LONDON-Marie Antoinette’s dazzling jewellery, unseen in public for two centuries, went on show in London on Friday before going on sale next month in a rare auction of such treasures.

The collection, held by the historic Italian royal House of Bourbon-Parma, is being sold by Sotheby’s auction house in Geneva on November 14.

On show at their London headquarters, the lots include 10 jewels which belonged to Marie Antoinette, the last queen of France before the French Revolution. She was guillotined in Paris aged 37. The highlight is Queen Marie Antoinette’s Pearl, a natural pearl and diamond pendant valued at $1-2 million (870,000-1.75 million euros).

A natural pearl and diamond necklace composed of three rows of more than 100 slightly graduated pearls is expected to fetch $200,000-300,000, as are a pair of natural pearl and diamond pendant earrings. A monogrammed ring containing a lock of her hair is valued at $8,000-10,000. “The romance, magic and universality of her name is because she represents that sophistication of l’ancien regime. She is it,”


Andres White Correal, Sotheby’s senior director of jewellery, told AFP.

“It is the sale of the 21st century. Because how do you top Marie Antoinette? Also because it’s so scarce. There isn’t much left.”

White Correal compared her to Egyptian pharaoh Cleopatra and Britain’s Diana, princess of Wales.

He said there were queens with greater political and historical stature but Marie Antoinette “had the allure”.

The sale also contains jewellery belonging to Charles X, the last king of France, including a diamond tiara; jewels from empress Marie Therese of Austria - Marie Antoinette’s mother - and from Austrian emperor Franz Joseph I, who died in 1916.

When Marie Antoinette tried to flee the French Revolution in March 1791, the royal jewels were smuggled out of the country to Brussels.

They were then sent on to relatives in Austria.

The collection has been exhibited in Hong Kong, Dubai and New York and will go on to Singapore, Taipei and back to Geneva where they will go under the hammer.