Jewelry that belonged to Marie Antoinette, wife of King Louis XVI and arguably France’s most famous queen, is headed to the auction block at Sotheby’s in Geneva, Switzerland on Wednesday, Nov. 12.
The auction, “Royal Jewels From the Bourbon-Parma Family,” will feature jewelry spanning centuries of European history, from the 18th century reign of Louis XVI to the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire a century ago. The Bourbon-Parma family is blood-related to influential European dynasties, from the Habsburgs to the Parmas, a lineage which has included kings of France and Spain and Austrian emperors.
The full collection offered by Sotheby’s has never been seen in public, and many of the 100-plus elaborate gem and jewel pieces up for sale, including natural pearl necklaces and monogram gemstone rings, have not been viewed in public for some 200 years. Other distinctive pieces in the collection include a sapphire, ruby, and diamond brooch and a ring depicting the iconic queen’s face, surrounded by circular-cut diamonds.
“It is one of the most important royal jewellery collections ever to appear on the market,” Daniela Mascetti, deputy chairman of Sotheby’s Jewellery Europe and a Sotheby’s senior international specialist with a specific focus on the history of jewelry, said in a statement. “Each and every jewel is absolutely imbued with history.”
Marie Antoinette is remembered for her lavish lifestyle. She is often quoted as suggesting that her starving subjects eat cake after running out of bread—though there is some dispute whether or not she actually said it. In 1793, at the height of the French Revolution, both she and Louis XVI were executed by guillotine.