Earlier this year, I broke the news here about the Royal Jewels from the Bourbon Parma Family going up for sale at Sotheby’s. The White Glove Sale took place on Wednesday with 100 percent of the 100 lots, including pieces owned by Marie-Antoinette, selling. Additionally, one piece, a special pearl owned by Queen Marie-Antoinette, broke the world record for a natural pearl sold at auction – going for $36.2 million.
The biggest-ticket item, the 18th century natural pearl pendant that sold for $36.2 million, was originally estimated to sell for about $1 to $2 million. In fact, the entire auction was initially expected to draw about $7 million in sales, but set a world record, for being the largest royal jewelry sale ever. Heretofore, the record was $50.3 million garnered at the Duchess of Windsor auction nearly three decades ago in 1987. Of the final total auction sales of $53.1 million, 10 pieces owned by the famous queen comprised the majority, at $42.7 million. The second largest sale was that of an important three-strand pearl and diamond necklace owned by the queen, which sold for $2.278 million.
It is said that before she was taken captive and later beheaded, Marie Antoinette had wrapped her jewelry – pearls, diamonds and rubies – in cotton and sent them along with some clothes in a trunk to Brussels. They then traveled to Vienna where the Austrian emperor was Marie-Antoinette’s nephew. He returned them to the queen’s daughter Madame Royale in 1795 and then passed in into the Bourbon Parma family, which put these pieces up for auction at Sotheby’s.
Other pieces up for sale in the auction included jewels owned by later generations of the Bourbon Parma family. Fetching nearly $1 million was a diamond ara taht had belonged to Maria Anna of Austria in the early 20th century and was made by the Austrian jeweller Hübner. Most of hte bidding during the auction — with bidders from 43 countriies participating came in the form of online bids, with 25 percent being newcomers to Sotheby’s.
“Tonight we saw the Marie Antoinette factor work its magic. No other queen is more famous for her love of jewels, and her personal treasures, pearls and diamonds that survived intact the tumults of history, captivated the interest of collectors around the world,” says Daniela Mascetti, Sotheby’s Jewelry Chairman in Europe.