other admirable works were created in the following years, such as the diamond tassel comb (1856), the Russian diadem (1864), the Greek diadem (1867). We could have had everything again.
The sale took place in the Louvre, in the Salle des Etats, in nine vacations, from May 12 to 23, 1887. It was a financial failure. The appearance on the market of such a quantity of stones could only depreciate them. The historical provenance of the pieces, so important commercially today, was not taken into account. The collection sold was estimated at 8,000,000 F. or approximately. It was priced at 6,000,000 F. The State having spent 293,851 F. to organize the sale, the effective revenue only increased to 6,927,509 F. Disappointing financially, the sale was disastrous on the historical level, on the mineralogical level, given the quality of certain stones that we no longer find now, and on the artistic level, so many masterpieces of French jewelry disappearing at the same time. Because everything contributed to making the stones lose their identity: to facilitate purchases, the elements of the ornaments of the Restoration were sold separately, the decorations of Napoléon III were dismantled, the adornment of currant leaves was scattered. The buyers were mainly jewelers (Boucheron, Bapst Frères, Tiffany, etc.), who cut up most of the jewels to reuse the stones.
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From the main entrance through the pyramid, access the Carrousel du Louvre Paris Shopping Mall, a complement to your visit. The Tuileries Gardens close by are one of Paris best parks. A reason to book a hotel near Louvre Museum.
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The famous glass pyramid (Paris map) designed by architect I.M. Pei is the main entrance to the Louvre Museum. To avoid the long pyramid queue, enter through Carrousel du Louvre entrance (Paris map), 99 rue de Rivoli.