Auction News: Marie Antoinette's Jewels

An extraordinary piece of jewelry, once owned by Marie Antoinette and unseen in public for over 200 years is about to be auctioned by Sotheby's in November.

Marie Antoinette was passionate about jewelry, especially diamond and pearl jewelry.  Her love of jewelry ultimately played a part in the downfall of the French Royal Court.  From the vast sums of money the public believed she spent to her alleged part in The Affair of the Diamond Necklace (of which she was innocent, but her reputation sealed her fate) the citizens of France had reached their limit.

As the French Revolution heated up, Marie Antoinette began organizing her jewels in preparation for leaving France.  According to accounts written by her lady in waiting, Madame Campan, the queen spent an entire evening wrapping her diamonds, rubies and pearls in cotton and placing them in a wooden chest which was then sent to Brussels (a place ruled by the queen's sister, Archduchess Marie-Christine).  From Brussels they were sent to Vienna for safe keeping with the Austrian Emperor, Marie Antoinette's nephew.

Marie Antoinette and her family never escaped to safety.  By 1792 the royal family was imprisoned and Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were executed by guillotine in 1793.  The only member of the royal family to survive was Marie-Therese de France "Madame Royale", the king and queens oldest daughter.  Marie-Therese was released from prison, just shy of her 17th birthday and arrived in Vienna, the homeland of her mother, in 1796.  The jewels were given to Marie-Therese and as she had no children of her own, she bequeathed part of her jewelry collection to her niece and adopted daughter, Louise of France, Duchess of Parma and the grand-daughter of Charles X, King of France, who in turn left these jewels to her son, Robert I, the last ruling Duke of Parma.

The star of the auction has to be this fabulous Pearl and Diamond Bow Pendant owned by Marie Antoinette. 

Marie Antoinette diamond pearl bow pendant

Marie Antoinette Pearl Diamond Pendant

In the 18th century, pearls were very rare and very special - often more valuable and desired than diamonds.  Sotheby's estimated at $1 to $2 million dollars.


This beautiful Pearl Necklace with Diamond Clasp features natural pearls and is Sotheby's estimated at $200,000 - $300,000

Marie Antoinette Pearl Necklace


This Diamond Parure was made for Louise of France, grand-daughter of Charles X, King of France and mother of Robert I, Duke of Parma.  The necklace has diamonds, five of which belonged to Marie Antoinette.  Sotheby's estimated at $300,000 to $500,000.

Marie Antoinette Diamond Necklace


Pear Shaped Pearl Drop Earrings with Diamond Caps.  Sotheby's estimated at $30,000 to $50,000.

Marie Antoinette Pearl Earrings


Most of the jewels being auctioned were given to Robert I (1848-1907), the last sovereign Duke of Parma and Piacenza, by his mother, Louise of France (1819-1864), grand-daughter of King Charles X of France and great-niece of Marie Antoinette.  Select items from the auction will go on exhibit in Cologne in September and there will be an international tour to London, New York, Hong Kong and finally Geneva in the autumn.


Sotheby's Auction: The Royal Jewels from the Bourbon Parma Family

12 November 2018



Reference:  Photo and item descriptions from Sotheby's

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