Marie Antoinette's bracelets dazzle at auction

·2-min read
The bracelets were commissioned circa 1776 (AFP/TIMOTHY A. CLARY)

Two diamond bracelets once belonging to Marie Antoinette and imbued with her "glamour, glory and drama" according to Christie's auction house, sold for more than $8 million on Tuesday.

It was the first time that the bracelets, made up of 112 old-cut diamonds, had ever gone under the hammer.

Marie Antoinette, the last queen of France before the French Revolution, was guillotined in Paris aged 37 in October 1793.

"Her style defines the unique aesthetics of Versailles: opulent and regal, yet youthful and romantic. A tastemaker extraordinaire, then and now," said Christie's Europe chairman Francois Curiel.

"Their royal provenance is impeccable; not only is their line of heritage unbroken and traceable from 1776 onwards, but the bracelets have been featured in two famous historic paintings," said Curiel.

"These bracelets travelled through time to recount a most important era of French history, with its glamour, glory and drama."

The bracelets are 18.7 centimetres long and each weighs 97 grammes.

They sold for 7,459,000 Swiss francs ($8.19 million), including premiums, at the auction in Geneva.

They had been estimated to go for 2-4 million Swiss francs.

"The first bid was five million francs -- that's how excited collectors were to try to acquire a real piece of history that has remained in the same family for 200 years," Rahul Kadakia, international head of jewellery at Christie's, told AFP.

"In the end, the bracelets achieved $8 million; really an astonishing price for a really, really great jewel."

When king Louis XVI, his wife Marie Antoinette and their children tried to flee the French Revolution in March 1791, the royal jewels were smuggled out of the country into the trust of a confidant in Brussels.

They were then sent on to relatives in the queen's Austrian homeland and passed down through the generations.

The bracelets were auctioned as part of Christie's Geneva Magnificent Jewels sale.

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