New Delhi: A set of 112 diamonds, originally belonging to Queen Marie-Antoinette of France (1755-1793), will go under the hammer on November 9. Presented in their current form, the 112 diamonds are set as a historic pair of bracelets, estimated to sell for between as massive $2,000,000-4,000,000 or Rs 14.7-29.4 crores.
They will be auctioned under the live Magnificent Jewels Auction in Geneva by the auction house Christie’s.
In 1776, Marie Antoinette had been Queen of France for two years and was already recognised as the queen of elegance and style. According to the auction house, the same year she bought these two diamond bracelets for 250,000 livres, a huge sum at the time.
According to Count Mercy-Argenteau, Austria’s Ambassador to France, they were paid partly in gemstones from the Queen’s collection and partly with funds the Queen received from King Louis XVI, says Christie’s. The Ambassador later took office in Brussels and in January 1791, received a letter from Queen Marie-Antoinette, then a prisoner in the Tuileries in Paris, after the French Revolution overthrew the monarchy.
“It announced that a wooden chest would be sent to him for safekeeping. Mercy-Argenteau stored it unopened for the next couple of years. In October 1793, Marie Antoinette was guillotined and in February next year, Emperor Francis II of Austria ordered the chest to be opened in Brussels and an inventory to be made.”
“It read as ‘Item no. 6 – A pair of 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’. Madame Royale, the surviving daughter of the late queen, received these jewels in January 1796 upon her arrival in Austria,” said the auction house.
In a 1816 portrait, Madame Royale is wearing a pair of diamond bracelets consistent with the Brussels inventory. Madame Royale died childless on in 1851. Her will stated that the entirety of her jewellery collection – including Marie Antoinette’s jewels – was to be divided among her three nieces and nephews.
Of the pieces with a traceable provenance back to the Queen of France, these extraordinary bracelets are the only example to include diamonds belonging to her and to retain the exact design described in the Brussels inventory. While it is possible that the bracelets might have been remounted at a later stage, no changes were made to the overall composition and the number of diamonds, except for those on the clasp, were kept identical as per the inventory, reveals the auction house.