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Marie Louise Diadem

Photograph of the Marie Louise diadem (NMNH G5021), digitally enhanced by SquareMoose for a 2017 jewelry publication by the Hillwood Museum
Photo by Chip Clark and digitally enhanced by SquareMoose. Click to zoom.
Catalog Number NMNH G5021-00
Locality Iran (Turquoise)
Weight 700 ct

Gift of Mrs. Marjorie M. Post in 1971.

Napoleon gave the Diadem to his second wife, the Empress Marie-Louise, on the occasion of their marriage. Originally the diadem, commissioned in 1810, was set with emeralds, which were replaced in the mid-1950s with turquoise. It was made by Etienne Nitot et Fils of Paris. The diadem was one piece of a parure that also included a necklace and earrings (now in the Louvre) and comb (disassembled), all in emeralds, diamonds, silver and gold. Marie-Louise bequeathed the diadem and accompanying jewelry to her Hapsburg aunt, Archduchess Elise. The jewelry was acquired by Van Cleef & Arpels from one of Archduchess Elise’s descendants, Archduke Karl Stefan Hapsburg of Sweden, in 1953, along with a document attesting to their provenance. During the period from May 1954 to June 1956, the emeralds were removed from the diadem by Van Cleef & Arpels and sold individually in pieces of jewelry. A newspaper advertisement placed by the company in 1955 promised: “An emerald for you from the historic Napoleonic Tiara…” Sometime between 1956 and 1962, Van Cleef & Arpels mounted the turquoise into the diadem. In 1962, the diadem with turquoise, was displayed in the Louvre Museum in Paris along with the necklace, earrings, and comb, as part of a special exhibition on Empress Marie-Louise. Marjorie Merriweather Post purchased the diadem from Van Cleef & Arpels and donated it to the Smithsonian in 1971. The diadem* is an elaborate design of scrolls, palmettes and medallions and contains 79 Persian turquoise stones (totaling 540cts) and 1,006 old mine cut diamonds (totaling 700cts) set in silver and gold.

*A crown encircles the head in a complete circle and can be worn by men and women; diadems and tiaras are forms of crowns: a diadem is not a complete circle (usually ¾ way around), it has an opening in the back and can also be worn by men and women; a tiara (semi-circular high crown) is a smaller headpiece worn at the front of the head, by women only.


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