In 1768, after falling in love with Madame du Barry, Louis XV began an affair with her. In order to express his feelings for du Barry, the King decided to purchase a necklace for her. He visited Parisian jewelers Boehmer and Bassenge with the request that they construct a necklace for him.
The King insisted that the necklace be completely unique, unlike any other necklace ever made. What he wanted would be extremely expensive, costing a projected total of 2,000,000 livres. The livre at the time of its replacement by the franc was worth, in today’s money, about £2.50 or $4, making the necklace’s cost at about $8,000,000 American money.
The jewelers required several years to complete the necklace, having to acquire everything necessary to craft it. Unfortunately, Louis XV did not live to see it completed. He succumbed to smallpox and passed away on May 10, 1774. Almost immediately after his death Madame du Barry was sent away from the palace.
Jewelers Boehmer and Bassenge were desperate to sell the necklace before the company went broke and lost everything. They hoped that the Queen would purchase it after the death of Louis XV. But she refused the gift. It is said that she did not want a necklace made for another woman. After that no one came forward to purchase the necklace.
Among his many talents Retaux de Villette was both a con artist and a skilled counterfeiter. He forged letters between “the queen” and Jeanne. In the letters “the queen” expressed that she really wanted the diamond necklace but because of the country’s monetary issues the King had not been able to buy it. She hoped that Cardinal Rohan would procure the necklace for her. If he chose to do this for her, she would give him his desire of becoming a minister to the king. Jeanne was to be the middle man in the deal.
After reading the letters Rohan believed them to be authentic. He agreed to pay for the necklace following a private visit with the Queen. Jeanne made arrangements for the meeting. However, in the process substituted an impostor named Nicole le Guat d’Oliva, a prostitute, to meet with him. d’Oliva look a great deal like the Queen. During the meeting “the queen” forgave Rohan and requested that he purchase the necklace. Rohan, now a fervent believer, arranged to procure the necklace and pay for it in installments. He brought the necklace to Jeanne and she handed it over to her husband instead of the Queen. Motte began selling the necklace bit by bit in Paris.