Bouquet holder of pierced gold in a floral and foliate design, set with diamonds, twelve single rubies, two ruby semi-circles and seven large pearls, tapering toward a square tapering gilt metal shaft enamelled with turquoise spirals terminating in a suspension ring.
This was a personal gift from the French Empress to Queen Victoria during the ten-day state visit to Paris in August 1855. The Queen, who particularly admired the jewels worn by the Empress, was clearly touched by her generosity. She recalled in her Journal on 26 August: ‘A week ago the Empress gave me a beautiful bouquet holder, in diamonds, pearls & rubies with the stem in enamel. She said nothing beyond hoping I would take the bouquet, and I felt quite shy about accepting it, adn inquired through my dresser of her dresser, who then said she hoped I would retain it. It is quite lovely.’ The heavily jewelled vase and suspension ring and the chased and enamelled stem are of particularly fine quality, reflecting the care the Empress took over the commissioning of all her jewellery, much of it made by the leading firms of the period, Bapst, Lemonnier and Fontenay.
The Queen’s interest in and admiration for the Empress’s jewels was rekindled at the time of the sale of the French crown jewels in May 1887; through the British Ambassador, Lord Lyons, she bid (unsuccessfully) on two lots consisting of two pins and a crescent.
Text adapted from Victoria & Albert: Art & Love, London, 2010