Auction  November 16, 2018  Megan D Robinson

Historic Bourbon Parma Jewels Excel at Auction

Courtesy Sotheby's

Diamond tiara, Hübner, circa 1912

This week in Geneva, Sotheby’s auction of the Bourbon Parma family collection of royal jewels made auction history. Containing one hundred pieces, the auction realized $53.1 million, over seven times the pre-sale high estimate of $7 million. Among the collection were pieces that belonged to Queen Marie Antoinette. This auction of historic jewels broke the $50.3 million record established by the 1987 sale of jewels of the Duchess of Windsor.

Courtesy Sotheby's

Queen Marie Antoinette's Pearl

The highlight of the auction, a natural pearl and diamond pendant from Marie Antoinette’s personal collection, sold for $36,165,090, far above its pre-sale estimate of $1-2 million, establishing a new auction record for a natural pearl. The pendant was one of 10 exquisite pieces formerly owned by Queen Marie Antoinette, and in the care of the Bourbon Parma family for the last two hundred years. A beauty known for her love of culture, fashion and luxury, Marie Antoinette, with her tragic end, has an enduring fascination.

“Tonight we saw the Marie Antoinette factor work its magic,” says Daniela Mascetti, Sotheby’s Jewellery Chairman, Europe. “No other queen is more famous for her love of jewels. Her personal treasures, pearls and diamonds that survived intact the tumults of history, captivated the interest of collectors around the world.”

Queen Marie Antionette's diamond and woven hair ring, 18th century
Courtesy Sotheby's

Queen Marie Antionette's diamond and woven hair ring, 18th century

A sapphire, ruby and diamond Order of the Golden Fleece, Austria, and a jewelled neck badge, circa 1825
Courtesy Sotheby's

A sapphire, ruby and diamond Order of the Golden Fleece, Austria, and a jeweled neck badge, circa 1825

Ruby and diamond brooch-hair ornament, Bachruch, circa 1900
Courtesy Sotheby's

Ruby and diamond brooch-hair ornament, Bachruch, circa 1900

Natural pearl clasp and a cultured pearl and diamond necklace
Courtesy Sotheby's

Natural pearl clasp and a cultured pearl and diamond necklace

Before being put under house arrest in 1792, during the French Revolution, Marie Antoinette carefully packed her jewels, and sent them to Brussels. From there, they were taken to Vienna. Safe-guarded by the Queen’s nephew, the Austrian Emperor, the jewels were restored to Marie Antoinette’s daughter, Madame Royale, after her 1795 release. The jewels were eventually passed on to the Bourbon Parma family.  In addition to the pendant, the collection included a beautiful three-strand pearl strung necklace, a diamond brooch with a large yellow diamond, and a monogrammed diamond ring bearing her initials, MA, and containing a lock of her hair. Bidding was fierce for these historical treasures; together they realized a total of $42.7 million against a pre-sale estimate of $ 1.6-2.9 million.

Courtesy Sotheby's

Yellow sapphire and diamond brooch, late 19th century

The extraordinary collection also included amazing jewels belonging to later generations of the Bourbon Parma family, linked to the royal families of France, Italy, Spain and Austria. Highlights includes a stunning diamond tiara, created by Austrian jeweler Hübner for Maria Anna of Austria in 1912, a diamond parure adorned with old-cut diamonds with a detachable pendant made for Louise of France and including five diamonds which belonged to Marie Antoinette’s daughter (estimated at $300,000-500,000, sold for $848,853), and two remarkable jeweled badges of the Order of the Holy Spirit and the Order of the Golden Fleece, both owned by the Duke of Angoulême (estimated at $100,000-200,000 and $300,000-400,000, sold for $1,623,244 and $1,682,813).

About the Author

Megan D Robinson

Megan D Robinson writes for Art & Object and the Iowa Source.