Jewel of the Month

The Habsburg Parure- a four piece suite of peridot and diamond jewels by Köchert

The Habsburg Peridot Parure by Köchert. Image ROYALJEWELS.COM

What a beauty! This parure is the only known royal suite that implements the brightly-coloured semiprecious peridot as it’s centerpiece. Created by jewellers AE Köchert in the mid- 1820s for the Royal Family of Austria (the famed Habsburg’s), the suite is composed of a bandeau- style tiara, a pair of ornate earrings, a necklace with seven pendants and a dramatic devant de corsage (large brooch or stomacher). Done in traditional Georgian jewelry style, the suite is composed of enormous deep olive green peridots set in a scrolling frame studded with cushion and rose- cut white diamonds, all set in silver and yellow gold. The tiara is designed as a band of seven graduated clusters of floral and foliate scrollwork, with five large step- cut peridots forming the centers of the middle rosettes with two diamond flowers at each end. The necklace features a graduated chain of ten peridot and diamond clusters with a hanging fringe of seven teardrop- shaped peridot and diamond pendants. These pendants are removable and can also be worn upright along the top frame of the tiara. The suite’s girandole- style earrings and corsage ornament mimic the tiara’s delicate floral motif, and both are designed as peridot and diamond clusters surmounted by sprays of diamond flowers and leaves. The flowers on the earrings are detachable and support teardrop- shaped pendants of diamonds and gold with peridot swing centers, while the floral clusters on the brooch elaborately border it’s emerald- cut peridot center and support three small hanging peridot and diamond teardrops.

The two variations of the Habsbrg Peridot Tiara, with the seven pendants from the necklace (top) and without the attachments in it’s traditional bandeau style. Image ROYALJEWELS.COM

Originally made for the wedding of Princess Henrietta of Nassau-Weilburg to Archduke Charles, Duke of Teschen, this suite is most often associated with Princess Isabella von Croÿ, (wife of the couple’s grandson, Archduke Frederick) as she was the first lady be seen wearing the entire parure. Archduchess Isabella was famously photographed wearing the full suite at the 1916 coronation of Emperor Charles I of Austria-Hungary, an event that turned out to be one of the last great Habsburg celebrations.

Archduchcess Isabella of Croÿ photographed wearing the Peridot Parure to Emperor Charles’ coronation ball in 1916 (left) and a painting of the Archduchess at the event that was completed at a later date. Image THECOURTJEWELLER.COM/DINASTIAS.FOROGRATIS.ES

The Archduchess’s family kept the peridot suite after her September 1931 death, but it was sold a few years later, after the death of the Archduke in December 1936. The sale took place in early 1937 to Count Johannes Coudenhove-Kalergi, a Czech nobleman, who purchased the parure for his wife Countess Lilly. It then passed by descent to their daughter Countess Maria.

Two other photographs of Archduchcess Isabella at Emperor Charles’ coronation ball in 1916 offering a view of her parure from the front and a close-up of her jewels in semi-profile. Image THECOURTJEWELLER.COM/DINASTIAS.FOROGRATIS.ES

Countess Maria Electa von Coudenhove-Kalergi chose to live a simple life in the United States, residing in California and known only as Maria Calergi. The Countess never wore her inherited jewels, preferring to keep them tucked away inconspicuously in a safety deposit box for the duration of her life. When she died in 2000, her estate administrators were shocked to find the jewels in her Los Angeles vault, wrapped in tea towels and kitchen paper. The parure was in perfect condition and was accompanied by a packet of documents that included descriptions and illustrations from their 1937 sale catalogue.

Illustrations of the Habsburg Peridot Parure and other jewels from the 1937 auction, copied from the Maria Coudenhove-Kalergi’s copy of the catalogu listing. Image SOTHEBY’S

Sotheby’s London auctioned the Habsburg peridots in 2001, and they were bought by famous New York- based jewelry firm, Fred Leighton. The firm often loans jewels to clients for public appearances and the peridot parure was no exception, with comedian and television personality (and Queen) Joan Rivers famously borrowing the suite’s necklace and earrings for the 2004 Golden Globes Awards.

Joan Rivers wearing the Habsburg necklace and earrings to the 2004 Golden Globe Awards. Image FASHIONISTA.COM

Although the whereabouts of the necklace and tiara are not publicly known today, Brazilian philanthropist Lily Safra purchased at least a part of the parure at some point after 2001, since the suite’s earrings and brooch were among a selection of her jewels placed up for auction in May 2012. Sold by Christie’s in Geneva to an anonymous buyer, the two pieces fetched more than $170,000 for charity.

Catalogue photos of the Habsburg earrings and corsage ornament from their 2012 sale. Image CHRISTIE’S AUCTION HOUSE

I adore green gemstones, and I’ve always has a soft spot for peridots. Although I prefer stones with a brighter colour than those used in this suite, I’ve always been fond of the Habsburg parure since these particular peridots are of such fine quality, colour, and size. In the past, the stones have actually been mistaken for emeralds due to their deep colour, especially since they greatly resemble those in Empress Marie Louise of France’s famous emerald and diamond parure.

Promotional photographs taken prior to Sotheby’s 2001 sale showing the Parure’s necklace and earrings and the tiara worn without it’s frame as a belt (although why anyone would wear it like this…) (top left), and a Sotheby’s employee wearing the full suite in the traditional way (top right and bottom). Image SOTHEBYS.COM/TOPFOTO

It’s always rare for royal ladies to use coloured gemstones (especially semiprecious ones) in their jewelry and it really is a pity that the suite has been split up, with the whereabouts of it’s two most famous pieces are generally unknown. To me, this is one of the loveliest and unusual suites of royal jewelry ever made. I hope that this parure is reunited in full someday soon, and that it’s owner actually wears the jewels. They’re too beautiful to be locked away!

Xx- Ana

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