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.
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.”
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...
(The entire section is 834 words.)