Gold leaf
A single gold laurel leaf from the crown worn by Napoleon at his coronation sold at Osenat on November 19.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

Estimated at €100,000-150,000, the 4in (9cm) long leaf weighing just 10gms sold to an overseas buyer.

The gold laurel crown was created by Martin Guillaume Biennais, the goldsmith responsible for Napoleon’s coronation regalia. This little leaf, which is contained in a red morocco case signed Biennais au Singe Violet rue S Honoré No 511, passed down through the family to his descendants who consigned it to auction at Osenat in Fontainebleau (25% buyer’s premium).

Biennais’ gold crown, a symbolic creation in the style of laurel wreaths worn by Roman emperors, comprised 44 laurel leaves, 42 seeds and 12 smaller leaves.


The gold leaf from Napoleon’s laurel crown sold for a premium-inclusive €625,000 (£554,000) at Osenat’s Historic Souvenirs sale on November 19. The leaf featured on its catalogue front cover.

By 1819, the crown was melted down after the ousting of Napoleon in 1814.

However, the story of the survival of this leaf, according to family tradition, occurred because Napoleon believed the original crown was too heavy.

On his orders, the goldsmith removed six leaves before the coronation and placed them in six small boxes which he then presented to his six daughters.

The whereabouts of the other five leaves is unknown, but one other leaf, which became detached from the crown the following year, was preserved by the artist Jean-Baptiste Isabey, mounted in a snuff box and is now in the Palace of Fontainebleau.