Louis XIV ruled France from 1643 until 1715. During his 72 year reign the “Sun King” showed little modesty. Louis was convinced that he was meant to be king of France, appointed by God himself. This so called “Droit Devin” placed him above the law, both as king as well as a human being. Inspired by Roman tradition in which royal absolutism was regarded as a religious fact, Louis XIV proclaimed himself God’s replacement on earth. King Louis loved to clearly emphasize his “divine” status. And what better way to do so than wearing diamonds? Many diamonds!
The largest and most valuable diamond collection in the Western world
“Diamonds are a girl’s best friend”, is a well known sentence today. But during the 17th century diamonds were first and foremost Louis’ best friend. Wealth, luxury, status… Like no other, King Louis understood how diamonds could emphasize his image of power and superiority above all else. Combined with his flamboyant display of style and fashion, the Sun King wore an abundance of diamonds with an allure which can hardly be matched by any of today’s pop stars. The king just could not get enough of them! And by the end of his reign in 1715, the French royal house owned the largest and most valuable diamond collection in the Western world.
From bijouterie to “joallerie”
The difference between “bijouterie” and “joallerie” (jewellery) did not exist before Louis XIV became king. Until then, personal adornment was often more like today’s costume jewellery.
Louis’ obsession with show and appearance stimulated the development of the goldsmith’s trade in France. It triggered goldsmiths and jewellers throughout the country to strongly improve the quality and originality in their pieces. Exclusive designs and the use of luxurious materials became the norm. The creation of personal adornment was turned in to an art form: bijouterie became jewellery.