Marie-Antoinette diamonds to be auctioned in Geneva

GENEVA: Two splendid diamond bracelets that belonged to French queen Marie-Antoinette will go under the hammer in Geneva later this year, Christie’s auction house said today.

The bracelets, each coated in 112 diamonds, will be sold together and are estimated to fetch US$2-4 million (RM8-17 million) when they go under the hammer on Nov 9.

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”, Christie’s jewellery specialist Marie-Cecile Cisamolo said.

The historic jewels could easily go for far more than the asking price. “As seen in recent Geneva sales, the market for jewels of noble provenance continues to perform extremely well,” Francois Curiel, the chairman of Christie’s luxury division, said.

In 2018, a natural pearl and diamond pendant that belonged to the ill-fated French queen was estimated by the Sotheby’s auction house at US$1-2 million but was snapped up for US$36 million.

Marie-Antoinette, the last queen of France before the revolution, was guillotined in Paris in October 1793. (AFP pic)

Marie-Antoinette, the last queen of France before the revolution, was guillotined in Paris in October 1793 at the age of 37.

But Cisamolo said it was not just their history that made the bracelets extraordinary, pointing to the large size of the diamonds, which range from one to four carats.

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

While lacking the precision of today’s laser-cut gems, Cisamolo stressed the charm and uniqueness of antique diamonds.

This image taken in Geneva exhibits two bracelets belonged to French Queen Marie-Antoinette adorned with three rows of 112 previous lower diamonds

In total, Christies estimates that the bracelets comprise 140 to 150 carats. They are each composed of three rows of gems and can be connected together and worn as a necklace.

Paris, Brussels and Vienna

According to Christie’s, Marie-Antoinette ordered the bracelets from jeweller Charles August Boehmer in Paris in 1776, two years after she ascended the throne.

She paid 250,000 livres, “a huge sum at the time”, Christies said. Then the revolution arrived.

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.

In 1792, the royal family was imprisoned in Paris. The king and queen were executed the next 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,” Cisamolo said, adding that she hoped whoever bought them “will cherish them for the rest of their life”.

“Not only are you wearing something that Marie-Antoinette wore,” she said, “but the diamonds are extraordinary. The bracelets flow. It is as though you are wearing fabric.”


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