French Imperial Pearl and Diamond Tiara (c. 1853)
Commissioned by Napoleon III, for the occasion of his marriage to Eugénie de Montijo, the last Empress of France. The crown jeweler Alexandre-Gabriel Lemonnier created a wardrobe of matching jewelry from a pedigree of gems that had once been worn by Empress Marie Louise (the second wife of Napoleon Bonaparte), and the Duchess of Angoulême (daughter of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette).
The Imperial Pearl and Diamond Tiara is one of the few surviving crown jewels of France. Set in silver, the tiara contains 212 pearls and 1998 diamonds.
After the exile of Empress Eugenie and Emperor Napoleon III, the tiara was held in a vault by the French State Treasury, until it was displayed with the rest of the crown jewels during the 1878 World’s Fair in Paris.
Nearly a decade later, the tiara was put up for auction by the National Assembly in 1887 and purchased by Julius Jacob for the bargain price of 78,100 French Francs.
By the mid-1900’s the tiara had already switched ownership several times and was once again owned by royalty as it was passed along through the German House of Thurn and Taxis.
In 1992 the Louvre Museum reacquired the piece for 935,000 Deutsch Marks, after it was bought by the society “Amis de Louvre” (Friends of the Louvre). Princess Gloria of Thurn and Taxis was forced to sell the tiara along with other family heirlooms, in order to pay the inheritance taxes left by the death of her husband.