The Alluring Story of Queen Marie of Romania's Sapphire: A Gemological and Historical Treasure
Queen Marie of Romania Sapphire // Kirane / Cartier Exhibition
Queen Marie of Romania's Sapphire is more than just a precious stone; it's a relic steeped in a rich tapestry of history, power, and beauty. Known as one of the largest and most stunning sapphires ever unearthed, this gem has captivated imaginations and commanded attention for generations. In this article, we delve into the illustrious background of the stone, focusing on its significant owners, size, carat, gemological and geological details, its setting, and its estimated value.
Queen Marie of Romania
Queen Marie of Romania // Philip Alexius de Laszlo
Queen Marie of Romania, née Princess Marie of Edinburgh, was born on October 29, 1875, in Kent, England. She was the daughter of Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, and Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia, making her a granddaughter of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and Tsar Alexander II of Russia. Her royal lineage afforded her a childhood marked by privilege, but also by the rigid etiquette and expectations of European royalty.
Marie was a vivacious and artistic young woman, with interests in literature, painting, and sculpture. Her beauty and charisma made her a popular figure in royal circles, and her hand in marriage was highly sought after. In 1893, at the age of 17, she married Ferdinand of Romania, who later became King Ferdinand I. The match was largely political, designed to strengthen ties between Romania and Britain as well as Russia. Marie took her responsibilities seriously, quickly learning Romanian and converting to the Romanian Orthodox faith, despite her Anglican upbringing.
As Queen of Romania, Marie played a significant role not only as a consort but also as a political figure and diplomat, especially during World War I. Her efforts in supporting the Romanian Red Cross and tending to wounded soldiers earned her the nickname "Mother of the Wounded." She leveraged her family connections and popularity to gain international support for Romania. During the post-war negotiations, her diplomatic skills were pivotal in securing favorable territorial gains for Romania in the Treaty of Trianon and the Treaty of Bucharest. She was an advocate for modernization and cultural development and took an active role in promoting Romanian arts and crafts, as well as healthcare initiatives.
A celebrated beauty with an artistic soul, Queen Marie was also known for her passion for jewelry and fashion. Her style was considered avant-garde for her time, often influenced by Romanian traditional costumes. She had an impressive collection of jewels, among them the famous sapphire that bears her name. Marie was not just a style icon but also an author who penned her autobiography, as well as articles and fairy tales.
Marie's legacy endures as one of the most dynamic and influential queens in Romanian history. She passed away on July 18, 1938, but her influence on Romanian culture, politics, and even style remains significant to this day.
After the Queen’s death in 1938, the gem passed through various private collectors and estate auctions. Every owner has been notably discreet, contributing to the stone's aura of mystery. The sapphire has occasionally been displayed in museums, tantalizing the public while being studied by gemologists.
Size and Carat
The Queen Marie of Romania's Sapphire is an imposing stone, both in size and visual impact. The sapphire weighs an astonishing 478.68 carats, making it one of the largest faceted blue sapphires in existence. Its dimensions contribute to its allure and rarity.
Color and Clarity
The sapphire exhibits a "royal blue" color, the most coveted shade of blue in sapphires. Its vivid hue is attributed to the presence of trace elements like iron and titanium. The stone is almost free of inclusions, contributing to its exceptional clarity.
Cut and Shape
The gemstone has been cut into a cushion-shaped faceted design, maximizing its brilliance and color saturation. The quality of the cut is exquisite, testifying to the skill of the gem-cutter and enhancing the stone's natural beauty.
The Queen Marie of Romania’s Sapphire is said to have originated from the gem mines of Sri Lanka, known for producing sapphires of unmatched quality. The geological conditions of these mines provide an ideal environment for the formation of corundum crystals, the mineral from which sapphires are derived.
Formation and Discovery
Sapphires form in igneous and metamorphic rocks under extreme temperature and pressure. Over millions of years, the minerals in the earth's crust form into what we know as sapphire. Its discovery is believed to have taken place in the late 19th or early 20th century, although the exact details are cloaked in mystery.
The sapphire was initially set in a brooch, featuring a complex design of diamonds and smaller sapphires, further enhancing its visual impact. This setting was created by Cartier, one of the world’s most renowned jewelers, adding another layer of historical and artistic significance to the gem.
The brooch’s design showcases motifs prevalent during the Art Deco period, and it exemplifies the era's fascination with geometry and luxury. The meticulous craftsmanship complements the natural splendor of the sapphire, creating a piece that is awe-inspiring in both its simplicity and complexity.
Putting a price tag on a gemstone of such historical, cultural, and gemological importance is challenging. However, given the current market trends, experts speculate that the Queen Marie of Romania's Sapphire could fetch between $20-30 million if it were ever to go up for auction. This valuation takes into consideration its size, clarity, provenance, and the artistry of its setting.
The Queen Marie of Romania's Sapphire is a gemstone that transcends its physical attributes. It is a treasure that encapsulates a slice of history, the epitome of craftsmanship, and the pinnacle of natural beauty. While its whereabouts remain part of its enigmatic appeal, its legacy as a world-class gem continues to captivate imaginations worldwide. From the royal courts of Romania to the hushed auction rooms of elite collectors, this sapphire continues to shine as one of the greatest gemological wonders of our time.