Today marks the 20th Anniversary of the Death of Madame, The Countess of Paris, who passed away on this day in 2003! The French-born Brazilian Princess who was the Consort of the Head of the House of Orléans for over sixty years and the mother of eleven illustriously married children, the Countess possessed some spectacular heirlooms, which included the Orléans Sapphire and Pearl Tiara!
A striking suite consisting of a Sapphire and Pearl Coronet topped with large sapphire and diamond clusters, with a pair of earrings, three large sapphire and diamond corsage brooches from the Orléans Sapphire Parure and a large sapphire cluster brooch.
Made by the famed French jeweller Bapst, this Sapphire and Pearl Tiara originates from Queen Marie-Amélie of the French, who never considered herself the legitimate French Queen and only wore her personal jewels throughout her husband’s reign. Queen Marie-Amélie was depicted wearing the Sapphire and Pearl Tiara on her with with her Napoleonic Sapphire Parure dotted around her gown, for her State Portrait made by Louis Hersent around 1836.
Both Sapphire Parures was taken by Queen Marie-Amélie into exile in England in 1848, and when Queen Marie-Amélie’s grandson, the Count of Paris, the Head of the House of Orléans, was marrying his cousin and her granddaughter, Princess Marie Isabelle d’Orléans, in 1864, Queen Marie-Amélie had her Napoleonic Sapphire Diadem modified, removing four out of the nine original elements, before giving the Parure as a wedding gift to the new Countess of Paris. While one of the removed elements was made into the large corsage brooch, the other three were added to her Bapst Sapphire and Pear Parure and left to her youngest son, the Duke of Montpensier, who was the father of Princess Marie Isabelle and she eventually also inherited the Pearl and Sapphire Parure in 1890, reuniting them in one collection after almost three decades. However, despite the larger size of the Sapphire and Pearl Tiara, subsequent Countesses of Paris preferred to wear the Orléans Sapphire Parure, and this Parure remained in the vaults for decades.
It wasn’t until the 1950s who the Orléans Sapphire and Pearl Tiara made a public reappearance, when it was worn by the Countess of Paris for the Wedding Gala of Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia and Princess Maria Pia of Savoy at the Palace Hotel of Estoril in 1955, which was her one and only appearance in the historic heirloom.
Two years later, the Countess of Paris gave the Orléans Sapphire and Pearl Tiara and Parure to Duchess Marie-Thérèse of Württemberg when she married her eldest son and heir, Prince Henri, Count of Clermont, who most notably wore it for the Wedding Ball of her brother, Duke Carl of Württemberg, to her sister-in-law, Princess Diane of Orléans, in 1960, along with a Sapphire Necklace Tiara she had received as a Wedding Gift from the ‘Restauration Nationale’.
The Countess of Clermont was also pictured wearing the Sapphire and Pearl Tiara at the Wedding Ball of Infanta Pilar of Spain at the Palacio Estoril Hotel in Estoril in 1967. Following her divorce in 1984, the Pearl and Sapphire Tiara and Parure returned into the collection of the Count and Countess of Paris.
By the 1990s, the marriage of the Count and Countess of Paris had strained, and the Count had sold the Orléans Sapphire Parure to the Musée du Louvre in 1985. In 1997, the Countess was pictured with the Pearl and Sapphire Tiara and Parure, shortly before it was sold to a private buyer in Geneva and has since disappeared from public view.