A pearl and diamond pendant that once adorned the neck of ill-fated French Queen Marie Antoinette sold for a record 36.4 million Swiss francs ($36 million) at auction on Wednesday in Geneva.
Not seen in public for more than 200 years, the gems belonged to the Bourbon-Parma family, which traces its lineage back to French King Louis XIV. His great, great, great grandson, King Louis XVI, and his wife Marie Antoinette were beheaded in 1793. The queen was able to smuggle some of her jewelry outside France before she died.
The pendant is set with an oval diamond supporting a diamond-bow motif and a drop-shaped pearl. It was suspended from a three strand pearl necklace that was sold separately. Sotheby’s said the two pieces comprised part of “the most important royal jewelry collections ever to come to auction.”
After a 14-minute contest, the anonymous bidder paid 18 times the high pre-sale estimate of $2 million. Estimates don’t reflect the buyer’s premium added to the hammer price of sold objects. The sale dethroned Elizabeth Taylor’s 50.6-carat La Peregrina, which sold at Christie’s in 2011 for $11.8 million, as the world’s most expensive pearl jewel.
Harry Winston paid $50 million for a pink diamond at Christie’s on Tuesday, setting a record for price paid per carat for a gem of that hue. Sotheby’s will hold a separate jewel auction in Geneva on Thursday.