The Crown of Empress Farah Pahlavi

The Empress Crown: part of the coronation regalia used by the only Empress of Iran, Farah Pahlavi.

Mohammad Reza Pahlavi had already ruled Iran for two decades when he married Farah Dina in 1959, but he not yet had his official coronation. Mohammad Reza Pahlavi put off his coronation saying that he believed he could only be crowned when he truly felt he deserved it. That time came in 1967; the coronation would take place in October of that year and it was set to break with tradition.

For centuries the wives of monarchs were not crowned; only the male ruler had that honor. This changed with Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. In a nod to the White Revolution's mandate on the emancipation of women, Emperor Pahlavi was determined to also have his consort crowned; however, there was a slight problem: since it had been centuries since an Iranian empress had been crowned, there was no appropriate crown available. The honorable task of making the new crown would fall to Van Cleef and Arpels. As was dictated by tradition, the gems used in the crown and coronation jewelry were selected from loose stones already in the Imperial treasury. None of the items that were part of the Imperial treasury were allowed to leave Iran so Van Cleef & Arpels had to send a team of jewelers to Tehran in order to construct the crown. While there, the team, Farah, and other important people in the Iranian government were consulted on the design aspects so that the finished product would be perfect. The crown ended up taking six months to complete. 

The crown itself is made from white gold and green velvet, covered with diamonds, pearls, emeralds, rubies, and spinels. 

By early 1978, the rising discontent in Iran had started to become more evident, eventually leading to demonstrations against the monarchy. The Empress recalled in her memoirs that "there was an increasingly palpable sense of unease".  By the year's end riots and political unrest had reached a head and martial law was put into effect. The country was on the verge of open revolution.
On January 16, 1979 both the Emperor and Empress decided to leave the country and begin a life in exile. Empress Farah would be the first and the last Empress to wear the magnificent crown.

When the Iranian revolution occurred it was thought that the Iranian crown jewels might have been lost. Miraculously, most of the collection remained intact and the jewels were put on public display under the presidency of Hashemi Rafsanjani in the 1990s at the Central Bank in Tehran.

To read more about the Empress and her life I suggest checking out her memoir An Enduring Love: My Life with the Shah: A Memoir

The Danish Ruby Parure Tiara

The Dainsh Ruby and Diamond Tiara

The Dainsh Ruby and Diamond Tiara

Princess Mary of Denmark looked stunning at the annual royal New Year’s Banquet  held at Amalienborg Palace this year. She paired her gold dress with a diamond and ruby tiara and her Knight of the Order of the Elephant collar.

Princess Mary and Prince Frederik of Denmark at the annual royal New Year’s Banquet

The tiara began life in the court of Napoleon Bonaparte and looked very different from its current form. In honor of the grand coronation planned for the Emperor, Bonaparte had given money to many of his marshals so that jewels with the appropriate grandeur could be created/bought for their wives. Jean Baptiste Bernadotte was one of those marshals. He purchased the ruby and diamond wreath tiara and accompanying parure for his wife, Désirée Clary. 

Jean Baptiste Bernadotte and his wife Désirée Clary later became King Carl XIV Johan and Queen Desideria of Sweden, and thus the jewels found a new Swedish home. The tiara came to Denmark with Swedish princess Louise who married the future Danish king (Fredrick VIII) in 1869. Louise had received the tiara as a wedding gift from her grandmother, Queen Josephine of Sweden (Désirée's daughter-in-law). Queen Louise later gave the tiara to her son Crown Prince Christian's bride Alexandrine as a wedding gift; Alexandrine would inherit the rest of the parure on Louise's death. 

Princess Mary in the ruby Parure

Princess Mary in the ruby Parure

Alexandrine then gave it to Princess Ingrid of Sweden when she married Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark in 1935. In the hands of Queen Ingrid the original small wreath was transformed. In 1947, Ingrid added two of the brooches that came with the original parure to the tiara. This gave the tiara a much more substantive look and turned the wreath into a proper tiara. 

When Queen Ingrid died in 2000 she left the parure to her grandson, Crown Prince Frederik who would go on to marry Princess Mary. The ruby tiara is the first tiara Princess Mary ever wore during her pre-wedding events in 2004. Mary also wears it for the annual New Years Court gala (mentioned above).   

The current parure consists of a necklace, hairpins, earrings, a brooch, a bracelet, and a ring (an addition care of Mary). Princess Mary does not have many grand pieces at her disposal, but with Mary's own inventiveness has and all that is available with the ruby parure Mary is able to make the ruby parure "stretch" so to speak. Mary has also followed in Ingrid's footsteps by altering the shape of the tiara to her own taste. It was not as major of a change as Ingrid's, though it is noticeable in a side by side comparison. Mary rearranged the diamond covered leaves creating a more condensed look which sits more upright. The work on the tiara and the rest of the set was done by the Marianne Dulong jewelry firm. They also created a new ring and hairpins from pieces that were left over. The new tiara debuted in 2010.

Princess Mary in the ruby Parure after it's alteration

Princess Mary in the ruby Parure after it's alteration

Not What it Seems: The Black Prince Ruby

The Imperial State Crown Featuring the "Black Prince Ruby"

The Black Prince's Ruby is one of the most famous members of the British Crown jewels, but despite its name, the stone is not a ruby.  The Black Prince's Ruby is actually a deep red un-faceted spinel. The stone, which has been in the possession of the British Royal Family since 1367, was named after Edward of Woodstock, Prince of Wales. It is one of the oldest of gems included in the Royal Collection of Crown Jewels and currently sits in the cross at the front of the Imperial State Crown, just above the Lesser Star of Africa (Cullinan II).

At an estimated weight of 170 carats and a length of almost 5 centimeters, the Black Prince's Ruby is the one of the world's largest uncut red spinel gemstones. The Black Prince's Ruby was polished into a bead-like shape which was drilled, strung and worn as a pendant and various other forms of jewelry prior to it being placed in the Imperial Crown. The drill hole has since been plugged with a smaller ruby.

Why was this spinel misidentified as a ruby? 

As with many other gemstones 'rubies' were historically a category of gemstones that would have included all red transparent gemstones. It wasn't until 1783 that spinel was differentiated from ruby. Spinel and ruby (corundum) can be distinguished based on its chemical properties and physical characteristics. 

Where did the Black Prince Ruby come from?

The Black Prince's Ruby was believed to have been mined in the 14th century somewhere from present-day Tajikistan, which was then known as Badakshan. The stone belonged to Prince Abu Sa'id of the Moorish Kingdom of Granada.  

Edward the Black Prince

During the mid 14th century the Moorish Kingdom of Granada was being attacked and placed once again under Castilian rule as a part of the Christian Reconquest of the Iberian peninsula. Abū Sa'īd's rule was confronted by that of Peter of Castile, also known as Don Pedro the Cruel. According to historical accounts, Abū Sa'īd wanted to surrender to Don Pedro. Don Pedro welcomed him to Seville. When Abū Sa'īd met with Don Pedro, Don Pedro had Abū Saī'd's servants killed and it is believed that he may have personally stabbed Sa'īd to death himself. It is said that when Don Pedro searched Sa'īd's corpse, the spinel was found and added to Don Pedro's possessions.

In 1366, Don Pedro's illegitimate brother, Henry of Trastámara, revolted against Don Pedro. Don Pedro made an alliance with the Black Prince, the son of Edward III of England in an attempt to thwart the revolt. After the revolt was successfully put down the Black Prince demanded the ruby in exchange for his aid. It is thought that Don Pedro was reluctantly obligated to turn the stone over and the Black Prince took the Ruby back to England.

The Ruby resurfaces again in 1415 when Henry V of England wore a gem-encrusted helmet that included the Black Prince's Ruby during his battle in France. In the Battle of Agincourt on October 25, 1415, the French Duke of Alençon struck Henry on the head with a battleaxe, and Henry nearly lost the helmet, along with his life. The battle was won by Henry's forces and the Black Prince's Ruby was saved. The gemstone was worn into battle once again by Richard III who wore the stone on his helmet at the Battle of Bosworth, where he died.

The Ruby as part of the British Crown Jewels

The 1512 inventory of Henry VIII's posessions mentions "a great balas ruby" set in the Tudor Crown. This is believed to be the Black Prince Ruby. It remained there until the time of Oliver Cromwell in the 17th century, when (excepting of the Coronation Chair and several other items) Cromwell had the principal symbols of the king's power disassembled and sold, while the gold was melted down and made into coins. The fate of the Black Prince's Ruby, during that time in England is not clear, but it came back into the monarchy's posession in 1660 when Charles II and the monarchy was restored. In 1838 Queen Victoria was crowned with a new Imperial State Crown made by Rundell and Bridge. The crown contained 3,093 gems, including the spinel at the front. This crown was remade in 1937 into the current, lighter, crown and a small plaque was placed on the reverse of the gemstone that commemorates the crown's history.

This article is a repost from my July 2016 Newsletter. To read the rest of the newsletter click here

The Stuart Sapphire

The Stuart Sapphire is a 104-carat blue sapphire that is a part of the British Crown Jewels. It is believed that the stone belonged to Charles II, and that it was most likely among the jewels that his successor, James II took with him when he fled to France in 1688. The stone was then passed to his son, James Stuart (the ‘Old Pretender’) who left it to his son, Henry Benedict, known later as Cardinal York, who wore it in his mitre (hat).
Benedict eventually put the sapphire, and many other Stuart relics, up for sale. It was purchased by George III in 1807 and returned to the United Kingdom from present-day Italy.
On the Imperial State Crown worn by Queen Victoria, the jewel was front and center below the Black Prince’s Ruby. In 1909, during the reign of Edward VII, the stone was moved to the back of the crown to make way for the 317-carat Cullinan II diamond. Today the sapphire still sits at the back of the crown used by Queen Elizabeth II.
The gemstone is oval-shaped, about 3.8 cm long and 2.5 cm wide, and has one or two blemishes. At some point a hole was drilled at one end, probably so the stone could be worn as a pendant. On the back is a miniature plaque engraved with a short history of the crown.

The Grand Duchess Stephanie Emerald Parure

photo courtesy of the Victoria & Albert Museum

photo courtesy of the Victoria & Albert Museum

It is believed that the French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and his consort Joséphine gave the emerald parure (set) to their adopted daughter, Stéphanie de Beauharnais, on her arranged marriage to the heir of the Grand Duke of Baden in 1806 (the marriage was arranged to consolidate the Confederacy of the Rhine).
Nitot & Fils were the principal jewelers to Napoleon and Joséphine and probably made this set as well. The large stones and the relatively simple design are typical of the neo-classical tastes of Napoleon’s. 
The necklace is comprised of faceted table-cut emeralds bordered by diamonds and briolette-cut emerald drops all set in gold and silver. The drops at the back of the necklace were added later in the 1820s. They can be detached and worn as earrings. 
The parure originally included a tiara, necklace, a pair of earrings and a pair of bracelets. The set came to be known as the “Grand Duchess Stephanie Emerald Parure”. Sadly, only the emerald necklace and the pair of earrings of the original parure survived up to this day. 
It is thought that the parure was broken up after World War II. The necklace and the pair of earrings were acquired by Count Tagliavia. The necklace and earrings were later donated to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London by the widow of Count Tagliavia, Countess Margharita Tagliavia.

Grand Duchess Stephanie de Beauharnais wearing the emerald parur

The Mogul Emerald

mogul emerald

The rectangular tablet dates back to 1695. It weighs 217.80 carats and is about 10 cm high. One side of the tablet is inscribed with Islamic prayers and the other is engraved with scrolling foliage and poppy flowers. The emerald was originally mined in Colombia. It was then sold in India. Emeralds were much desired by the rulers of the Mughal Empire of the time.

The Mogul bears a date of 1107 A.H. (1695-1696 AD) which falls under the reign of Aurangzeb, the sixth emperor. The Mogul emerald is unique among its contemporaries in that the inscription is Shi'a however Mughal rulers were Sunni. The explanation is that it likely did not belong to not to Aurangzeb but that it belonged but to one of his courtiers or officers.

It was sold on 27 September 2001 by Christie’s for £1,543,750, including buyer’s premium. As of 17 December 2008, it was in the possession of the Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, Qatar.