"The Queen's Necklace" jewellery
After a facsimile kept at the Château of Versailles
Mounted by Paul Bassenge (jeweller) and Boehmer
This diamond necklace, valued at 1,600,000 pounds at that time, was at the origin of what is known as the "necklace affair". In 1785, two jewellers proposed this sumptuous necklace to Marie-Antoinette but, with Louis XVI, she had turned it down because of its enormous price, which was equal, they said, to the cost of two warships.
A schemer at Versailles, the Comtesse de La Motte, gave Cardinal de Rohan, who was then in disgrace, the impression that the queen wanted the necklace, and asked him to acquire it in secrecy. When presented with the false missives, apparently written by the queen to Rohan, the jewellers handed over the necklace to the Comtesse de la Motte, whose husband rushed over to England to sell the diamonds.
The scandal broke out on 15 August 1785, the two protagonists were arrested and the King entrusted the affair to Parliament. Although Cardinal de Rohan was acquitted, the queen, who was not very popular among the people, was slandered. Pamphlets and lampoons were spread to demonstrate the squandering and futility of the Court. This affair certainly contributed to the fall of the monarchy.