Empress Elisabeth of Austria’s most iconic portrait is the one by Franz Xaver Winterhalter, in which she wore the diamond stars in her hair.
The stars were ordered by the Empress from jewellers Köchert and Pioté in Vienna. They consisted of diamonds and a centre pearl. Some of the stars were given to her ladies-in-waiting, and some ended up with her family. Elisabeth began a trend when she wore the stars, and soon many more royals were wearing them.
In 1865, Elisabeth dazzled with the stars at the wedding of her brother Karl Theodor to Princess Sophie of Saxony. Her brother-in-law Ludwig Viktor wrote that Elisabeth was “stunningly beautiful, also the people acted insane. I have never seen anyone having such an effect before.”1 It was shortly after this that the famous painting was made.
After the death of her son Crown Prince Rudolf, Elisabeth gave away most of her jewellery to her daughters and granddaughter Elisabeth. This included the iconic star diamonds. Her granddaughter Elisabeth Marie, the daughter of Crown Prince Rudolf and Princess Stephanie of Belgium, wore the stars for her wedding in 1902 as she received them in her trousseau.
This was probably the last time the stars were together as a set, and they were later given away individually by Elisabeth Marie and later by her heirs.