THE COURT OF EGYPT
When you look at the pictures of the Egyptian court, 60 or even 70 years ago, it is very hard to imagine that such a refined world ever existed. All the princesses and the ladies who smile on these photographs seem to belong to a fairy tale land which vanished centuries ago. In fact all of this is rather close to our time and some witnesses are still alive.
The beauty of King Farouk's sisters was truly breathtaking. Thanks to them and their ladies in waiting, parties at the Abdine Palace in Cairo or at the Montazah Palace in Alexandria were always an amazing show of elegance and grace. Princess Faiza's emerald and diamond necklace is a very rare souvenir of that time. After the 1952 revolution and the exile of the royal family, many of their jewels were sold and dismounted.
This one is still intact. Maybe its survival has something to do with the extraordinary taste of the woman who bought it in 1947 at Van Cleef & Arpels in Paris. As one member of the Egyptian royal family recently told me: 'All my aunts were beautiful. Aunt Fawzia (The Shah of Iran first wife who died in Egypt only a few months ago) was the most beautiful of them. But aunt Faiza had something more than beauty. She had an amazing charm. Last time I saw her, a few years before she died, she was almost 70, but when she entered a room everybody would turn around and look at her in admiration.'
Born at Abdine Palace on November the 8th of 1923, Princess Faiza was the most attractive of King Farouk's five sisters. In 1945, she decided to marry a distant Turkish cousin, Mohamed Ali Bulent Raouf. It is often said that King Farouk was not very pleased by this wedding as he would have much preferred his sister to marry a foreign prince. Princess Faiza was very lively, witty, and she had a wonderful taste for clothes and jewels. She was a regular customer of the Parisian couture houses, especially Chanel. As far as jewellery was concerned, Van Cleef & Arpels was definitely her favorite house.
One of the most famous jewels ever made by Van Cleef & Arpels is the double 'Clip Pivoine', two peonies flowers, set in the famous 'Serti Mysterieux' for which Van Cleef & Arpels is so famous, are joined together with diamond leaves. The craftsmanship of that piece is so unique that it seems the petals would move if you blow on them. That double clip was also part of Princess Faiza's collection. She sold the two brooches separately a few years before she died in 1994. Fortunately one of them now belongs to the Van Cleef & Arpels antique jewellery collection. The fate of the second flower remains a mystery.
The emerald and diamond necklace which is offered here demonstrates the same taste. The craftsmanship is perfect. The emerald drops hang from the diamond motives set in a very pure Art Deco style. The necklace is imposing, which is normal as it was worn by Princess Faiza as a 'Court Jewel', yet it is very graceful and the stones move very gently on the 'décolleté' of the woman who wears the piece.
Princess Faiza could also be a bit provocative in her opinions. In 1952, a few months before the Egyptian revolution, she and her husband launched privately a homemade film about a military coup, which is exactly what happened in July 1952. After the revolution, Princess Faiza and her husband spent a few years in Europe. Upon their divorce, the Princess decided to move to California where she lived with her mother, Queen Nazli and her sister, Princess Fathia. She found a new life there. And there she remained until the end of her life in 1994. She never went back to Egypt.
It is one of the privileges of jewellery to give some kind of immortality to its owner. And the discovery of this truly amazing piece of jewellery, which could have been lost forever, brings back to our minds the delicate memory of a most elegant, gracious and beautiful woman : HRH Princess Faiza of Egypt.
And it is exactly as it should be.
Princess Faiza was the second daughter of King Fouad I of Egypt (1868-1936) and his second wife, Queen Nazli(1894-1978). From his first wedding to princess Shivekiar (1876-1947), King Fouad I had one daughter: Princess Fawkia (1897-1974). From the second one, he had one son, King Farouk, and four daughters: Princess Fawzia (1921-2013), Princess Faiza (1923-1994), Princess Faika (1923-1986) and Princess Fathia (1930-1976).
Vincent Meylan is an historian and a journalist who has written many books about Jewellery: 'Boucheron, The Secret Archives' (2009), 'Van Cleef & Arpels, Treasures and Legends' (2012). His latest book, 'Mellerio dits Meller, Joaillier des Reines' has just been published in France.