Marie Antoinette’s Diamond Encrusted Bracelets Will Sell For Millions
A pair of Queen Marie Antoinette’s bracelets are to come under the hammer next month. With the richest collectors in the world all primed, it’s expected that the already whopping $2 to $4 million estimate will be smashed.
Born as the youngest daughter of Empress Maria Theresa and Emperor Francis I, Marie Antoinette was an archduchess of Austria. Ultimately, she became the last queen of France before the French Revolution . Renowned across the royal courts of Europe for her risqué hairstyles, clothing and attitudes, this November, a pair of the queen 's most valuable treasures will go under the hammer at Christie ’s Auctions in Geneva.
Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports that the two “three-strand bracelets feature a total of 112 diamonds.” It is estimated that they will sell for between $2 to $4 million. However, Marie-Cécile Cisamolo, a Christie's jewelry specialist told AFP that the pieces could fetch “a much higher price.” The estimate is based only on the intrinsic value of the diamonds, but it is difficult to guess how much someone might be willing to pay to show off jewelry that was once owned and worn by a woman who was arguably Europe’s most famous historical queen.
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The beautiful and historic Marie Antoinette bracelets could go for $4 million. ( Christies)
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The AFP statement says the pair of Marie Antoinette bracelets, “where three diamonds, with the biggest set in the middle, form two barrettes; the two barrettes serve as clasps, each comprising four diamonds and 96 collet-set diamonds.” While the actual artifacts are heavy with valuable stones, their backstory is equally as heavy with historical significance.
Born in 1755 in Vienna, Marie Antoinette was only 14 years old when she married Louis, the grandson of France ’s King Louis XV, in May 1770. An article in Smithsonian Mag explains that Marie Antoinette procured the bracelets in 1776 for 250,000 livres. She traded some of her personal gemstone encrusted bracelets and her husband, Louis XVI , filled the financial gap to secure them. As the French Revolution began to collapse the monarchy, in 1791, Marie Antoinette dispatched the jewelry in a chest full of treasures for safekeeping to the former Austrian ambassador to France, Count Mercy-Argenteau. The queen would never see the diamonds again.
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In 1792, the French monarchy was abolished and Louis and Marie-Antoinette were condemned for treason. The queen was executed by guillotine in October 1793. Francis II, Austria ’s emperor, created an inventory of the queen’s treasures within her chest, known as “the Brussels inventory,” and he kept them secure until they were repatriated with their rightful owner. That was Louis and Marie Antoinette’s daughter, Marie-Thérèse Charlotte de France, the so-called “Madame Royale.” Marie-Thérèse was released from captivity in December 1795 and she ventured to Austria where she took possession of her mother ’s jewelry chest.
A report in Daily Mail shows a 1816 portrait of Marie-Thérèse wearing a pair of bracelets, which Cisamolo told AFP are consistent with the pair described in the Brussels inventory. Therefore, without doubt, “These jewels can thus be traced all the way back to Marie Antoinette.”
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Madame Royale, Marie-Antoinette’s surviving daughter Marie-Thérèse Charlotte of France, wearing the bracelets in an 1816 portrait by French painter Antoine-Jean Gros. (Christophe Fouin / Courtesy of Christie's)
Today, France is a republic with no official royal family that is recognized by the French state. However, thousands of French citizens boast noble titles with family lineages stemming back to the pre-Revolution French Royal Family. It was an unknown member of European aristocracy who gave the two bracelets to Christie’s. You had best set a bookmark this site for we will of course cover the story when the two treasures come under the hammer in November, as the sales price is almost certain to be grossly over the $2 to $4 million. My guess? $6 to $8 million, but let’s see.
By Ashley Cowie