Infanta Pilar’s Sapphire Necklace

Next week marks the 85th Birthday of the late Infanta Pilar of Spain, Duchess of Badajoz, the elder sister of King Juan Carlos. The late Infanta possessed a spectacular jewellery collection, and over the next few days leading up to the anniversary, we are featuring some of the most splendid piece, continuing with Infanta Pilar’s Sapphire Necklace!

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When Queen Maria Cristina of Spain died, in 1929, her jewellery collection was divided between her living descendants. Her only son, King Alfonso XIII, inherited a huge lot of jewels, valued in more than 780.000 pesetas.  Inside that lot were nineteen unmounted sapphires valued in 7.250 pesetas. Those unmounted stones were previously set on different pieces of jewellery that the Queen kept redesigning throughout her life. Maria Cristina received several sapphire pieces as wedding gifts from her Austrian family when she married King Alfonso XII, in 1879.

In 1931, the Spanish monarchy fell and the Royal family went into exile. Fortunately, King Alfonso was able to bring with him all the precious jewels that were stored in the Royal Palace of Madrid. In order to get funds, he would later sell some of those, although others were kept and distributed among her daughters and daughters-in-law on the occasion of their marriages. In 1935, the King’s son and heir, Infante Juan, married Princess Maria de las Mercedes. On that occasion, the King presented her with a treasure trove of jewels, where the lot of unmounted sapphires was included.

The Countess of Barcelona, as Maria de las Mercedes will later be popularly known, was not that interest in jewellery as her mother-in-law, Queen Victoria Eugenia, was. Because of that, the sapphires would remain unset until her eldest daughter, Infanta Pilar, married Luis Gómez-Acebo in 1967. The Count and Countess of Barcelona offered to her daughter those sapphires as a wedding gift, to complement the sapphire tiara that was already in her possession.

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The Infanta’s husband, the Duke of Badajoz, was the responsible person behind the commission of a beautiful necklace where those stones were finally set in. It consists on 10 sapphires surrounded by a diamond frame, the central one is larger than the others. A pair of matching earring was also commissioned. Doña Pilar wore the necklace plenty of times, for various State Banquets at the Royal Palace and for other family events, such as her daughter’s debutante ball and the Pre-Wedding Dinner of Prince Guillaume of Luxembourg and Sibilla Weiller in 1994.

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In the Infanta’s later years, she found the necklace “too important and too big” to wear, so the central cluster was detached from it and suspended from the historic pearl necklace that Doña Pilar inherited from her mother in 2000. The sapphire pendant was worn on various occasions, namely at the Portuguese State Visit to Spain in 2006 and the Abdication of King Juan Carlos I in 2014 .

This article written by assistant editor, David Rato, who runs the Spanish Royal Jewels account on Instagram!


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