Trinket Tuesday: Cut-Steel Jewelry

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London has a fabulous permanent exhibit on jewelry and gemstones.  I especially enjoyed viewing their cut-steel jewelry. I learned that cut-steel jewelry is a unique type of jewelry that glitters without a single gemstone in the settings.

V&A’s exhibit on cut-steel jewelry. I was especially taken by the beautiful bracelets, seen above.

According to Geoffrey Munn in his fabulous book Tiaras – A History of Splendor, this type of jewelry was popular from the second half of the eighteenth century until 1900. When worn in candlelight (can you imagine a 19th century ball lit by candlelight?), the polished facets of the metal sparkled like diamonds. Munn stressed that cut-steel jewelry was not considered paste and would have been quite valuable in its day.

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Napoleon’s first consort, Josephine, owned cut-steel jewelry. It’s possible that Josephine’s cut-steel tiaras are the same ones worn today by the ladies of the Swedish royal family. This might be because Empress Josephine’s granddaughter and namesake, Josephine of Leuchtenberg (the child of her son Eugène de Beauharnais), married Crown Prince Oskar of Sweden, eventually becoming Queen Josephine of Sweden. Eugène’s sister, Hortense de Beauharnais, did not have any daughters. Presumably the future Queen Josephine inherited her aunt’s jewels.

The Napoleonic Cut-Steel Tiara, worn today by the ladies of the Swedish royal family, might have been one of them.

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Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden wearing her family’s Napoleonic Cut-Steel Tiara.

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A close-up of the Napoleonic Cut-Steel Tiara.

In an interesting twist of history, Crown Prince Oskar of Sweden was the son of Queen Desideria (Désirée Clary), the French-born, ex-fiancée of Napoleon. Napoleon callously ended their engagement to marry Josephine de Beauharnais. Désirée may not have been heartbroken for too long because, via her marriage to Marshal Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, she became Queen of Sweden. This, however, is a story for another day.


Links for your enjoyment: Josefina (Joséphine) of Leuchtenberg, Queen Desideria, the Swedish Royal Family, V&A.

Trinket Tuesday is where I share some of the lovely things I discover during my travels, research or around town. All pictures are my own (unless I state otherwise). I hope you enjoy!