So, I’ll readily admit that I might be stretching it a bit to include this tiara in the French Royal Tiaras, but if I don’t include the The Leuchtenberg Fabergé Tiara here, then it likely will be left out. And I just can’t do that, since it’s one of my top three favorite tiaras of all time. And it has a surprise happy ending.
But before we get to the end, let’s start at the beginning. This Fabergé created tiara started life out much more simply, as a bag full of luscious diamonds given to Empress Joséphine of France (Napoléon Bonaparte’s ex-wife – if only there’d been a show “Real French Royal Housewives” back then) by none other than Tsar Alexander I of Russia. You see, the Tsar used to come visit Joséphine at her country home and when he did, he always brought gifts (I need more friends like the Tsar in my life).
This is where the tiara’s French ties begin to unravel – the loose diamonds were inherited by Joséphine’s son, Eugène, the Duke of Leuchtenberg, and it was Eugène who had the tiara commissioned by Fabergé and August Holmström, the Finnish-born craftsman who was head jeweler for the firm, in 1890. It’s said that Eugène requested the tiara for his descendants and lucky family members they were. There’s a lot of diamond punch tucked into such a small package.
After WW1 the tiara was sold off to the Belgian Royal Family. It eventually made its way to Prince Charles Théodore, Count of Flander via inheritance, but when he died unmarried with no children in 1983, it again changed hands and was inherited by his sister, Marie José who happened to be the former queen of Italy.
When Marie José died in 2001 the tiara again was passed down, this time to her daughter Princess Maria Gabriella of Savoy who decided to sell of a collection of her mother’s jewels at auction in London. Christie’s was the lucky auction house and they describe the tiara in their catalog as: “designed as a series of graduated old-cut diamond arches with knife edge collet spacers, the central pear-shaped diamond flanked by three briolette and one old-cut diamond, each with diamond collet and leaf surmount to the foliate band, on gold wire frame, mounted in silver and gold, circa 1890, 13.2 cm. wide, with Russian assay marks for gold. Maker’s mark for August Holmström on frame.”
This is where the story gets really interesting (at least for us Americans). When the gavel fell that summer’s day in 2007, the proud owners of the tiara, to the tune of two million dollars, were none other than an American husband and wife power collector couple of all things Fabergé. The Houston couple is a generous one, however, as they have sponsored a wing at the Houston Museum of Natural Science and the tiara is on display there, along with two other tiaras and numerous other works, all by Fabergé.
So, do you forgive me for stretching things a bit to include this with the other Royal French Tiaras? What do you think of it? Have you been to see it? Share your thoughts with me below.