Pearls in the Imperial Austrian Schatzkammer

Imperial Austrian Schatzkammer pearls...details.



The weights and values of the great gathering of pearls of the Austrian Schatzkammer were carefully estimated by one of the authors and by his friends, and it is the first attempted inventory ever published. (The senior author, Kunz, was permitted to handle these treasures in 1899.)


Imperial Austrian Crown
Austrian Imperial Crown

The imperial crown of the Holy Roman Empire, preserved in the treasury of the Imperial Austrian Schatzkammer Burg at Vienna, and known as the crown of Charlemagne, has in front seventeen pearls weighing 424 grains, of which two weigh fifty-six grains each. The remaining fifteen pearls average 20.8 grains. The values of these pearls are as follows:

Base = $2.50$5.00$7.50
15 pearls, 20.8 grains $1,224$32,448 $48,672
2.56 grain pearls 15,680 31,360 47,040
Total $31,904 $63,808 $95,712

Crown of Charlemagne
Crown of Charlemagne

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At the back of the crown there are eighteen pearls, weighing 180 grains. One of these has a weight of twenty-six grains; the remaining seventeen average 9.058 grains. The values estimated are as follows:

Base =$2.50$5.00$7.50
17 pearls, 9.058 grains $3,487.55$6,975.10$10,462.65
1 pearl of 26 grains $1,690.00 $3,380.00 $5,070.00
Total $5,177.55 $10,355.10 $15,532.65

The pearls in the cross surmounting the crown have a weight of thirty-six grain.

The imperial cross of the Imperial Austrian Schatzkammer is profusely ornamented with pearls in front, while the back consists simple of silver-gilt. There are three strings of pearls in the front running in each direction. The total weight of the pearls is 4092 grains; one weighing sixty-four grains, and the smallest two grains.

The crucifix of the Golden Fleece in the Imperial Austrian Schatzkammer is ornamented only in front with pearls; these have a weight of but 136 grains.

The imperial Austrian regalia of the Imperial Austrian Schatzkammer, dating from the time of Emperor Rudolph II, are also in the imperial Burg; some of the emperor's jewels were sold at auction in Prague in 1728.

Coronation Crown of Rudolph II
Coronation Crown of Rudolph II

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The crown is adorned with two rows of pearls, weighing respectively 960 grains and 840 grains, while the ornaments and eight large drops weigh 2052 grains. The largest pearl on this crown weighs 104 grains. It is drop-shaped and belonged to Rudolph II; it is slightly uneven and the color, although white, is not that of a new pearl, but this pearl has a positive history of three hundred and six years, and at the present time is probably the oldest known unchanged pearl with a direct and authentic record.

Coronation Regalia of Rudolph II, Emperor of Austria, circa 1576
Coronation Regalia of Rudolph II, Emperor of Austria, circa 1576

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The imperial orb in the Imperial Austrian Schatzkammer is studded with pearls weighing in all 1560 grains. Four of these weigh forty grains each, the others are of lesser size, the smallest weighing ten grains. The scepter is adorned with pearls to the weight of 300 grains.

Maria Theresa, Empress of Austria, 1762
Maria Theresa, Empress of Austria, 1762

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In addition to these insignia and regalia there are in the Imperial Austrian Schatzkammer two magnificent pearl necklaces, deposited by Empress Maria Theresa in 1765.

Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, circa 1770
Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, circa 1770

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The first consists of a single string of 114 large size pearls with the "Baden Solitaire," a diamond of 30 carats, as a clasp. Three of these pearls weigh from 92 to 100 grains each, and the whole string has a total weight of 3400 grains. This would give us the following values, the pearls averaging 29.82 grains.

Base $2.50......$253,432.12
Base $5.00......$506,864.24

The other necklace contains 121 pearls of total weight of 3788 grains, arranged in three rows; these pearls average 31.3 grains, the largest weighing forty grains and the smallest ten grains. The necklace has a diamond clasp of 14 1/32 carats. The pearls are worth:

Base $2.50......$29,450
Base $5.00.....$592,900
Base $7.50.....$889,350

Two bracelets with brilliant clasps, belonging to the same set, and consisting of 240 medium-sized pearls weighing 2800 grains and averaging 11 2/3 grains, have the following values:

Base $2.50......$81,658.80
Base $5.00.....$163,317.60
Base $7.50.....$244,976.40

There is also a pendant of six pearls, weighing 300 grains and averaging fifty grains; these pearls are worth:

Base $2.50......$37,500
Base $5.00......$75,000
Base $7.50.....$112,500

Another necklace, bequeathed to the treasury of the Imperial Austrian Schatzkammer by the late Empress Caroline Augusta, consists of eighty-six pearls disposed in two rows, the largest pearl weighing seventy-two grains and the smallest eight grains. The total weight is 2600 grains and the average, 30.2. This necklace is worth:

Base $2.50.....$19,088.60
Base $5.00.....$392,177.20
Base $7.50.....$588,265.80

Still another necklace is composed altogether of black pearls of which there are thirty, the largest weighing forty-eight grains and the smallest ten. The total weight of this necklace is 1040 grains, an average of 34.6 grains for each pearl. On a base of $5 this necklace is worth $180,150.

The diamond crown of the empress bears pearls to the total weight of 200 grains; among them are four weighing 100 grains each. These pearls alone, on a $5 base, would be worth $200,000.

The total weight of the pearls in all these ornaments is 35,81 grains, equal to four and a half pounds, avoirdupois, and the are worth from $2,000,000 to $4,000,000.

Charlemagne, Charles the Great (747-814) King of the Franks, Emperor of the West
Charlemagne, Charles the Great (747-814) King of the Franks, Emperor of the West

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The so-called crown on Charlemagne bears the inscription: "Chuonradus Rex Dei gratia Romanorum Imperator Aug." It is believed to be the work of the twelfth century and originally the royal crown of Conrad III, king of the Germans (1093-1152), the first Hohenstaufen. (Winckler, "Die Reichskleinodien," Berlin, 1872, p. 17.)

Entry of Louis VII (circa 1120-80) King of France and Conrad III (1093-1152) King of Germany
Entry of Louis VII (circa 1120-80) King of France and Conrad III (1093-1152) King of Germany

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The arch is said to have been added to adapt this royal crown for use in the expected coronation of Conrad as emperor. He died, however, while making preparations to his journey to Rome.

Information on the Imperial Austrian Schatzkammer as recorded in 1908 by Kunz and Stevenson in "The Book of the Pearl".

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