Jewels Belonging to Marie Antoinette Going Up on the Block

AuctionsJun 22, 2018

Jewels Belonging to Marie Antoinette Going Up on the Block

Not seen publicly for 200 years, they’re part of Sotheby’s “Royal Jewels from the Bourbon-Parma Family” sale happening in Geneva this fall.

This diamond pendant, supporting a natural pearl of exceptional size, once belonged to Marie Antoinette. It’s expected to be the top lot at the Sotheby’s Geneva “Royal Jewels from the Bourbon-Parma Family” sale in November, with a pre-sale estimate of $1-$2 million.

Geneva--This fall, Sotheby’s Geneva will be auctioning off a fine jewelry collection with incredible historical provenance.

“Royal Jewels from the Bourbon-Parma Family” features more than 100 lots once owned by Queen Marie Antoinette, King Charles X of France, the Archdukes of Austria and the Dukes of Parma.

Descendants of Louis XIV of France, the Holy Roman Emperors and Pope Paul III, the Bourbon-Parma family have amassed a collection that spans centuries of European history and intrigue.

“It is one of the most important royal jewelry collections ever to appear on the market, and each and every jewel is absolutely imbued with history,” said Daniela Mascetti, deputy chairman of Sotheby’s Jewelry Europe and senior international specialist.

“Never before seen in public, this extraordinary group of jewels offers 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.”

Originally belonging to Marie Antoinette, these natural pearl drops are estimated to fetch between $30,000 and $50,000 at Sotheby’s Geneva in November.

Most notable are the pieces once owned by Marie Antoinette, infamous for her love of luxury and jewels.

Sotheby’s explained that according to accounts written by Marie Antoinette’s lady-in-waiting, Madame Campan, in March 1791 King Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette and their children were preparing to flee from France in the midst of the French Revolution. Marie Antoinette personally wrapped her collection of diamonds, rubies and pearls in cotton one evening at the Tuileries Palace, and placed them all in a wooden chest.

The chest was sent to Count Mercy Argentau in Brussels, Belgium, a trusted adviser and the former Austrian ambassador to Paris. Count Argentau then sent them on to Vienna to the Austrian emperor, Marie Antoinette’s nephew.

According to records, Marie Antoinette personally wrapped her beloved jewelry collection in cotton before sending it out of France for safekeeping in the midst of the French Revolution. This necklace featuring 119 natural pearls was part of that collection ($200,000 - $300,000).

The following year, in 1792, the royal family was taken prisoner. In 1793, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were executed; their son Louis XVII died while imprisoned.

After three years in solitary confinement, their daughter, Marie-Thérèse de France, known as “Madame Royale,” was released and
sent to Austria. There, her cousin, Emperor of Austria, gave her Marie Antoinette’s chest of jewelry.

When Madame Royale died in 1851, she left part of the collection to her niece and adopted daughter, Louise of France, who was the Duchess of Parma and grand-daughter of Charles X, King of France. Louise of France, in turn, left them to her son, Robert I, the last ruling Duke of Parma.

The star lot of the collection is Marie Antoinette’s diamond pendant with a natural pearl of exceptional size, 26 mm x 18 mm to be precise (pictured above). Marie Antoinette was often portrayed wearing pearls, which were a symbol of wealth and status due to their beauty and rarity.

The pendant boasts the highest pre-sale estimate of the sale at an estimated $1-$2 million.

A pair of natural pearl drop earrings are expected to sell for $30,000-$50,000, while a necklace featuring 331 natural pearls is estimated at $200,000 to $300,000.

A diamond parure consisting of 95 diamonds, including five diamonds that belonged to Marie Antoinette ($80,000 - $120,000)

Some jewels in the collection have been reworked through the centuries, lending them multiple royal provenances.

A diamond parure composed of 95 diamonds, for example, was made for Louise of France, Marie Antoinette’s niece, and features five diamonds originally belonging to the queen. The parure also boasts many diamonds that originally accented the sword of the Duke of Berry, Louise of France’s father. A large, pear-shaped diamond, meanwhile, first belonged to the Archduchess Isabella of Austria, Princess of Croÿ.

Several jewels in the Bourbon-Parma sale demonstrate their connection to the House of Habsburg, a royal dynasty that reigned over the Austro-Hungarian Empire until 1918. The Habsburgs also sat on the throne of the Holy Roman Empire and include emperors and kings in their lineage.

An exquisite piece of jewelry born of this particular royal family is a diamond tiara, pictured above, that Emperor Franz Joseph gave to his great-niece, the Archduchess Maria Anna of Austria, in honor of her wedding to Elias of Bourbon, Duke of Parma in 1902. The tiara was made by Köchert, a Viennese jewelry house started in 1814 that acted as the jeweler to the Imperial House of Austria for four generations. The diadem is estimated to sell for between $80,000 and $120,000.

Also once belonging to Archduchess Maria Anna of Austria are the above diamond bow brooch adorned with a 6.89-carat Burmese ruby, estimated to sell for $200,000 to $300,00, and a diamond ring set with an impressive fancy orangey-pink diamond of 2.44 carats, which is expected to go for $120,000-$180,000 (pictured below). Both pieces were gifts from the Archduchess’ father in honor of the births of her two sons.

The lucky Archduchess received a gift from her mother too. On the occasion of her marriage, she received a diamond brooch adorned with an impressive 30.70-carat sapphire from Ceylon. It’s estimated to sell for $150,000-$250,000.

A diamond brooch adorned with a 30.70-carat sapphire from Ceylon is expected to sell for $150,000-$250,000.

While Robert I, the last Duke of Parma, received jewels from his mother, Louise of France, he also inherited fantastic specimens from his paternal grandmother, Maria-Teresa of Savoy, Duchess of Parma.

Most notably, the Duchess left him a pair of diamond girandole earrings, pictured below, expected to sell for between $150,000 and $250,000.

Robert I’s wife, Princess Maria Pia of Bourbon-Two Sicilies, received a large diamond pendeloque brooch ($25,000-$35,000) from Robert I’s grandfather, Charles II of Parma, on the occasion of their marriage (pictured below).

Highlights of the “Royal Jewels from the Bourbon-Parma Family” sale are currently on view in Milan and will visit several other cities in the fall.
Ashley Davisis the senior editor, fashion at National Jeweler, covering all things related to design, style and trends.

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