Marie Antoinette’s Pearl Collection Goes Under Hammer

One of the most important jewellery sales in history is going to be held by Sotheby’s in Geneva, offering jewels with proveances of high historic value. The sale Royal Jewels from the Bourbon-Parma Family presents jewels formerly owned by royal members like Queen Marie Antoinette (1755 - 1793), King Charles X of France (1757-1836) and the last ruling Duke of Parma (1848-1907). This is a one-in-a-lifetime chance to get your hands on exquisite royal pieces that have not been seen in public for 200 years.

Marie Antoinette was known for her great love of pearls and diamonds

The most anticipated lots from this sale are the jewels of Marie Antoinette. The French Queen was known for her great love of pearls and diamonds, and she was often portrayed wearing pearls, a symbol of wealth and status. Even Napoleon once said the ‘Affair of the Diamond Necklace’ was what tarnished the queen’s reputation in 1785. It was rumoured that the queen participated in a crime to defraud the crown jewelers of the cost of a very expensive diamond necklace. Eventually, the incident became one of the causes of the French Revolution.

A replica of the infamous necklace that tarnished the queen’s reputation in 1785

The value of these diamonds lies in their history. In March 1791, due to the Revolution, the French royal family was put under house arrest and Marie Antoinette had to prepare for her escape from France. According to the queen’s lady in waiting, Marie Antoinette spent an entire evening wrapping all her jewels herself. These precious treasures were sent to Brussels where Archduchess Marie-Christine, Marie Antoinette’s sister, who was in power. Soon after, the former Austrian Ambassador to Paris, who had the queen’s trust, was responsible for delivering the pieces to Vienna where the queen’s nephew ruled.

Marie Antoinette was often portrayed wearing pearls

Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were executed by guillotine in 1793 and their son died in captivity. Their only surviving child, Marie-Thérèse de France, arrived in Vienna in 1796. She bequeathed part of her jewellery collection to her niece and adopted daughter, Louise of France, Duchess of Parma, who in turn left them to her son, Robert I (1848-1907), the last ruling Duke of Parma.

Pearl and diamond pendant, 18th century, estimate: US$1m - 2m

Back to the sale, the centerpiece of the sale is a diamond pendant, supporting a natural pearl with a size of 26mm x 18mm. It is estimated at US$1m - 2m. A pair of natural pearl drops and a necklace featuring 331 natural pearls are also the top lots of this sale.

A pair of natural pearl drops, estimate US$30,000 - 50,000

A necklace featuring 331 natural pearls, estimate US$200,000-300,000

Other ‘shining’ lots in the sale include jewels that combine multiple royal provenances, showing different designs that reflect tastes of each successive generation. Diamond lovers will be blown away by the diamond parure composed of 95 diamonds which includes five solitaire diamonds that belonged to Marie Antoinette. It has an estimate of US$300,000 - 500,000 and was made for Louise of France (1819-1864), grand-daughter of Charles X, King of France and mother of Robert I, Duke of Parma. 

A diamond parure composed of 95 diamonds includes five solitaire diamonds that belonged to Marie Antoinette, estimate: US$300,000 - 500,000

Other lots include different styles of diamond accessories, including a diamond tiara from the Emperor Franz Joseph period (1830-1916) for his great-niece, Archduchess Maria Anna of Austria (1882-1940) as a wedding gift.

A diamond tiara of foliate scroll design, given by Emperor Franz Joseph to his great-niece, Archduchess Maria Anna of Austria, estimate: US$80,000 - 120,000

The jewels will also go on view in London, New York, Hong Kong and Geneva this coming Autumn. Please stay tuned as The Value will provide you with the latest updates of the preview in Hong Kong.

Lot details

Pearl and Diamond Pendant, 18th century, from Queen Marie Antoinette of France

Estimate: CHF 995,000 - 1,900,000 (US$1m-2m)

A Pair of Natural Pearl Drops, 19th century

Estimate: CHF 30,000 - 50,000 (US$30,000 - 50,000)

Natural Pearl and Diamond Necklace

Estimate: CHF 200,000 - 300,000 (US$200,000 - 300,000)

Diamond Parure

Estimate: CHF 300,000 - 500,000 (US$300,000 - 500,000)

A Diamond Tiara of Foliate Scroll Design

Estimate: CHF 80,000 - 120,000 (US$80,000 - 120,000)

Auction details
Auction house: Sotheby’s Geneva
Sale: Royal Jewels from the Bourbon Parma Family
2018/9/21 |Cologne
Autumn|London, New York, Hong Kong, Geneva
2018/11/12 |Geneva