Marie Antoinette’s Diamond Bracelets Sell for $8.1 Million at Auction

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Nov. 9 2021, Published 2:41 p.m. ET

Let them eat cake? More like, let them wear diamonds!

On Nov. 9, jewelry that once belonged to Marie Antionette was one of the hot-ticket items that auction house Christie’s sold in Geneva, Switzerland.

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“To find jewels with over 200 years of French royal history is truly something that collectors and passionate jewelry people from all over the world will be keeping an eye on,” said Max Fawcett, the head of Christie’s jewelry department in Geneva, according to CNN.

Marie Antoinette’s diamond bracelets fetched $8.1 million.

The two bracelets—housed in a velvet box with a label reading “Bracelets of Queen Marie Antoinette”—each have three strings of diamonds and a large barrette clasp, encompassing 112 diamonds in all.

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Marie Antoinette bought the bracelets in 1776, two years after she and husband King Louis XVI ascended to the throne, according to NBC News. In 1791, with the French Revolution underway, Marie sent a trunk to the ambassador of the Austrian Empire for safekeeping. Following Marie’s execution via guillotine in 1793, the trunk was opened and the bracelets were passed on to her surviving daughter, Marie Therese, Madame Royale.

The bracelets, currently owned by a European royal family, were expected to fetch as much as $4 million, CNN reported. “How much is someone willing to pay for something from the last queen of France?” Fawcett said. “We have seen the results before of things sold by Marie Antoinette, that there really is no limit to how high these can go, and I’m expecting fireworks on Tuesday.”

However, the estimate fell far short of the final sale price of about $8.1 million, including hammer fees, according to Forbes.

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Christie’s is also auctioning off jewelry that belonged to Wallis Simpson.

Joining Marie Antoinette’s bracelets on the Christie’s auction block in Geneva on Nov. 9 is a ruby-and-diamond bracelet owned by Wallis Simpson, an American socialite who married the Duke of Windsor in 1937.

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The Duke of Windsor was the United Kingdom’s King Edward VIII before he abdicated the throne in 1936 to marry Simpson and ended his reign after less than a year. He gave Simpson the Cartier bracelet in 1938 on their first wedding anniversary, according to NBC News. The former royal had the bracelet inscribed, with the inscription reading, “For our first anniversary of June third.”

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Simpson’s jewelry collection was auctioned off in 1987 following her death the year prior. The sale price surpassed expectations at the time.

Now, Christie’s estimates that the duchess’s Art Deco bangle could sell for up to $2.19 million. “She was really influential figure that people looked to as an icon in the jewelry world,” Fawcett said. “She had incredible jewels and when they do come up for sale, it’s something that collectors are looking for.”

However, Jeweler Tobias Kormind, managing director of 77 Diamonds, told NBC News the bracelets could sell for even more than what Christie’s expected. “Being able to own a piece of history from someone you can read about in books is so powerful,” Kormind said. “If you can’t make history, then the next best thing is to own a piece of it.”

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