Auction 104 Antiques & Works of Art, Silver & Jewellery


An important necklace


35.000 - 50.000

Session 1

14 April 2021


Silver and gold, 19th century
Articulated links set with 44 various types of brilliant cut diamonds totalling (ca. 40ct) mainly J/K colour and various purities , Vs1, Vs2 Sl, P1
Unmarked in compliance with Decree-Law 120/2017, art. 2º, nº.2 C

Length: 35,5 cm
44.9 g



Eduardo Alves Marques
Royal Collections researcher

Towards the end of the Portuguese monarchy, there were two rivière necklaces recorded in the royal collections. One of these still belongs to the royal jewellery collection that is kept in the National Palace of Ajuda.

The French word “rivière” refers to a necklace or bracelet comprised of a single row of diamonds, whose light and sparkle allude to the clear water running in a stream (a rivière). The term is adopted in the 18th century to refer to this type of jewel which, for its inherent value and rarity was not affordable to most families, being exclusively associated with the highest aristocracy and with the wealthiest patrons.

Such important and ostentatious pieces were only displayed in the grandest formal court events, such as balls, the royal kissing of the hand ceremonies or weddings. Their wearing is particularly well recorded in Portuguese official state occasions, both from newspaper articles and from photographs of the two last Portuguese Queens: Maria Pia of Savoy (1847-1911) and Amelia of Orleans (1865-1951). In its March 13th, 1872 edition, the Lisbon daily newspaper “Diário de Notícias”, describes in some detail Queen Maria Pia’s outfit on the occasion of the State Visit of Brazil’s Emperor, Pedro II. According to the reporter, at the ball organized for the occasion at the Royal Palace of Ajuda, the queen presented herself in a “white satin dress of flower garland motifs, blue satin train with white lace and, on her neck, a large diamond choker”.

Of Portuguese aristocratic provenance, this jewel belongs to a family whose service to the former Royal House, has in its roots major and undeniable political and diplomatic contributions from the early 19th century onwards. It is easy to imagine that the elites, by copying the Royal taste, somehow mirrored it upon themselves, be it in terms of taste and trends or in the choice of the same suppliers, whose mastery and technical virtuosity demanded a discerning and wealthy clientele. Undoubtedly rare, such jewels reflected an international taste that emerged from the core of the Royal houses and was propagated by the aristocracy, who passed on these highly valuable treasures along the line from one generation to another.


This rivière necklace does also stand out for one other, perhaps even more unusual detail, that consists of a diamond and pearl drop that was added in the late 19th century by an ancestor of the owner family.

The pearl, of 1,7 cm length, hangs from a chain of three brilliant cut diamonds, likely to have been an earring, and it must have been added to the necklace for some unknown sentimental reason. Nevertheless, in such a diamond rivière, the pearl drop, pear shaped and unusually large, would not be overlooked.

Highly fashionable natural pearls were synonym of good taste and considered, since Roman times, as rare and precious treasures. As was recorded by his biographer, Julius Caesar, well known for his romantic conquests, gifted Servilia Caepio, his favourite mistress, a pearl worth six million sesterces.

The larger the pearl the higher its value. Undoubtedly famous are the pearls owned by Queen Maria Pia which, at the July 12th, 1912 auction sale of her jewels, reached astonishing prices. Such was the case of lot number 318, a very large drop pearl framed by five diamonds, which was bought for the astonishing price of 19,750 escudos, by Mr. Esmerian, a wealthy Jewish precious stones trader.

VERITAS is now bringing to sale one of such exceptional jewellery pieces dating from the early 19th century, and one that, for its unusual extravagance and rarity, will undoubtedly become one of the foremost emblematic lots of our April 2021 auction.

This set’s historic and inherent value, as well as its undisputed provenance, reinforce its uniqueness as a paramount example of 19th century Portuguese elite jewellery.

Closed Auction