A few months ago, a fascinating discussion took place on the History of Famous Jewels and Collections Message Board regarding a previously little known wedding present that was destined for Her Serene Highness, Princess Grace of Monaco but she never received.
Thankfully Pablo Milstein of Milstein Jewelry has solved the mystery for us all and has kindly given me permission to write my own article on the piece.
Although their Principality may be famous for its Grand Prix, generous income tax laws and being the second smallest state in the world, the Princes of Monaco do not have a conventional collection of royal jewels unlike their dynastic counterparts throughout Europe.
Therefore, when she married Prince Rainier in 1956, the American actress Grace Kelly had to start her own jewellery collection from scratch. Prince Rainier’s mother, Princess Charlotte, did own several impressive pieces (such as her Cartier Pearl and Diamond Fringe Tiaras) but these were personal property and she was apparently unwilling to share with her new daughter in law.
Fortunately for Grace, she had received several impressive jewelled wedding presents to kick start the collection, including a Diamond and Ruby Tiara from the Principality’s main employer the Société des Bains de Mer. SBM commissioned the famous jeweller Cartier to make the new princess a tiara featuring the Monegasque national colours of Red and White.
In keeping with this theme, the National Council of Monaco also decided to gift their new Princess with a jewellery suite of Diamonds and Rubies.
They approached the little known jeweller Clerc and appointed them to make a necklace, bracelet, ring and a pair of clips (brooches) all in Rubies and Diamonds.
Taking over 14,000 hours to make, the suite is made up of 800 Diamonds and 70 Rubies all set in Platinum. The total price for the jewels was 37 million francs.
However, before the jewel could be delivered a minor scandal broke out. The Vice President of the National Council was a Mr Roger Médecin. He had previously been a lawyer and one of his clients was rumoured to be none other than Clerc. It had been claimed that the price of the new suite of jewels had been over inflated in order to benefit not only the jeweller but Mr Medecin also. Most people believed that the jewels could be worth no more than 18 million francs at best.
Not only was Prince Rainier unhappy about the alleged fraud, he also found the design ‘hideous’.
In his book ‘Grace of Monaco’, author Jeffrey Robinson was able to obtain Rainier’s side of the story.
“The National Council chose the jeweler, they settled in the price with him and that was their gift to Grace for the wedding. We couldn’t interfere at all. Grace wasn’t asked, nor did she ever volunteer to them, or to anyone else, that she might have preferred pearls to diamonds or emeralds to rubies”
The National council had to find another gift immediately. They quickly settled on the jeweller Cartier who produced the Festoon Necklace, which would become a staple feature of Princess Grace’s jewellery collection for many years to come.
But this was not the end of the story. Clerc had received a deposit of 12 million francs to begin work on the suite and was still expecting final payment of 25 million francs. He argued that an agreement had been made on the price and it could not be undone. To save face, The National Council offered to return the jewels if Clerc would return the deposit. The legal dispute dragged on for two further years. All that is know is that Clerc did not return the money and no one is sure what became of the jewels.