Queen Marie-Antoinette’s diamonds to go up for sale
A pair of the infamous monarch's jewel-encrusted necklaces are expected to fetch as much as $4m when they go up for auction in Geneva on 9 November
Most diamonds come with a story. Some were gifted as a wedding present; others were handed down through generations as a family heirloom; and some carry such an opulent mystique that they symbolise the downfall of one of the most storied dynasties in European history.
On 9 November 2021 Christie’s auction house will offer The Marie Antoinette Diamonds as Lot 1 of its live Magnificent Jewels Auction to be held at the Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues in Geneva, Switzerland. Presented in their current form, the 112 diamonds, originally belonging to Marie-Antoinette, the last Queen of France (1755-1793), are set as a historic pair of bracelets (estimated $2-4m).
In the spring of 1776, the ill-fated monarch bought these two bracelets for 250,000 French livres (nearly €2m in today's money). According to Count Mercy-Argenteau, Austria’s Ambassador to France, they were paid partly in gemstones from the Queen’s collection and partly with funds the Queen received from King Louis XVI.
After the start of the French Revolution in 1789, the Count fled to Brussels before in 1791 receiving a letter from the Queen herself, who had been taken prisoner in Paris. The letter stated that a wooden chest would be sent to him for safekeeping which contained "a pair of bracelets where three diamonds, with the biggest set in the middle, form two barrettes; the two barrettes serve as clasps, each comprising four diamonds and 96 collet-set diamonds".
‘Over the past 255 years Christie’s have offered many Historic Jewels from Royal Houses around the world. It is a privilege to be able to offer these exceptional and unique bracelets for sale at Christie’s where they will attract bidding from collectors globally. As seen in recent Geneva sales, the market for jewels of noble provenance continues to perform extremely well’ commented François Curiel, Chairman Christie’s Luxury.