Queen Henrietta Maria owned probably the most famous pair of pearl earrings ever. Throughout history, legendary jewels have disappeared because of theft, wars and revolution, or reset until they bear no resemblance to their original design. But her magnificent pair of earrings survive today with pearls and diamonds intact, and a story to match:
Marie de' Medici (1575-1642), the Italian princess who left her native Florence to wed the French king, Henry IV (1552-1610) had them as part of her dowery jewelry.
The de' Medici family was old, powerful and wealthy, and the jewels Marie wore astonished the French court. At this time, pearls were the most valuable of precious gems, rare accidents of nature acquired only at great risk and cost. The two almost perfectly-matched droplet pearls were the new queen's favorite pair of pendant earrings, and were of a quality not been seen before in Paris. (You can see many ladies in 17th century portraits wearing what look like pearls, but most of them were actually coated glass. Marie's were real.) Peter Paul Rubens painted her wearing them in a 1616 portrait.
When Henry IV and Marie de' Medici's youngest daughter, princess Henriette Marie (1609-1699), married our Charles I in 1625, Marie gave the pendant pearl earrings to her as a wedding gift.
Queen Henriette Marie was portrayed many times wearing the earrings, including in a portrait of her as a young wife, painted in 1632 by Sir Anthony van Dyck. But they brought the English queen no luck, as we know. The civil war forced Henriette Marie to flee the country in 1644.
In exile, Queen Henrietta Marie was forced to gradually sell all her jewels, first to help support King Charles' army, and as a widow to keep herself from poverty. As mementos of happier times, the fabulous pearl earrings were among the last jewels to go, finally being purchased by her nephew, Louis XIV (1638-1714) in 1657.
The 19-year-old Louis had fallen desperately in love with 18-year-old Marie Mancini (1639-1715), the Italian niece of Cardinal Jules Mazarin. At first the match was approved by the cardinal and Louis XIV's widowed mother, so Louis presented the pearl earrings to Marie as a token of his intentions. Marie's portrait shows her wearing the pearls along with flowers in her hair.
But politics got in the way, the match was broken off, Louis obediently wed the Spanish Infanta Maria Theresa, and Marie Mancini went on to marry the Roman Prince, Lorenzo Onofrio Colonna.
But Marie Mancini kept the pearls! The earrings were so associated with her that they became known as the Mancini Pearls.
There is no record of what happened to the earrings for almost 250 years, until they appeared at Christie's auction house in New York in October, 1979. They were sold to a private collector for $253,000. I'd love to know where they are today.
Pictures and more info at https://www.internetstones.com/ma…