The celebrated piece of jewelry is described as consisting of five hundred diamonds – ordered by Louis XV as a present for his favorite, Madame du Barry, who was, however, excluded from court on the death of the king in 1774m before the work was finished. The necklace, when completed, was valued at £80,000, but was so costly, that no purchaser could be found.
Boehmer, the court-jeweler, offered it to Marie Antoinette for £56,000, in 1785; but the queen, although she desired it, feared to incur the expense.
The Countess de la Motte, an adventuress about the court, knowing the passion entertained for Marie Antoinette by the wealthy and profligate Prince Cardinal de Rohan, duped him into believing that the queen favored him, and induced him to purchase the necklace and present it to the queen through her secret agency. In this manner, de la Motte obtained the necklace and made way with it. When the time arrived for the first instalment [sic], the Cardinal refused to pay, and Boehmer, having received a forged order from the countess, presented his bill to the queen. Marie Antoinette denied all knowledge of the affair, and in the trial that ensued it was proved that the countess had sold the separate diamonds, and had kept the money.
As a punishment she was branded on each shoulder, and sentenced to imprisonment for life. She escaped, however, within a year, and fled to England, where, soon after, she was accidentally killed while trying to escape from a second-story window, when pursued for debt.
The Cardinal was acquitted for intentional complicity.
The queen was falsely accused, by the populace of Paris, of having had a part in the plot, and was taunted with this accusation even on her way to the guillotine.
When Talleyrand heard of the Affair of the Diamond Necklace, he declared that he should not be surprised if it overturned the throne of France, and four years later his prediction was fulfilled.
Reference: Famous Women; An Outline of Feminine Achievement Through the Ages With Life Stories of Five Hundred Noted Women By Joseph Adelman. Copyright, 1926 by Ellis M. Lonow Company.