In the year of the anniversary of Napoleon’s death, two diadems which are traditionally thought to have belonged to Joséphine de Beauharnais (1763-1814), wife of the French emperor, were sold by Sotheby’s London for £ 576,600 (approx. 671.00 euros or 759,000 dollars). A figure that has almost doubled the maximum estimate of 300,000 pounds. A sign that historical jewels retain a charm that goes beyond their material value.
Tiaras are considered examples of the finest French craftsmanship of the early 19th century. They were made in Paris around 1808 with a neoclassical design. After the French Revolution, in fact, Napoleon had tried to legitimize his new government by resurrecting historical and cultural references to ancient Rome. Joséphine understood the value of her public image of her, and used clothing and jewelry to evoke the ideals of the ancient world and connect her with the present Empire to increase the prestige of her husband’s regime.
The two tiaras are part of a set (designed to also be worn together). They are made of gold and blue champlevé enamel decorated with twenty-five carnelian carvings, predominantly male and female classical heads. They were offered together with a pair of drop earrings, each with a single intaglio and similarly decorated, and a hair comb and belt ornament, centered with a Bacchus carnelian cameo. The jewels have been kept in London for 150 years.