Today marks the 50th Anniversary of the Death of Queen Victoria Eugenie of Spain, who died on this day in 1969. While many of her jewels remain with the Spanish Royal Family, and are now worn by Queen Sofia and Queen Letizia, today we are featuring a gift from her illustrious godmother which was sold during exile and then ended up in the Iranian Royal collection, worn by three tragic Consorts who were exiled from their countries. To mark the Anniversary of Queen Victoria Eugenie’s death, we are taking a look at Empress Eugenie’s Emeralds-
In 1858, Empress Eugenie commissioned a diamond and emerald strawberry leaf Coronet, from the Parisian jeweller Eugène Fontenay, featuring large, rectangular-cut emeralds, which she wore for a few portraits and took with her to exile in 1871, retaining the emeralds even though she sold a number of jewels at Christie’s.
In 1906, Empress Eugenie gifted a fan to her goddaughter and namesake, Queen Victoria Eugenie of Spain to mark her wedding. Reportedly expecting a more grand gift from her illustrious godmother, the Queen reportedly stored it in a drawer for many years, until just after the Empress’ death, she took it out and removed the fan to discover the ten large, square-cut emeralds beneath. Another version of this story says that the fan was inherited by Queen Victoria Eugenie in 1920, and it took her a few months to discover the emeralds, which she soon set into a necklace by the Spanish jeweller, Sanz, that she also wore as a Bandeau for a Lazlo Portrait. There was also another configuration, worn as a long sautoir with an illustrious emerald cross pendant. Later, Empress Eugenie’s Emeralds were reset by Cartier into a two-row diamond setting, along with a brooch and a ring, which were worn by Queen Victoria Eugenie quite frequently, even after her exile from Spain in 1931. The Emerald Parure was often worn with the emerald version of the Cartier Diamond and Pearl Tiara.
However, exile took its toll, and in 1961, Queen Victoria Eugenie sold Empress Eugenie’s Emeralds at Auction at Stuker in Bern, reportedly to pay for the wedding of her grandson, Prince (later King) Juan Carlos of Spain and Princess Sophia of Greece the following year.
The necklace was bought by Cartier at the Action, and seven of the emeralds were reset into a grand necklace that was sold to Shah Muhammad Reza Pahlavi of Iran and worn by Empress Farah with the Seven Emerald Tiara and Queen Soraya’s Emerald Tiara, as early as 1962. After the fall of the Iranian Monarchy, the necklace, along with the rest of the Iranian Royal Jewels is in the vault of the Central Bank of Tehran, though is not on display like some other pieces.Queen Victoria Eugenie’s Brooch and Ring were bought separately, remounted by Swiss jeweller Meister as a pendant and a ring, and offered for sale with two unmounted emeralds at the Christie’s Geneva Magnificent Jewels Sale in 2011, where the Emeralds sold for CHF 327,000.