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Marie-Antoinette’s diamond bracelets smash auction estimate, selling for $8.2 million

Jack Guy, CNN

A pair of diamond bracelets once owned by Marie-Antoinette, the last queen of France, have been sold for $8.2 million at auction, smashing their pre-sale estimate.

The bracelets were part of Christie’s Geneva Magnificent Jewels auction on Tuesday.

The auction house had predicted the bracelets would sell for between $2 million and $4 million.

“Queen Marie Antoinette’s diamonds captured the world’s attention and achieved a fitting result for such a magnificent Royal Jewel!” Rahul Kadakia, Christie’s international head of jewelry, said in a statement.

Kadakia commented on the “very dynamic saleroom,” as well as “strong online and telephone bids from around the world.”

Marie-Antoinette sent the bracelets out of France for safekeeping in January 1791, during the Revolution that would eventually see her die by the guillotine on October 16, 1793.

For more than two centuries they were kept safe in a private royal collection, according to a statement from Christie’s issued before the auction.

The “extraordinary bracelets” boast approximately 140-150 carats of diamonds, the auctioneer said in the pre-sale statement.

“What is miraculous is that they have remained together and intact when they could have easily been broken up, as many other jewels of royal provenance have been,” Jean-Marc Lunel, senior international specialist in the jewelry department at Christie’s in Geneva, said in the statement. “This makes them particularly attractive to collectors.”

Lunel believes the bracelets were made by Charles Auguste Boehmer, Marie-Antoinette’s personal jeweler, due to their symmetry and elegant design.

“They are so light and so well made that they simply flow on your wrist like fabric,” he said in the statement. “And the imperfect antique cut of the diamonds provides a unique charm that cannot be found in modern cut diamonds.”

Christie’s cited historian Vincent Meylan as saying Marie-Antoinette paid Boehmer 250,000 livres, equivalent to around $4.6 million today.

In order to raise the money she had to trade in some other gemstones, as well as borrowing 29,000 livres (around $533,000 today) from her husband, King Louis XVI.

This wasn’t the first auction of Marie-Antoinette’s jewels to raise way beyond estimates.

In November 2018, a pearl and diamond pendant from her private collection fetched more than $36 million at auction, smashing pre-sale estimates that had valued it between $1 million and $2 million.

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