Today marks the 185th Anniversary of the Birth of Empress Elisabeth of Austria, who was born on this day in 1837! The stunning Bavarian Duchess who became a glamorous and restless Empress before being tragically assassinated, Empress Elisabeth of Austria possessed some spectacular jewels, but the most iconic pieces were her Diamond Stars!
When Duchess Elisabeth in Bavaria married her first cousin, Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria, in 1854, she received a Diamond Star Tiara from the groom, which was being viewed by their aunt, the Dowager Empress Caroline Augusta, when her lace mantilla caught in one of the diamond stars and to the horror of all, the Tiara went crashing to the floor, which was later seen as a bad omen for the marriage.
Soon after her marriage, Empress Elisabeth ordered at least twenty-seven Pearl and Diamond Stars from the Court Jeweller Köchert, which were famously portrayed in an 1865 portrait by Franz Xaver Winterhalter, paired with a Worth ballgown decorated with stars. The painting became the iconic image of the Empress and popularised Diamond Stars around Europe.
Empress Sissi also owned a set of twenty-seven diamond stars created by the former Court Jeweller Rozet & Fischmeister, and was described wearing her Stars on numerous occasion, including a court ball in Dresden to celebrate the wedding of her brother, Duke Karl Theodor in Bavaria, and Princess Sophie of Saxony in 1865. While images of Empress Elisabeth are rare as she grew older, the Diamond Stars remained in her possession, though she gave some of them to her Ladies-in-Waiting, while the rest were left to members of her family after her tragic assassination in 1989.
Some of the Diamond Stars seem to have been inherited by Archduchess Gisela, Empress Sissi’s eldest daughter, Archduchess Gisela, and worn by her elder daughter, Princess Elisabeth Marie of Bavaria, for a portrait around 1910, many years after her secret marriage to Count Otto of Seefried and Buttenheim.
When Archduchess Elisabeth Marie of Austria, the only daughter of Crown Prince Rudolf and Empress Elizabeth’s only male-line granddaughter, married Prince Otto of Windisch-Graetz in 1902, among her wedding gifts was a set of twenty-seven Diamond Stars, supposedly from her late grandmother. Those Diamond Stars may have been given to some of her children of sold in a time of financial hardship, but they were not among the items of her Estate passed to the Austrian State upon Archduchess Elisabeth Marie’s death in 1963.
In 1998, a private owner loaned one of the last known Köchert Pearl and Diamond Stars for an Exhibition at the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna to marked the centenary of Empress Elizabeth’s Exhibition. The thief Gerald Blanchard stole the Köchert Star, replacing it with a replica bought at the souvenir shop, with the theft not discovered for two weeks, and the robbery not being publicly disclosed until Blanchard revealed his involvement and took police to his grandmother’s basement in Winnipeg, when the Köchert Pearl and Diamond Star was recovered and returned by the Canadian Police to Austria in 2009. The Star is now owned by the Schloß Schönbrunn Kultur- und Betriebsgesellschaft m.b.H. and has been on permanent display at the Sisi Museum in the Hofburg Palace since 2010, alongside a loaned set consisting of one large and two small diamond stars from the Rozet and Fischmeister Jewellery Workshop has also been on loan to the Sissi Museum.
However, some of the Diamond Stars remain in a Royal Collection, and in 2017, Countess Anna Theresa von und zu Arco-Zinneberg, the daughter of Archduchess Maria Beatrice of Austria-Este and Count Riprand of Arco-Zinneberg, wore Diamond Stars from Empress Elizabeth for her Wedding Reception at the family seat of Schloss Moos. Lets hope these iconic heirlooms reappear soon!