A diamond bracelet that once belonged to France’s Marie Antoinette and jewels that dangled from a Russian grand duchess are among the featured items going up for auction next week in Geneva
But as usual in the Geneva fall auction season, diamonds, emeralds, sapphires, rubies and other prized gems will be the highlights of next week’s sales at Sotheby’s and rival Christie’s.
Christie’s is putting up on Tuesday an eye-popping pair of heavy bracelets from the 18th century that are studded with three rows of small diamonds. The bracelets are billed as one of the last remaining vestiges of Marie Antoinette’s rich jewelry cabinet that are still available for sale.
The auction house said the famed royal and wife of King Louis XVI was known to have carefully wrapped her jewels in cotton herself, hoping to keep them outside revolutionary France – which ultimately took her life via the guillotine. The bracelets, commissioned around 1776, were kept within royal lineage for over 200 years, Christie’s said.
“Despite Marie-Antoinette’s capture in the French Revolution and her unfortunate death in 1793, the bracelets survived and were passed on to her daughter, Madame Royale, and then the Duchess of Parma,” said Max Fawcett, head of Christie’s jewelry department, referring respectively to Marie-Therese of France, the couple’s daughter, and Princess Louise d’Artois, who died in 1864.
“To see them up for auction today is a unique opportunity for collectors around the world to own a piece of French royal history,” Fawcett said.
The pre-sale estimate for the bracelets is up to 4 million Swiss francs ($4.38 million). They each weigh 97 grams (3.42 ounces), and include “old-cut” diamonds as well as silver and gold, Christie’s said.
Among the lots Sotheby’s plans to present on Wednesday is a pair of “perfectly matched” earrings, each set with 25.8-carat diamonds, that is expected to fetch up to 5 million francs ($5.5 million).
It will also showcase a brooch with a 26.8-carat oval sapphire surrounded by diamonds, and matching ear clips that once belonged to Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna and were whisked out of Russia during the country’s 1917 revolution. The trio is expected to garner as much as 480,000 francs ($525,800).
“She was the wife of Grand Duke Vladimir, the son of the tsar, and she was really passionate about jewelry. She had a fantastic collection of jewels,” Olivier Wagner, the head of Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels sales, said.