Jewelry & Watches

Marie Antoinette's Pearl Pendant Sells for a Record-Breaking $36 Million at Auction

Sotheby's brought a few of the French queen's jewels to the auction block.

Marie Antoinette may not have made it through the French revolution, but her jewelry sure did. And it has only gotten more valuable over time.

A set of her jewels hit the auction block yesterday in Geneva, courtesy of Sotheby's. The international auction house arranged a collection from Italy's royal Bourbon-Parma line, dating from Louis XVI's reign to the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Among the 100 lots—each stunning in its own right—there was one decisive star: Marie Antoinette's natural pearl and diamond pendant. Sotheby's had estimated to sell the item for between one and two million dollars, but a bidding war upped the price tag to a whopping $36 million.

Marie Antoinette's pearl and diamond pendant

The pendant more than tripled the previous world auction record for a pearl, which was held by a necklace that once belonged to Elizabeth Taylor. Christie's took in $11.8 million for the piece back in 2011.

Less inherently valuable—but perhaps more intimate—was Marie Antoinette's diamond ring, adorned with her initials, and containing a lock of her hair. This, too, far exceeded the $10,000 high-end estimate to rake in a cool $447,000.

An image of Marie Antoinette placed next to her jewelry at Sotheby's Auction House in New York City

All of the French queen's jewels would likely be lost to history, were she not able to smuggle them to her family in Austria before she attempted to flee France. Indeed, in the words of Le Vian CEO Eddie LeVian, "This is about far more than the gems themselves: Marie Antoinette’s jewelry is inextricably linked to the cause of the French Revolution."

They didn't do much to assuage resentment against the monarchy. But they sure do look pretty.

This story originally appeared on
* Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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