China · Jewels of the Royal World

Jewel Journeys – Empress Cixi’s Pearl Cape

This Empress Cixi information was supposed to be one post but between her complicated reign and her amazing pearl cape, there was simply just too much to talk about. The pearl cape gets its own post because it’s quite a creation.

The Empress was photographed in the early 1900s with Sarah Pike Conger, the American ambassador’s wife. It’s obvious that the Empress was a presence. She is wearing a Manchu headdress and fur-trimmed court robes, but it’s the cape that makes quite an impact, and it should. According to Cixi, it contained 3,500 natural pearls that were almost matched in shape and color. The resources required to amass such a collection boggles the mind.


The Empress was a bit vain (ok, more than a bit), and she claimed to have designed the cape to her own specifications. Alas, it is no longer in the public domain. The Empress’ tomb was robbed in the 1920s, and it’s thought that the pearl cape was one of the items that disappeared at that time. It’s likely the cape was dismantled and the pearls sold separately.