Marie Antoinette’s personal collection of pearls is set to go under the hammer in a landmark jewellery sale.
The remarkable items, which were smuggled out of France during the Revolution, are being offered for sale as part of a $5million catalogue of royal jewels being put up for auction at Sotheby’s, Geneva, later this year.
According to the auction house, the Queen’s pearls have not been on public display for the last 200 years and have been kept in immaculate condition by a private owner.
Among the collection is a diamond pendant supporting ‘a pearl of exceptional size’, which is estimated at $1-2million.
Other items of note include a spectacular necklace featuring 300 pearls which is expected to fetch between $200,000 and $300,000.
A stunning diamond pendant with a ‘pearl of exceptional size’ that was once owned by Marie Antoinette
Another item once owned by the Queen was a 300-pearl necklace estimated to sell for between $200,000 and $300,000
A model shows a diamond parure composed of 95 diamonds, including five solitaire diamonds that belonged to Marie-Antoinette. It was made for Louise of France (1819-1864), grand-daughter of Charles X, King of France
Marie Antoinette was both famed and hated for her enormous private collection of jewellery.
In fact, one particular necklace left her tangled in a scandal which led to her eventual execution at the hands of revolutionaries.
The Queen caused uproar after the 1785 incident, known as the ‘Affair of the Diamond Necklace’, when she was accused of trying to defraud the royal jewellers to obtain a particularly opulent necklace.
Parisian jewelers Boehmer and Bassenge had created the 2million livre necklace ($14million in today’s money) for Marie Antoinette’s predecessor Madame du Barry – the partner of Louis XV.
But the piece took several years to make and by the time it was completed the king had died of smallpox and the jewellers couldn’t find a buyer for the necklace.
After the Queen rejected the piece, a low ranking courtier named Jeanne de la Motte wrote letters to officials claiming to be the Queen asking for them to buy it on her behalf.
Marie Antoinette was often depicted wearing pearls and was famed for her love of jewellery
The necklace created by the Paris jewellers Charles Bohemer and Paul Bassenge which dragged Marie Antoinette into the ‘Affair of the Diamond Necklace’
A depiction of the execution of Marie Antoinette on October 16, 1793, after she was caught trying to escape France with Louis XVI
After sending a prostitute dressed up as the Queen to inspect the diamonds, De la Motte took the necklace and sent it to England to be broken up and sold – but was caught in the process.
By the time she was condemned, however, the dye was cast and many in the court believed the Queen was guilty of the crime.
Before her execution and the start of the French Revolution, however, the Queen made provision for her jewels to be sent to England.
King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette’s loyal servants ferried the enormous horde to safety while the King and Queen tried in vain to escape their fate.
The spectacular collection is being sold by the Bourbon-Parma family who inherited the jewels after Marie Antoinette’s execution
The magnificent pieces have not been displayed in public for over 200 years according to the auctioneers. Pictured: A model shows a diamond pendant, supporting a natural pearl of exceptional size
They were executed by guillotine in 1793 and the jewels passed to Marie-Thérèse de France, their only surviving child, after her release from prison after three years.
Marie-Thérèse then gifted them to her niece the Duchess of Parma in whose family they have stayed until now.
The jewels are being sold by the Bourbon-Parma family, which dates back to the Duchy of Parma in 1545.
They are set to be sold in November in Geneva in an auction collectors have already described as one of the most significant royal jewellery sales in recent memory.