It’s not always easy to pick out jewelry for a significant other, but you can always follow in the footsteps of a famous French emperor.
Napoleon Bonaparte is rumored to have gifted one of his mistresses a collection of dazzling diamonds that is now available for $1.25 million at M.S. Rau. Handcrafted sometime between 1810 and 1820, the extraordinary convertible set can be turned into a necklace, a bracelet, or a tiara depending on what kind of bling your beloved desires. It has been kept in a box by Lambert Vormus, which suggests it was made by the famous Parisian jeweler.
According to the high-end antique dealer, only two comparable sets are known to exist. One was owned by the emperor’s first wife, Joséphine, and now resides in the Smithsonian’s permanent collection, while the other was gifted by King George III to his mistress Lady Conyngham. (The latter necklace is not convertible, though.)
This particular piece contains more than 95 carats of marvelous white diamonds set in 14-karat white gold. The old mine-cut stones were all fashioned by hand and feature larger facets and higher crowns than modern, machine-cut gems. They were cut like this on purpose, of course, so that they would sparkle under candlelight. M.S. Rau says each diamond displays “a kaleidoscope of dazzling vibrancy.”
The best part of this set is its versatility. The eleven rosettes of diamonds can be unscrewed from the original 15-inch necklace using a special tool and then added to the seven-inch bracelet. Alternatively, you can remove the back chain of the necklace and screw the rest of the piece on to the frame of the tiara. (Don’t worry, the tool is included in the sale.)
The set also evokes the opulence of the Classical era that was partially informed by the Bonapartes. Empress Joséphine was a true arbiter of style and commissioned pieces that were glitzy, geometric, and undeniably elegant. She is credited with reviving lavish necklaces and tiaras in aristocratic fashion.
Evidently, the emperor’s mistress was up with the trends, too. The box bears the initials “MW” and the date 1810. Therefore, there has been speculation that the set belonged to Napoleon’s Polish lover Marie Walewska. Now it can be yours.
Check out the set in the video below.