Fri, Nov 16, 2018 - Page 10 News List

Marie Antoinette pendant auctioned for US$36m

AP, GENEVA, Switzerland

A large, drop-shaped natural pearl pendant on Wednesday sold for more than US$36 million at a rare auction of jewelry that once belonged to French queen Marie Antoinette, with Sotheby’s calling the price a record for a pearl at auction.

The “Queen Marie Antoinette’s Pearl,” a diamond-and-pearl pendant, was among the highlight offerings on the block at the Sotheby’s sale of jewelry from the Bourbon-Parma dynasty in Geneva, Switzerland.

Sotheby’s billed the sale as a once-in-a-lifetime chance to scoop up heirlooms and jewels that have been held in the Bourbon-Parma dynasty for generations. Some of the jewelry had not been seen in public for 200 years — until now.

OBLITERATED

Like many of the 10 former Marie Antoinette pieces up for sale, the pendant obliterated the pre-auction estimate — in its case, US$1 million to US$2 million. It sold for a hammer price of 32 million Swiss francs (US$32 million), but with the buyer’s premium and fees, the total sale rose to more than US$36.1 million.

The buyer wanted to remain anonymous, Sotheby’s said.

All told, the Marie Antoinette pieces reaped nearly US$43 million.

The diamond-and-pearl jewelry of Marie Antoinette that went under the hammer epitomized the aloof, pre-Revolutionary opulence of French royals brought down by the uprising.

The wife of King Louis XVI, she was executed at age 37 amid France’s revolutionary fervor in 1793.

Before falling to the guillotine, she had secretly smuggled abroad some of her most-treasured possessions to her relatives amid rising the revolutionary fervor that ultimately marked the beginning of the end of France’s centuries-old monarchy.

‘IRREPLACEABLE’

“The Marie Antoinette pendant is simply irreplaceable,” Eddie LeVian, chief executive officer of jewelers Le Vian, said before the sale. “This is about far more than the gems themselves: Marie Antoinette’s jewelry is inextricably linked to the cause of the French Revolution.”

The queen’s jewelry also included a set of pearl-and-diamond earrings, a diamond brooch, and a natural pearl-and-diamond necklace. A monogrammed, diamond-set ring bears a lock of Marie Antoinette’s hair.

Nearly all of those lots far outstripped the pre-sale estimates, a testament to the difficulty in assessing the value of such jewels.

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