The Jewelry (or The False Gems) Summary
“The Jewelry” (or “The False Gems”) is a short story by Guy de Maupassant in which a man discovers that his late wife’s supposedly fake jewelry is real and worth a fortune.
- Monsieur Lantin adores his wife, except for her taste for the theater and false jewelry.
- Madame Lantin dies, and Monsieur Lantin, struggling financially, has one of her necklaces appraised. It is worth 18,000 francs.
- Realizing the jewelry must have been a gift, he becomes greatly troubled.
- Monsieur Lantin sells the rest of the jewelry and becomes wealthy. When informing others of his fortune, he inflates the amount he gained.
Last Updated on May 19, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 834
Monsieur Lantin is a virtuous, frugal public servant employed by the minister of the interior in Paris. At a colleague’s party one evening, he meets a young girl and is instantly taken with her. She’s honorable, quiet, as virtuous as he is, and extremely beautiful. In the eyes of Monsieur Lantin and all others who know her, she’s the ideal wife—“Her simple beauty had the charm of angelic modesty,” the narrator notes, “and the imperceptible smile which constantly hovered about the lips seemed to be the reflection of a pure and lovely soul.”
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Soon, the two are married. They appear to be a perfect match, and they live together in comfortable bliss despite Monsieur Lantin’s modest salary. Madame Lantin is the daughter of a tax collector, and her “clever economy” stretches his earnings as far as they need without any trouble.
Monsieur Lantin is immensely pleased with his beautiful bride, her humble modesty, and her obvious virtue, but he does find fault with her two indulgences: she loves the theater, which she attends regularly, and she loves to collect fake jewelry. The theater he finds merely boring, but the jewelry is much worse—to Monsieur Lantin, his wife’s love of the fake jewels displays “bohemian” taste. He would prefer that she appear “adorned with [her] beauty and modesty alone,” as these are “the rarest ornaments of [her] sex.” Madame Lantin, unperturbed, dismisses his remonstrations.
One cold winter night, Madame Lantin returns from the opera feeling unwell. She wakes with a cough the next morning, and—to Monsieur Lantin’s horror—she succumbs to inflammation of the lungs eight days later.
Monsieur Lantin is devastated by his wife’s unexpected death. His hair turns stark white, he’s unable to control his constant weeping, and he leaves Madame Lantin’s belongings just as they were before her death. Even as time passes, his grief fails to wane. He begins isolating himself in her room to remember her as she was, thinking only of his precious wife and her infinite charms.
Without Madame Lantin to carefully control the family finances, Monsieur Lantin soon begins to experience financial hardship. What once covered expenses and indulgences for the both of them no longer seems enough for him alone, and he wonders how his wife managed to buy so much on their meager budget. He begins to fall into poverty and soon finds himself penniless.
One morning, it occurs to him to sell some of his wife’s fake jewelry. It has always irritated him, after all—“the very sight of them spoiled, somewhat, the memory of his lost darling.” Confident that one particularly nice-looking necklace might net him six or seven francs for something to eat, he takes it to a jeweler. After careful inspection, the jeweler makes an astonishing offer: 15,000 francs.
Certain the man must be mistaken, Monsieur Lantin leaves the shop and finds another. The man in the second shop surprises him further: he can offer Monsieur Lantin 18,000 francs with confidence, as he himself sold this very necklace for 20,000 francs not long ago. Checking his records, he confirms the recipient of the prior sale: Madame Lantin. Monsieur Lantin, dumbstruck, agrees to leave the necklace with the jeweler overnight for further inspection.
Pocketing the jeweler’s receipt, Monsieur Lantin wanders into the street in a daze. His late wife could never have afforded such a luxury. Realizing in horror that she must have been receiving expensive gifts from an unknown party, Monsieur Lantin faints. Recovering in a pharmacy some time later, he returns home and weeps well into the night.
In the morning, feeling unwell, Monsieur Lantin asks to be excused from work for the day. He returns to the shop to see the jeweler. Reluctantly, he enters the store for the second time and receives his formal offer: 18,000 francs, in cash, on the spot. As he turns to leave, Monsieur Lantin stops to ask the shopkeeper if he would buy the rest of the jewels in Madame Lantin’s collection. The jeweler assures that he would, and Monsieur Lantin returns with the remaining pieces. The jeweler, remarking on the investment Madame Lantin must have made in the collection, pays him 143,000 francs.
Monsieur Lantin takes himself out for a fancy lunch and a carriage tour, and he has to refrain from yelling how rich he’s become to the passersby. He gleefully imagines telling them he is worth 200,000 francs. When he visits the Ministry of the Interior to quit his job, he tells them he’s inherited 300,000 francs. At a restaurant later, seated next to an aristocratic-looking gentleman, the number has inflated yet again; confidentially, he tells the man he’s just inherited a fortune of 400,000 francs. After dinner, he goes to the theater. For the very first time, he enjoys it.
Six months after his unexpected windfall, Monsieur Lantin marries a second time. His new wife, too, is virtuous, but she has a terrible temper, and their relationship is troubled.