Picking the perfect piece of antique or estate 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
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!
Napoléon and 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.
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 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
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.
But, wishing to be more “traditional” in his engagement ring choice, he soon presented the future princess with an exquisite designer 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
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.
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 with these jewelry pieces.
Prince William and Catherine Middleton
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.
View M.S. Rau's selection of rare and important jewels. We are pleased to offer various vintage Cartier rings or antique Tiffany & Co. pieces for you to choose from.