A treasure forgotten for 50 years ... Imperial Jewels for sale at Sotheby's
Once upon a time, an incredible collection of jewels was found in a bank vault, forgotten by all... or almost...
This is the treasure that Sotheby's will be auctioning in Geneva on the 6th and 7th of November 2023.
A few months ago, some tired and worn travel bags were found at the bottom of a safe, the first part having been deposited in 1948 and the second one in 1968, without anyone ever having opened them since...
The story of this treasure links two women who shared a destiny that blends with the 20th-century imperial Europe and its upheavals: Princess Eudoxie of Bulgaria and Princess Maria Immaculata of Austria-Tuscany.
Portrait of the Princess Eudoxie de Bulgarie, circa 1916
Princess Eudoxie of Bulgaria, who died in 1985, left her jewels as they were, hidden in tightly stitched fleece wrappings. Following the Red Army's entry into Bulgaria in 1944, Princess Eudoxie, who remained unmarried, realized that the monarchy was living its final hours and did her utmost to save her jewels. She hid each piece between two tightly sewn pieces of fleece and buried them in the garden of her house. She was imprisoned with her brother, who was shot, and then locked in her house with a jailer. In 1946, the Bulgarian communist leaders, wishing to get rid of the monarchy once and for all, decided to let the last members of the royal family leave the country.
Sapphires and Diamonds Pendant Necklace, circa 1916, presumably a gift from Tsar Ferdinand I of Bulgaria to her daughter the Princess Eudoxia for her eighteenth birthday
Princess Eudoxie was warned that she would be leaving the country without her luggage. However, her sister-in-law, Queen Giovanna, widow of King Boris and an Italian citizen, was allowed to take her personal belongings with her. Princess Fudoxie took advantage of a particularly of her guardian’s heavy night's sleep to go and dig up her jewelry box and, by subterfuge, had it delivered to her sister-in-law, hidden under some books. She finally managed to escape to Switzerland, from where she called her brother-in-law, Duke Albrecht Eugène de Wurtemberg, and finally joined her sister-in-law in Germany, where she ended her life far from society and her jewels, which were deposited in a bank safe in 1948...
Sapphires, Rubies and Diamonds Necklace, late 19th century, Princess Eudoxia inherited it from her mother the Princess Marie Louise of Bourbon-Parma, Princess Consort of Bulgaria
As for Maria Immaculata of Austria-Tuscany, each of the jewels in her impressive collection was still preserved in its original box, often accompanied by small notes describing its provenance.
Natural Pearls and Diamond Tiara attributed to Köchert, late 19th century, Maria Immaculata Duchess of Würtemberg inherited it from her mother the Princess Maria Immaculata of Bourbon-Two Sicilies, Archduchess of Austria-Tuscany
Archduchess Maria Immaculata of Austria-Tuscany was the daughter of Archduke Karl Salvator and Princess Maria Immaculata of Bourbon-Deux Siciles. Her father had a tradition of giving his wife a string of pearls for the birth of each of their ten children. The resulting collection earned the couple the nickname "The Pearl Fishers" from their son's future mother-in-law, Empress Elisabeth of Austria-Hungary, the famous Sissi. In 1900, the young Archduchess Maria married Duke Robert of Württemberg and left Vienna for Germany, taking with her the memories of her imperial past.
Portrait of the Archduchess Maria Immaculata of Austria-Toscany, wearing the previously seen Tiara, and Duke Robert of Würtemberg
After the death of her husband and left childless, she spent her last years compiling the history of each of her jewels before locking her collection away in the family vault in 1968. These handwritten notes are a mine of information that has enabled us to draw a new, intimate portrait of the imperial court.
Mother of Pearl and Diamonds Fan attributed to Köchert, late 19th century, Maria Immaculata Duchess of Würtemberg weld this fan the day of her wedding with Duke Robert
While we may well wonder why the two collections ended up in the same trunk, the answer is in fact a family link. The two collections were related by marriage through the Dukes of Württemberg. Maria Immaculata was the sister-in-law of the father of Eudoxia's brother-in-law (did you follow that correctly?).
Extraordinary Rubies and Diamonds Necklace/Tiare attributed to Köchert, circa 1893, it was a gift from the Emperor Franz Joseph d'Autriche-Hongrie and of the Empress Elisabeth "Sissi", to their niece the Archduchess Margarete Sophie of Austria for her wedding to the Duke and Crown Prince Albretch of Würtemberg. It was inherited by their son the Duke Eugen of Würtemberg, brother in law of the Princesse Eudoxia.
The two women were buried in the crypt of Alsthausen Castle, the home of the Dukes of Württemberg.
Were you familiar with this part of European history? If you're looking for a piece of antique jewellery, don't hesitate to discover what Les Pierres de Julie has to offer in shop...
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