Sunday, November 21, 2021

Egyptian X-Files : The curious case of Princess Fawzia’s diamond Parure

This post should have been posted last week but between work and what is happening at Cairo’s historical cemeteries overshadowed the plans I had.

This post is about another piece or rather missing pieces of the famous Princess Fawzia’s Jewelry collection. Last week, we saw the former Queen of Iran’s jewelry collection at Alexandria’s Royal Jewelry Museum as well as some famous jewelry pieces she wore whether in Iran or Egypt.

Nevertheless, we did not speak about her most famous jewelry pieces ever but now the time has come to speak about the famous legendary diamond parure of Princess Fawzia or the Holy Grail of the Egyptian Royal Jewelry.

Empress Fawzia by Cecil Beaton
The famous photoshoot of Queen Fawzia in Tehran
in 1942 by Cecil Beaton

Just like the striking beauty of the Egyptian Princess, that diamond parure was also immortalized when famous British photographer Cecil Beaton took those famous and official photos of Fawzia Fouad in Tehran in 1942.

Empress Fawzia
Fawzia wearing the full diamond parure
in Tehran "Cecil Beaton"

But its story went back before 1942

In the year 1938, the Egyptian Royal Family commissioned French Jewelry House Van Cleef & Arpels to design a special diamonds parure for the new bride Princess Fawzia as her engagement to the Crown Prince of Iran was announced.

It consisted of a tiara, earrings, and a necklace.

To give you an idea of what we are talking about that you must know the tiara was made of fifty-four pear-shaped diamonds totalling 92 carats, as well as 530 baguette-cut diamonds weighing 72 carats according to Van Cleef & Arpels.

Van Cleef & Arpels archives
The original design of the necklace
from Van Cleef & Arpels Archives

It is one of the most expensive and beautiful pieces of jewelry ever owned by the Egyptian Royal Family.

Fawzia in a Banquet in Cairo 1939
Princess Fawzia wearing the diamond parure at a banquet in Cairo 
besides Mohamed Reza Pahlavi and Queen Farida in 1939
"Getty imags"
Princess Fawzia wore it at her wedding parties whether in Cairo or Tehran.

Late Princess Fawzia wearing the diamond parure at a banquet in Tehran in 1939
Late Princess Fawzia wearing the diamond parure at a banquet in Tehran in 1939

Because it was commissioned by the Royal House of Mohamed Ali, Princess Fawzia owned it officially.

It returned back from Tehran upon her return from Iran and request.

Princess Fawzia
Princess Fawzia wearing the necklace in a gala
at Semiramis Hotel in Cairo in 1949
"Samir Ghazouly collection"

Till July 1952, Princess Fawzia used to wear this parure or parts of it especially the earrings and necklaces. It was her favourite diamond parure by all measures.

Fawzia wearing the parure's tiara in the 
inauguration of the parliament 

On 18 June 1953, the Free officers declared the Egyptian Republic abolishing the monarchy and the rule of Mohamed Ali Royal Family forever ordering the full nationalization of the former royals.

Princess Fawzia
Fawzia wearing the necklace in a
party months before the coup in 1952

Next year in 1954, the Free officers organized ignorantly auctions to sell some of the possessions of those royals including their antiquities, furniture and jewelry.

Famous jewelry houses like Cartier and Henry Weinstein sent representatives to buy cheaply the pieces they were commissioned to design earlier by the fallen Royal house.

Many pieces went under the hammer and yet were not sold but interestingly Fawzia’s parure did not show up at all. It disappeared.

Some of the pieces that went under the hammer
and currently at Alexandria's Royal Jewelry Museum
"British Pathe"

According to records and reports, all Princess Fawzia’s jewelry and expensive clothes including fur coats were confiscated according to nationalization.

Her villa in Maadi was nationalized and turned into a school and she went to live in Alexandria in her husband’s old villa which he originally owned.

For decades, no one knew the fate of this parure and whether it is in Alexandria’s Museum or in the vaults of National Bank of Egypt among that legendary collection we are reading about. “I read reports that the government began to display some pieces from that collection kept for decades in NBE”

Some foreign blog claimed without a source that Princess Fawzia kept that parure till her death, the thing which any Egyptian with a slight knowledge of the Free Officier era or what happened during nationalization knows it was impossible.

The confiscation committee was merciless and did not leave a single thing that was worth a dim for the Royal family’s members who remained in Egypt.

To a big surprise in the 21st century, Van Cleef & Arpels' displayed the earrings of this parure “or its reproduction” in its Dubai show “Treasures & Legends exhibition” at the Dubai Opera in 2019 along with other pieces like the legendary diamonds necklace of Queen Nazli.


It is clear how Queen Nazli’s necklace ended at Van Cleef & Arpels' possession, but it is unclear how Princess Fawzia’s earrings ended it on display in Dubai.

Queen Nazli took her jewels with her to the United States when she left Egypt on that doomed trip with no return in the late 1940s. She sold them in the mid-1960s to support herself and her daughter in auction financially. 

I sent an inquiry to Van Cleef & Arpels about the earrings about how they ended back to them and whether it is a reproduction along with other questions about this amazing parure but so far, I have not gotten an answer from the famous French Jewelry house.

It was another reason why I waited to publish this, I hoped that I got an answer but so far, I have got none.

I hope one day I will get an answer.

Till this day the famous French jewelry house considers the parure as one of its unforgettable masterpieces.

Hopefully, one day this parure reappears at Alexandria Royal Jewelry Museum where it should be.

It belongs to Egypt and the Egyptian people.

There is an interesting piece of Jewelry or rather another diamond necklace Princess Fawzia Fouad wore in her official engagement photoshoot to Mohamed Reza Pahlavi photo in 1938. Egyptian of Armenian descend famous photographer Alban 

Royal engagment official photos
Princess Fawzia and Prince Mohamed Reza Palhavi
official engagement photo "Getty"

She was wearing an original Chanel dress that was designed by Coco Chanel herself.

Fawzia smiling more with clear image  for the necklace "Alban"
Fawzia smiling more with a clear image 
for the necklace "Alban" 

I wonder what happened to that dress too.

A recent coloured image from the Alban photoshoot 
"I think the earnings and bracelet were her mother's"

Aside from the dress, I have not seen any photo of Fawzia wearing that necklace afterwards whether in Tehran or in Cairo and I did not find any details about its background and whether it was from Iran.

Another photo for Fawzia in Chanel and that diamond
parure "Alban"

I do not recall that I stumbled on it from Iranian sources. So we got a question about where that necklace went.

Again, I hope if it was owned by the Mohamed Royal Family that it resurfaces again because this belongs to the Egyptian people.

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