The Hortensia Diamond: A Journey Through Time and Majesty

The Hortensia Diamond: A Journey Through Time and Majesty

Hortensia Diamond

Hortensia Diamond 


An Iconic Gemstone

The enchanting universe of precious gemstones holds a special place for the Hortensia Diamond. This remarkable stone's worth extends beyond its physical dimensions or financial value; it's deeply entrenched in its fascinating history and the captivating succession of its owners. This article embarks on a journey, exploring the Hortensia Diamond's fascinating lineage and the immense value it has accumulated over centuries.


Birthplace and Physical Attributes

The Hortensia Diamond, with its origins in the famed Golconda mines of India, known for producing some of the world's most notable diamonds, carries a legacy of royal patronage. It was named in honor of Queen Hortense of Holland, step-daughter to Napoleon Bonaparte. The gem, a 20.53-carat, pink diamond tinged with a peach hue, boasting a unique pentagonal shape and a feather (a fine crack), stands as a glowing testament to nature's artistic flair, captivating the gaze of beholders. 


Uncommon Rarity and Value

From a gemological standpoint, the Hortensia Diamond's delicate peach hue sets it apart, a coloration found in less than 0.1% of all naturally occurring diamonds, a rarity attributed to nitrogen impurities. This unique coloration not only elevates its allure but also its worth, securing it a position among the rarest diamonds globally in both size and color. As of 2023, this extraordinary gem is estimated to hold a monetary value of approximately $10 million, further underscoring its historical importance and unique rarity.


A Journey Through Time and Ownership

The diamond's historical journey is as captivating as its physical allure. Transported from India to Europe in the early 17th century, it was acquired by Louis XIV of France, known as the Sun King, in 1643. It was during his reign that the diamond was likely given its distinctive pentagonal cut, reflecting the era's aesthetic taste and diamond-cutting technology.


Times of Turmoil and Restoration

Following Louis XIV's death, the Hortensia Diamond was inherited by Louis XV, cementing its status as a royal gemstone. In the 1791 inventory of the Crown Jewels it was valued at no more than 48,000 livres on account of a crack extending from the edge of the girdle to near the culet. However, the diamond's journey witnessed turmoil during the French Revolution in 1792 when it was stolen from the Garde-Meuble de la Couronne in Paris, the current Hôtel de la Marine. The diamond was subsequently discovered in an attic in Paris' Les Halles district, hidden in a sack alongside other crown jewels, including the famed Regent Diamond. A popular yet unverified tale suggests that the diamond's location was disclosed in a man's confession just before his execution. Sadly, the Hortensia bore signs of an unsuccessful attempt to re-cut it.


Symbol of Power and Grandeur

The ambitious French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte is also counted among the Hortensia Diamond's distinguished owners. He initially set the diamond on his epaulette braid fastening, symbolizing his formidable power and prestige. His step-daughter, Queen Hortense, was the diamond's namesake, despite never having worn it. 


The Diamond's Namesake

Queen Hortense of Holland

Queen Hortense of Holland // Francois Gerard


Hortense was born into an aristocratic family in Paris as the daughter of Alexandre Francois Marie, Vicomte de Beauharnais, and Marie Rose Josephe Tascher de la Pagerie. Unfortunately, her parents' marital bliss was short-lived, leading to a divorce. The aftermath of this split led to Hortense and her mother losing their status and most of their possessions, including valuable jewelry. As a result, they moved to the island of Martinique, taking refuge in the home of Marie Rose's parents.

Their departure was timely, as Hortense's father didn't survive the turbulent French Revolution, particularly the Reign of Terror.

Once stability was restored, Hortense and her mother, now known as Josephine, returned to Paris to rebuild their social standing. Josephine caught the eye of the up-and-coming General Napoleon Bonaparte. Charmed by him and his beaded jewelry gifts, she accepted his marriage proposal.

This marriage made Hortense Napoleon's step-daughter. Upon Napoleon's rise to power, he acquired the French Crown Jewels, which comprised the 20.53 carat Hortensia Diamond. Given Hortense's fondness for beaded jewelry and precious stones, it's believed that this flat, peach-pink gem may have been named after her during this period.

Later, Hortense married Louis Bonaparte, Napoleon's brother. In 1806, Louis was crowned King of Holland by Napoleon, making Hortense the queen. Portraits from that era show Hortense embellished with beaded jewelry and a tiara. However, despite her access to a vast collection of gems and beaded jewelry as the Queen of Holland, she had no direct involvement with the Hortensia Diamond.

The rollercoaster of Hortense's life continued. Her marriage to Louis reflected her mother's turbulent relationship, leading to their separation during Napoleon's exile on Elba. Despite her personal struggles, Hortense remained politically active, advocating for Napoleon's return to power following his escape from exile.

Yet, following Napoleon's fall, Hortense was exiled from France due to her unwavering loyalty to him. She spent some time travelling around Europe before finally finding a home in Switzerland in 1817.

Most historians concur that the Hortensia Diamond was named after Hortense between 1806 and 1817. However, the exact rationale for this naming remains an intriguing mystery.


Preservation and Legacy

Post the Napoleonic era, the Hortensia Diamond joined the French Crown Jewels collection. After a second theft in 1830 and quick recovery, the diamond was set in a diamond-encrusted comb made for Empress Eugenie by court jeweller Christophe-Frédéric Bapst in 1856. In 1887, in an effort to thwart a potential royalist coup, the Third French Republic auctioned a considerable portion of the crown jewels, sparing those with significant historical importance. The Hortensia Diamond, due to its rich history, was among the preserved gems. It is currently on display in the Galerie d'Apollon of the Louvre museum in Paris, serving as a glittering testament to France's illustrious history.


A Priceless Cultural and Historical Artifact

From a cultural and historical lens, the Hortensia Diamond is invaluable. It stands as a physical remnant of bygone centuries, a gateway into various epochs of human history. This diamond has witnessed the rise and fall of empires, the opulence of monarchies, and the turbulence of revolutions.


Embodying Human Fascination

The Hortensia Diamond personifies the enduring human fascination with beauty and luxury. Observing this gem reminds us of humanity's relentless pursuit of such treasures. Every facet of the diamond narrates a story - tales of power, ambition, craftsmanship, and an incessant quest for beauty.


Conclusion: A Timeless Marvel

To conclude, the Hortensia Diamond is a magnificent testament to the captivating allure of precious gemstones. Its historical journey, unique peach hue, and distinctive pentagonal shape amplify its inherent worth. As it continues to glimmer through the pages of human history, the Hortensia Diamond encapsulates the enthralling narrative of mankind's perennial fascination with diamonds. Today, it stands as a perpetual symbol of timeless beauty, opulence, and historical magnificence.


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