Queen Marie Jose’s Sapphire Necklace

Today marks the 20th Anniversary of the Death of Queen Marie José of Italy, who died on this day in 2001. The Belgian Princess who became the last Queen of Italy, Queen Marie Jose possessed the vast jewellery collection of the House of Savoy, but an outstanding example of that is the Sapphire Necklace we are featuring today!

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After being exiled from Italy in 1946, King Umberto II of Italy became passionate about jewellery, and was described:

He loved his own family collection of royal jewels not only for their historical importance but also for their beauty. In accordance with his artistic nature, however, he could not resist altering some of the pieces. They were unmounted and re-set many times, but always by the best jewellers in Italy.”

Using stones he had inherited from his grandmother, Queen Margherita, King Umberto had a collection of diamonds and sapphires mounted into earrings, a necklace and a ring from the Roman Jeweller Petochi, the highlight of which was the magnificent two-stranded sapphire and diamond necklace. While the King and Queen were separated in exile, with living in Portugal and her in Switzerland, both still attended Royal Events together and Queen Marie Jose wore the two-stranded sapphire and diamond necklace at the Wedding Ball of her nephew, King Baudouin of Belgium, and Doña Fabiola de Mora y Aragón at the Musée du Cinquantenaire in Brussels in 1960 and with Queen Margherita’s Diamond Wreath Tiara at the Wedding Ball of Prince Juan Carlos of Spain and Princess Sophia of Greece in 1962.

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At some point in the years following, Queen Marie Jose divided the two strands between two of her children, with the Prince of Naples getting the larger strand while Princess Maria Gabriella got the shorter one, which she made even shorter by making a pair of earrings and a ring from some of the sapphires. The Princess of Naples has frequently worn her strand of the necklace for portraits and events, including the Wedding of Archduke Karl von Habsburg and Baroness Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza in 1993.

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The Sapphire Necklace is still quite adaptable and was worn in a shorter version by the Princess of Venice, the daughter-in-law of the Prince and Princess of Naples, at the Enthronement Gala of Prince Albert II of Monaco in 2005. There is no doubt we will continue to see these magnificent Royal Heirlooms for years to come!


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