The Italian Almanac

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the Empress Josephine Tiara

Crown for Sale

The dazzling jewellery of Italy's last queen will be sold in London next week at an auction expected to raise millions of euros. Princess Maria Gabriella of Savoy, 67, the daughter of King Umberto II and Queen Marie José, is selling 41 of the splendid jewels she inherited from her mother at Christie's on June 13.

Experts say the most precious piece being offered is a diamond tiara made by Fabergé in 1895. This item alone is estimated to be worth between 600,000 and 900,000 euros. Known as the Empress Josephine Tiara, it contains a set of tear-drop diamonds given by Russian Tsar Alexander I to the Empress Josephine, the wife of Napoleon. It came to the Italian queen via her brother, Prince Karl Theodor, Count of Flanders.

Also going under the hammer is a set of matching, diamond-and-turquoise jewellery comprising a necklace, two bracelets, earrings and brooches. The set, worth at least 45,000 euros was given to Maria José by her parents, the king and queen of Belgium, when she went to marry the heir to the Italian throne, Umberto of Savoy, in 1930.

The jewels are part of the inheritance of Maria José, who died in 2001 in Geneva. Her three other children reportedly said they would prefer to forgo the inheritance, mainly for tax reasons. Princess Maria Gabriella said in an interview that by accepting the inheritance she was also on a bill of over a million euros in inheritance tax. "I decided to shoulder the honours and the burden," she said.