French crown jewel to return to France

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The rare 141-carat diamond bow brooch that made for Napoleon III’s wife has been recently purchased by the Louvre Museum.

23 April 2008

PARIS - A rare 141-carat diamond bow brooch made for Empress Eugenie, the wife of Napoleon III, is to return to France, more than 100 years after it was sold by the government, the Louvre Museum said Tuesday.

The historic jewel made in 1855 by Parisian jeweller Francois Kramer was purchased from Christie's in New York for EUR 6.72 million (USD 10.8 million) on 18 April, a museum statement said.

The Louvre was able to make the purchase with a five-million-euro private donation and other museum funds.

Most of the French crown jewels were sold off at auction in 1887, with the empress' bow brooch sold to jeweller Emile Schlesinger who acquired it for Caroline Astor, a prominent American socialite.

The broach purchased for 42,400 French francs or EUR 85,000 at the time remained in the Astor family for over 100 years, according to Christie's.

The diamond bow had been originally intended to be worn as a buckle for a belt, but Eugenie asked one of her jewellers to transform it into a stomacher, a decoration pinned to the chest.

Two diamond tassels and five diamond pendants were added to the brooch in
1864 and it later became one of the empress' favourite pieces of jewellery.

The crowns, jewels and other symbols of French royalty were seized during the French Revolution and sold in 1887, with the exception of a few historic pieces.

The Louvre Museum has over the past years acquired some of the crown jewels that remain intact and which are on display in the museum's Apollo gallery, where Eugenie's brooch will soon be exhibited.

[AFP / Expatica]

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