Tuesday, February 12, 2013

French Royal Jewels: Mathilde Bonaparte's Tudor Rose Brooch

Princess Mathilde, the daughter of Jerome Bonaparte and Princess Katharina of Wurttemberg, had one of the most fabulous jewellery collections of her time, second only to that of Empress Eugenie of France herself. 

Princess Mathilde's Tudor Brooch
This corsage brooch (and I can’t find enough adjectives to describe how breathtakingly gorgeous it is) was created in 1855 by Parisian jeweller Theodore Fester.It reputedly contains 2,637 brilliants weighing 136 carats, and further 860 little roses not weighed. It is designed as a large rose blossom decked with diamonds and mounted in silver-topped gold.

During Mathilde’s lifetime, it was known as Princess Mathilde’s Brooch. Nowadays, it is mainly referred to as the “Tudor Rose”, a reference to the roses of Lancaster and York that were later incorporated into Tudor (or English) Rose. How the name started is a bit of a mystery to me because there is no red in this brooch at all, while the Tudor Rose is predominantly red. 

Princess Mathilde Bonaparte
After Princess Mathilde’s death in 1904, her legendary jewellery collection was auctioned at the Galerie Georges Petit in Paris. This brooch was among the auction pieces and was described as “a corsage spray in the form of a fully open rose and two rose buds, with eleven leaves set entirely in very fine Brazilian brilliants". 

Its new owner was the famous Art Deco jeweller Janesich; it was then sold (by Cartier) to the famous Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt called the “Queen of New York society”. Mr Vanderbilt was one of the wealthiest men in America and his wife amassed a truly impressive collection of historical jewels. The brooch didn’t stay with them for long and was passed from hand to hand until in 2004 it was sold by Christie’s for over $700,000 to a private collector.

It is very similar to another brooch - The Russian Diamond Rose Brooch. Can't decide which I like best, although this one probably beats its Russian counterpart based purely on its provenance.

Picture credit: Christie’s,

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