Canvases, Carats and Curiosities

Famous Couples and Their Unforgettable Jewels

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, love and romance are definitely in the air. But with the anticipation of that special day also comes the big question: What will you get your Valentine?

This year, the National Retail Federation estimates that U.S. consumers will spend nearly $20 billion spoiling their loved ones, with a quarter of that spending being…you guessed it…jewelry.

Picking the perfect piece of jewelry to embody your love and admiration for your sweetheart is no small task. However, these five famous couples turned the act of gifting jewelry into an art form, presenting their significant others with some of the most memorable jewelry creations ever made.

Napoléon and Josephine

The marriage of Napoléon and Josephine The marriage of Napoléon and Josephine

Sapphire was the jewel of choice when Emperor Napoléon Bonaparte proposed to his beloved Josephine. Associated with royalty for centuries, sapphires were believed to protect wearers from harm and came to be representative of faithfulness and love. The ring, comprising a pear-shaped royal blue sapphire set beside a comparable white diamond in a yellow gold band, sold at a 2013 auction for a total price of $1.17 million, over 50 times the original estimate!

The engagement ring Napoléon gave to his Josephine The engagement ring Napoléon gave to his Josephine

Napoléon and Marie Louise

The marriage of Napoléon to Marie Louise The marriage of Napoléon to Marie Louise

By 1809, the marriage of Napoléon and Josephine had ended, and in 1810, he wed Archduchess Marie Louise, the 18-year-old daughter of Emperor Francis I of Austria, head of the House of Habsburg. To commemorate the marriage, Napoléon commissioned a stunning diadem set with 79 Colombian emeralds totaling approximately 700 carats.

The diadem, or crown, Napoléon gave to Marie Louise upon their marriage. The crown was originally set with emeralds, but, in the 1950s, Van Cleef & Arpels sold the emeralds and had them replaced with turquoise. The diadem, or crown, Napoléon gave to Marie Louise upon their marriage. The crown was originally set with emeralds, but, in the 1950s, Van Cleef & Arpels sold the emeralds and had them replaced with turquoise.

Within a year, she gave birth to their son, Napoléon II. To celebrate the occasion, he gifted Marie Louise with a truly breathtaking diamond necklace that features 28 mine-cut diamonds set into a single thread, with a fringe of alternating pendeloque and briolette diamond cuts, with each briolette mounting set with 12 rose-cut diamonds.

The amazing diamond necklace Napoléon gave to Marie Louise upon the birth of their son, Napoléon II. The amazing diamond necklace Napoléon gave to Marie Louise upon the birth of their son, Napoléon II.

The diadem was eventually purchased in the 1950s by Van Cleef & Arpels, who replaced the emeralds with elegant turquoise.  Today, both of these amazing jewelry creations are on display at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C.

Prince Rainier III and Grace Kelley

Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace of Monaco Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace of Monaco

Grace Kelly admiring the elegant ruby and diamond eternity band Prince Rainier III initially gave as the engagement ring. Grace Kelly admiring the elegant ruby and diamond eternity band Prince Rainier III initially gave as the engagement ring.

When Hollywood starlet Grace Kelly wed Monaco’s Prince Rainier III in 1956, it quickly became the fairytale love story of the century. After a rather brief meeting at the 1955 Cannes Film Festival, the pair kept in touch until the prince came to visit the United States later that year.  Just three days after his arrival, he proposed with a dazzling ruby and diamond ring by Cartier, as rubies have long been associated with marriage since they represent wisdom, love and immortality.

Prince Rainier III reconsidered his first choice of engagement ring and gave his future princess this striking Cartier creation. Prince Rainier III reconsidered his first choice of engagement ring and gave his future princess this striking Cartier creation.

But, wishing to be more “traditional” in his engagement ring choice, he soon presented the future princess with an exquisite Cartier 10.47-carat emerald-cut diamond ring set in platinum.  Today, this jewel resides within the Monaco royal jewels.

Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton

Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Here, Taylor proudly displays the incredible 33.19-carat diamond ring he gifted to her. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Here, Taylor proudly displays the incredible 33.19-carat diamond ring he gifted to her.

The Bulgari emerald pendant Burton gave Taylor upon their engagement The Bulgari emerald pendant Burton gave Taylor upon their engagement

Though not royalty like our other famous couples, legendary actress Elizabeth Taylor possessed the jewelry collection of a queen, and none of her eight husbands showered her with jewels quite like fellow actor Richard Burton. When he proposed to Taylor in 1964, he did so with a platinum-set Bulgari pendant featuring an 18.61-carat emerald encrusted by diamonds.

The Elizabeth Taylor Diamond The Elizabeth Taylor Diamond

Five years later, Burton would give her a diamond ring that would go down in history as one of the most extravagant. Known as the Elizabeth Taylor Diamond, this Asscher-cut treasure weighs an unbelievable 33.19 carats and is internally flawless! Needless to say, the actress wore this ring almost daily.

After a tumultuous 10-year marriage, Taylor and Burton divorced, only to remarry 16 months later. His jewelry offering upon their second marriage was none other than the Grand Duchess of Russia’s emeralds!  Comprising earrings, bracelet and a matching necklace, Burton certainly went all out for his love.

The emerald bracelet and earrings that once belonged to the Grand Duchess of Russia. Burton gifted the suite to Taylor upon their second marriage. The emerald bracelet and earrings that once belonged to the Grand Duchess of Russia. Burton gifted the suite to Taylor upon their second marriage.

Prince William and Catherine Middleton

Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge

When Prince William decided to propose to Kate Middleton 2010, the royal knew exactly which ring he was going to present to his future bride. In an immensely romantic and commemorative gesture, Prince William gave the future Duchess of Cambridge his mother, the late Princess Diana’s, Garrard sapphire ring. The amazing 18-carat, deep blue sapphire is surrounded by a ring of 14 brilliant white diamonds.

In a truly touching show of affection, William proposed to Kate using his mother, the late Princess Diana's sapphire engagement ring. In a truly touching show of affection, William proposed to Kate using his mother, the late Princess Diana's sapphire engagement ring.

View M.S. Rau Antiques' selection of rare and important jewels

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