The timeless pieces could have been worn by a 1950s movie star.
Much like Elizabeth Taylor, Marie Antoinette was known to have a weakness for jewels. As Christie’s put it, “she could not resist jewelry”. Now, a stunning set of diamond bracelets belonging to the queen is coming up for auction with a total of 112 sparkling diamonds through the storied auction house. The auction will take place in Geneva as part of a larger collection of jewels from royals and elites.
The set was purchased in 1776 from Charles Auguste Boehmer by the queen for the sum of 250,000 livre, and it is expected that they will fetch $2-4M US at the upcoming auction. The matching set was smuggled out of France shortly before Marie Antoinette was beheaded. The items were sent in a trunk she assigned to Count Mercy Argenteau, ambassador to the Austrian Empire, in 1791 while she was imprisoned.
Marie Antionette was executed in 1793 and the following year the Austrian Emperor ordered that the trunk be opened as Argenteau had not yet ventured to look inside by that point. The jewels were then later relayed to Marie Antoinette’s eldest daughter, the Madame Royale Marie Thérèse Charlotte, in 1796. The Madame Royale was the only prisoner from her family to survive the Reign of Terror.
A portrait of the Madame Royale in 1816 shows her wearing the bracelets. The future queen (she married her first cousin and heir to the French throne) had no children but left her jewels to two nieces, the Countess of Chamord and the Duchess of Parma, and her nephew, the Count of Chambord. The bracelets have remained in the family until now, providing an excellent provenance for the items.
The items come in a blue velvet box with a paper label from antiquity that reads, “Bracelets de la Reine” and Marie Antoinette’s name. The pair is estimated to contain between 140 and 170 carats of old-cut diamonds, yet the timeless piece looks like something that could have been worn by a glamorous movie star in the 1950s.
The Geneva Magnificent Jewels auction is set to take place in Geneva on November 9th, 2021. Featured in the sale will also be the ruby worn by the Duchess of Windsor, Wallis Simpson, as well as other gems from around the world.