Happy Birthday to Princess Ursula of Bavaria, who turns 80 today! The commoner married to the illustrious Prince Leopold von Bayern, Princess Ursula used to wear some spectacular Royal Heirlooms, many of which have now been sold, but the oldest of which was the Bavarian Amethyst Parure!
A spectacular necklace composed of a graduated series of faceted amethysts ringed with diamonds, with a detachable pear-shaped amethyst pendant, and a pair of amethyst and diamond earrings, which were originally part of the necklace. The central portion and pendant of the necklace are detachable and can also be worn on a necklace of four rows of cultured pearls.
The Amethyst Parure originates from Queen Therese of Bavaria, who seems to be depicted wearing amethyst and diamond clusters from the necklace in a portrait by Carl Joseph Begas from the 1820s, with the Bavarian Lover’s Knot Tiara.
Ub 1854, Queen Therese bequeathed her Amethyst Parure, and the Lover’s Knot Tiara, to her second son, King Otto of Greece, but it was not depicted on his wife, Queen Amalia, though within the family, the jewels were known as the ‘Queen Amalia Parure’.
After Queen Amalia’s passing in 1875, the Amethyst Parure was handed down to the king’s nephew, Prince Ludwig Ferdinand of Bavaria, who, in 1883, married Infanta Maria de la Paz of Spain, who was depicted wearing the Amethyst Parure with her Sunburst Tiara at some point in the 1910s.
Eventually, the Amethyst Parure, and the Sunburst Tiara, ended up in the possession of Prince Leopold of Bavaria, the great-grandson of Prince Ludwig Ferdinand and Infanta Maria de la Paz, and was worn by Princess Ursula most notably for the Wedding of her son, Prince Manuel of Bavaria to Princess Anna of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg in Sweden in 2005.
The following year, Princess Ursula wore the Queen Amalia Amethyst Parure for King Carl XVI Gustaf’s 60th Birthday Gala Dinner at Drottningholm Palace. Prince Leopold is a close childhood friend of King Carl XVI Gustaf, and the couple have frequently attended royal events in Sweden.
In 2010, the Amethyst Parure was worn by Prince Leopold and Princess Ursula’s daughter-in-law, Princess Anna for Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden’s Wedding Gala in Stockholm.
The following year, Princess Ursula wore the Queen Amalia Amethyst Parure for the last time in public for the Wedding Ball of Prince Georg Friedrich of Prussia and Princess Sophie of Isenburg in 2011.
In 2013, Prince Leopold and Princess Ursula decided to sell several family heirlooms at auction at Sotheby’s in Geneva, which included the Sunburst Tiara and their heirloom Amethyst Parure, which eventually sold for 130,000 CHF, much higher than the pre-sale estimate of 50,000 – 80,000 CHF. Its current location is unknown.
Purple is by tradition the colour of royalty, and amethysts have been used to adorn monarchs for many centuries. The stone was extremely popular in the mid to late 19th century, and was exhibited at the Exposition Universelle de Paris, in 1889. With Empress Catherine the Great’s request, some of the finest examples of this stone were mined in the Ural mountains of Russia, for their rich display of purple to violet colour in daylight and a rich red saturation in the evening. History recounts many importat amethyst jewels: the Duchess of Bedford wore a similar necklace as illustrated in the book Ancestral Jewels by Diana Scarisbrick (page 164); a similar amethyst and diamond parure from the Collection of a European Royal Family was sold by Sotheby’s Geneva in May 1993 (lot 525); and many are still worn to this day such as the suite belonging to the Swedish Royal Family which is frequently worn by Queen Silvia and Crown Princess Victoria.