Queen Marie-Antoinette’s Pearl Sets Record for Natural Pearl


The fascination with Marie Antoinette endures. At a Sotheby’s auction in Geneva, a natural pearl and diamond pendant from the French Queen’s personal collection, soared to $36.16 million, leaving its $1-2m far behind, setting a new auction record for a natural pearl.

The pendant was among 10 exquisite pieces which once belonged to the Queen, all of which attracted fierce bidding. Together they realised $42.7 million against a conservative pre-sale estimate of $ 1.6 – 2.9 million. Overall, the Sotheby’s auction of the collection of the Bourbon Parma family achieved 53.1 million, more than seven times the pre-sale high estimate and a record for any sale of royal jewels, eclipsing the long-held benchmark of $50.3 million established by the sale of jewels of the Duchess of Windsor established in 1987.

Sotheby's Royal Jewels 0021 - November 2018.JPG

The star lots, Marie Antoinette’s jewels, had an extraordinary story. Before being taken into captivity, Marie Antoinette carefully wrapped her pearls, diamonds and rubies in cotton, placed them in a wooden chest and sent them to Brussels. From there, they were taken to Vienna, into the safe keeping of the Austrian Emperor, her nephew. Restored to Marie Antoinette’s daughter, Madame Royale, following her release in 1795, the jewels were then passed on to the Bourbon Parma family with whom they remained for the next 200 years.

 “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,” said Daniela Mascetti, Sotheby’s Jewellery Chairman, Europe.

A three-strand necklace strung with pearls from the queen’s personal collection reached a final price of $2.29 million, while a diamond brooch supporting a sumptuous yellow diamond achieved $2.1 million.

One of the most personal and intimate lots in the sale, a monogrammed diamond ring bearing the initials MA for Marie Antoinette and containing a lock of her hair, eclipsed pre-sale expectations to sell for 50 times the estimate at $ 443,786.

 A testament to the universal appeal of the jewels, a quarter of participants were new to Sotheby’s, while bidding was resolutely modern with 55% of bidders choosing to bid online.