Marie Antoinette’s jewellery sold at Sotheby’s
Marie Antoinette Jewellery Auction
In Geneva, on November 12, 2018, Sotheby’s sold one of the most important royal jewellery collections ever to come to auction, that of the Italian royal House of Bourbon-Parma. Sotheby’s says this collection, which “spans centuries of European history, from the reign of Louis XVI to the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, will offer a fascinating insight into the splendour of one of Europe’s most important royal dynasties.
The Bourbon-Parmas are related to almost every ruling family in Europe and jewels in this sale belonged to Charles X of France, Empress Marie Therese of Austria, the only female ruler of the Habsburg dominions and the last of the House of Habsburg, and Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph I, who died in 1916. And 10 pieces that belonged to Queen Marie Antoinette, wife of King Louis XVI of France and daughter of Empress Maria Teresa, who was guillotined at the Place de la Revolution in Paris on 16 October 1793.
The royal family had prepared to escape in March 1791, when the Queen gave Count Mercy Argenteau a powerful Austrian diplomat close to the throne, a wooden chest containing all her jewels to take to Vienna.
However, Marie-Thérèse, “Madame Royal”, eldest daughter of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette was the only one to survive the Revolution. She remained imprisoned in the Temple Tower until 1795 when, on the eve of her 17th birthday, she was exchanged for important French prisoners and allowed to go to Vienna, where her cousin the Emperor gave her the jewels.
Sotheby’s Daniela Mascetti says “It is one of the most important royal jewellery collections ever to appear on the market and each and every jewel is absolutely imbued with history. Never before seen in public, this extraordinary group of jewels offers a captivating insight into the lives of its owners going back hundreds of years. What is also striking is the inherent beauty of the pieces themselves: the precious gems they are adorned with and the exceptional craftsmanship they display are stunning in their own right.”
These remarkable jewels included a “stunning diamond pendant, supporting a natural pearl of exceptional size (26 mm x 18 mm)”, which sold for US$36 million, as well as a pair of natural pearl drops and a fabulous necklace featuring 119 natural pearls” which had not been seen in public for 200 years. The ten items of her jewellery were estimated at about three million US dollars, but sold for almost US$43 million.
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