Friday, February 14, 2014

Luxarazzi 101: Queen Astrid's Emerald Bracelet Choker

Photo: Sotheby's / Laurent D.
We have something to celebrate and we love to do so in style, royal-style that is. And when you celebrate royal-style, bling is never far away. After having talked so much about jewellery that has left the Grand Ducal Family as of late, let's indulge in the splendour of one of the pieces that was indeed saved from being auctioned off by the cancellation and remains in the hands of the main line of the family. In fact, this emerald and diamond bracelet that has also been worn as a choker necklace seems to be one of the favourite pieces of Grand Duchess Maria Teresa.
The current Grand Duchess, however, isn't the first royal lady to wear this piece of jewellery. Its most famous owner was Queen Astrid of the Belgians, the almost legendary mother of Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte. How exactly the Queen got her hands on the bracelet is a little uncertain. The most common theory - which is supported by information provided by the Grand Ducal Family both during an exhibition in 2005 and the proposed auction in 2006 - it was a gift by Astrid's mother-in-law, Queen Elisabeth, on the occasion of the birth of Joséphine-Charlotte in 1927. According to the cancelled Sotheby's auction, the bracelet was made in the 1920's.

Another much less common theory originates with Christophe Vachaudez in his 2004 book Bijoux des reines & princesses de Belgique. In this book, Vachaudez describes a piece with a central emerald that would look just like this bracelet as having been a gift from King Léopold III to his first wife, Queen Astrid. Whoever the original gift giver, Sotheby's estimated the bracelet, which can also be worn as a choker, between 15,000 and 25,000 euros.

As you probably know, Queen Astrid's fairytale did not have a happily ever after. In 1935, the much beloved queen died in a tragic car accident near Lake Lucerne in Switzerland. After Astrid's death, King Léopold's second wife, Princess Lilian, was also seen wearing the bracelet. Much can and has been said about Princess Lilian's personality, relationship with her husband's children as well as the fact that she wore personal jewellery of Queen Astrid that some believe were already the property of her stepchildren at that point in time. While everyone has judge the Princess of Réthy's actions for themselves, it does seem a bit tasteless to me to wear personal jewels of your stepchildren's late mother.
Photo: Point de Vue / Zimbio
It is not entirely sure when exactly Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte got her hands on the bracelet. Some speculate that it was already left to her by her mother upon her death, others say that either King Léopold III or Princess Lilian refused to give it to her upon her marriage which would probably speak against the first theory. Whenever she got it, Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte only wore the piece rather rarely. To the best of our combined knowledges she only did so in 1996 at the 70th birthday celebration of Prince Edouard de Lobkowicz in Paris.

Some people claim that the reason for Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte not wearing the piece as either bracelet or choker is the fact that it was frequently worn by her stepmother. Joséphine-Charlotte, however, did not seem to have a problem wearing other jewellery of her late mother that was also worn by Princess Lilian. Maybe she saw the same problem with the piece that Team Luxarazzi sees!? As it is quite obvious in the picture of Grand Duchess Maria Teresa wearing the piece as a choker, the emerald is much lighter than the other emerald pieces of the Grand Ducal collection and thus always looks a little mismatched. Even though I don't think it has been done, the bracelet/choker can also been converted into a tiara.

Grand Duchess Maria Teresa frequently wears the emerald and diamond piece as a choker though I wish she would wear it as what it was originally intended to be, a bracelet. As mentioned before, I also can't help but think that it often looks mismatched with the other emerald pieces of the Luxembourgish vaults which have much darker stones. Instead I think that the Emerald Art Deco Tiara, for example, would look much better combined with an all-diamond necklace that doesn't look as if it is about to strangle its wearer like chokers tend to do.


  1. Perhaps Lillian had the original emerald replaced with something lab created before returning it to Josephine-Charlotte.

  2. Colour differences in coloured stones are a very natural thing, it is also the case with sapphires and rubies.

    I don't think Sotheby's would have estimated it to be worth about to 25,000 euros if the emerald wasn't real.

  3. Do we know what happened to the emerald drop earrings, also from Queen Astrid's jewels? I always thought they would be perfect for Archduchess Marie Astrid

  4. Which ones do you mean? Both of these remain with the main branch of the family though I'm not 100% sure whether the ones worn by Maria-Teresa originally come from Queen Astrid.