Diamonds from Royal mistresses | The Fitzherbert jewels

Seven diamond jewels, circa 1810-1820 | Each oval open work plaque set with circular-cut, old mine and rose diamonds, mounted in silver and gold

This unusual set of seven diamond jewels, circa 1815, that can be incorporated into a tiara, were the gift of the Prince Regent, later King George IV, to his secret and illegal wife, Maria Anne Fitzherbert.

It is easy to underestimate the importance of a royal provenance to the value of the jewel.


Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830), George IV (1762-1830), 1821, oil on canvas | The King is depicted wearing his Coronation Robes, designed by himself. His hand rests on the 'Table des Grands Capitaines' beside the Imperial Crown, and he wears collars of the Golden Fleece, Guelphic, Bath and Garter | Royal Collection

In this case, the set of jewels was commissioned by George, Prince of Wales, during the course of his secret union with Maria Anne Fitzherbert.

The design of the bombé confronted volutes is very typical of this precise period and can also be found in the decorative details of contemporary furniture and silver.

Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792), Maria Anne Fitzherbert (1756-1837), circa 1788, oil on canvas | National Portrait Gallery | George, then Prince of Wales, and Maria went through a form of marriage in December 1785. The union was invalid as the permission of George III had not been sought in advance, and even had the King had been consulted it is unlikely he would have allowed a legal marriage to take place. Maria was a Catholic, and therefore the Prince of Wales would have been removed from succession to the throne

The jewels, mounted in a laminate of silver at the front and gold at the back, would have probably been sewn on to the bodice or the sleeves of a formal dress as was the fashion of the era, and can also be mounted as a tiara.

James Lovegrove Holt, (British, active early 19th century) Modern Furniture. Original and Select, circa 1820, published by Jenks and Holt (London) | Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Left: Sheffield plate coffee pot, circa 1815 | Right: Miniature silver teapot, John Troby, London 1805
Both images: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

George, Prince of Wales, made a number of gifts of jewellery to his mistresses including the spectacular diamond rivière (illustrated below), which was created for Elizabeth, Lady Conyngham (1770-1861) around 1820.

This piece features in David and Daniela’s printed and online reference work, Understanding Jewellery. Find out here about subscribing to the online version of Understanding Jewellery. 

Lady Conyngham was the last mistress of King George IV, their relationship can be traced back to 1819, two years before the coronation took plave. Her impressive rivière, circa 1820, is set à jour in gold and silver. At the time she received this particular gift Lady Conyngham is reputed to have been given jewels to the total value of £80,000.