Marie-Antoinette's diamonds to be auctioned

Their famous pedigree could blow estimates out of the water

One of the two bracelets which belonged to French Queen Marie-Antoinette. AFP
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Two stunning diamond bracelets once owned by Marie-Antoinette are being sold at auction in Geneva on November 9.

Each of the exquisite items, covered in 112 diamonds, is made up of three rows of jewels which can be connected together and worn as a necklace.

The two items are being sold together and are expected to fetch about $2-$4 million, but auction house Christie’s said their famous pedigree could mean they sell for far more.

Christie's jewellery specialist Marie-Cecile Cisamolo said that estimate “includes not only the intrinsic value of the diamonds, but also the possibility to wear jewellery that was once worn by the famous queen Marie-Antoinette,” who was guillotined during the French Revolution.

“As seen in recent Geneva sales, the market for jewels of noble provenance continues to perform extremely well,” Francois Curiel, chairman of Christie's luxury division, said in a statement.

Three rows of 112 old cut diamonds will be offered for sale for the first time. AFP

Ms Cisamolo said it was not just the bracelets’ history that was extraordinary, but also the size and cut of the diamonds, each of which was one to four carats, adding up to about 150 carats in total.

“It is very difficult to measure their exact size, because these are antique diamonds, and back then the sizes were less precise,” she said.

Marie-Antoinette, the last queen of France before the revolution, was executed in Paris in October 1793, aged 37.

In 2018, a natural pearl and diamond pendant that belonged to the queen sold for $36 million.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 12:  A model shows a stunning diamond pendant, supporting a natural pearl of exceptional size (26 mm x 18 mm) that belonged to Marie-Antoinette, Queen of France and will be auctioned in the ÒRoyal Jewels from the Bourbon-Parma FamilyÓ sale at SothebyÕs Geneva on 12 November 2018 (estimate:  $1-2 million), at Sotheby's on June 12, 2018 in London, England.  (Photo by Michael Bowles/Getty Images for Sotheby's)

It is known Marie-Antoinette paid 250,000 livres - “a huge sum at the time” — for the bracelets, and that she made sure they did not fall into the hands of France’s revolutionaries.

She ordered the bracelets from jeweller Charles August Boehmer in Paris in 1776, two years after she ascended the throne.

Before attempting to flee France with King Louis XVI and their children, Marie-Antoinette first made sure her jewels were sent out of the country.

They were sent to Brussels, governed by her sister Archduchess Marie-Christine, before being sent on to the French queen's native Austria, ruled by her nephew, the emperor.

Marie-Antoinette, the last queen of France before the revolution, was executed in Paris in October 1793, aged 37. Getty Images

In 1792, the royal family was imprisoned in Paris. The king and queen were executed the following year, and their 10-year-old son Louis XVII died in captivity.

Only their daughter, Marie Therese of France, survived. She was freed in December 1795 and sent to Austria, where she was given her mother's jewels.

“These jewels can thus be traced all the way back to Marie-Antoinette,” Ms Cisamolo said. “Not only are you wearing something that Marie-Antoinette wore, the diamonds are extraordinary.”

The bracelets, she said, showing off the gems glistening on her wrists, “flow. It is as though you are wearing fabric.”

Updated: September 08, 2021, 11:15 AM