Mary Antoinette, the Queen of France, remains one of the most contentious figures in history. Many aspects of her life have invited long-running conjectures. One could say she was the eye of the storm in one of the most landmark moments in human history: the French Revolution.
Marrying King Louis XVI of France when she was only 14, Marie Antoinette stepped into a world of grandeur and spectacle. Their wedding alone was a two-week-long festivity! Her residence, the Palace of Versailles, stood as an emblem of unparalleled extravagance.
‘Let them eat cake’ - An infamous quote that is often attached to her. Though its authenticity remains debated, the resonance of this quote is undeniable. A statement that is said to be the last straw that led to the revolution overthrowing the French Monarchy. A statement that, until today, encapsulates the aloofness of the elite towards the destitute.
Whether the statement is lore or truth, one thing we know for certain about Marie Antoinette is her penchant for luxury. She was known for her exorbitant sense of clothing and vanity. And when it came to her jewels, this controversial queen spared no expense. Even if it meant plunging into debt…
The Necklace Too Pricey for even the Queen
One time the queen glanced upon a pair of diamond bracelets so astonishingly beautiful, she could give anything to have it. These bracelets were described to be so light, they would just sit on the wrist just like fabric. Its imperfectly antique cut diamonds glistened like crystallised sunlight.
But beauty has a price. But this one was so pricey, not even the Queen of the French Monarchy could afford it. Mary ended up borrowing money from the king and even exchanging some gemstones from her trousseau. Could the queen repay her debts? One wouldn't know as things took a turn for the worse for the French monarchy. Soon after, The royal couple was arrested and executed by guillotine by the masses.
The Passdown of the Bracelet
Anticipating the impending turmoil, Mary covertly snuck away off the bracelets along with her other dearest jewels to her trusted nephew, the Austrian Emperor. After the Queen’s death, the jewels passed on to her only surviving heir, her daughter Marie-Thérèse de France. She further passed them to her niece, the Duchess of Parma, stitching a new chapter in their history.
The Queen’s Other Iconic Jewels
While the bracelet made up a page in history, the queen’s jewellery box had many more such pieces. The pearl-and-diamond pendant that once adorned her neck was renowned for its unique design.
Another entrancing piece was the brooch made of white and yellow diamonds; its sparkle tells tales of grandeur. Furthermore, there was an intricately designed grey pearl, ruby, and diamond collar necklace – a piece rumoured to have pearls that had been in the family for over two centuries. And a couple of striking diamond rings, which have the queen’s initials inscribed on them. Not only that, these rings also contained a lock of the queen’s hair!
The Auction: When Elegance Met Extravagance
After being out of the public eye for more than 200 years, Marie Antoinette’s jewels re-emerged, taking centre stage in a grand auction. The pièce de résistance? Marie-Antoinette's 18th-century natural pearl and diamond pendant. With each bid, its price soared, eventually being secured for a record-shattering $36 million USD. And the iconic diamond bracelets, the queen had to take a loan for? Those were auctioned for a whopping $8 Million! An event like that was a dance of millions, of history, and of elegance re-emerging from the shadows of the past. All it took was an accursed Queen, an unhinged desire for self indulgence, and an exquisite taste in jewels.