07 March 2018

Jewel History: Gems of Marie Antoinette Sold by Auction in London (1928)

Detail of Martin van Meytens's portrait of Marie Antoinette, ca. 1768 (Wikimedia Commons)

"Gems of Marie Antoinette Sold by Auction in London"
(originally appeared in the Winnipeg Evening Tribune, 3 Mar 1928)

LONDON, March 3 -- Precious stones said to have belonged to Queen Marie Antoinette [1], recently figured in a notable jewel sale at Christie's.

These stones, which are the property of Sir Godfrey Baring [2], are rubies and diamonds, and have been made up into a tiara and necklace, each of unusually attractive design. The two pieces were offered separately [3].

Detail of a portrait of Marie Antoinette wearing pearls by Elisabeth VigĂ©e Le Brun (Wikimedia Commons)

Many other costly gems -- including hundreds of pearls -- were offered at this sale, the catalogue of which might have served as an inventory of Aladdin's Cave.

There were twelve pearl necklaces, including one of seven rows, composed of 799 graduated pearls, with ruby and diamond clasp.

A bejeweled portrait of Marie Antoinette, ca. 1775 (Wikimedia Commons)

There was also a three-row pearl necklace composed of 287 graduated pearls, with oblong diamond clasp.

Besides these there were also three ropes, one comprising 180 pearls, with oval clasp of pearls and brilliants; a silver snake bracelet set with opals and emeralds; diamond pendants, rings and brooches; a necklace of emerald green jade; and earstuds of black pearl and diamond clusters.


1. Queen Marie Antoinette of France (1755-1793) was an Austrian princess who became the wife of King Louis XVI of France. She and her husband were both executed during the Reign of Terror.

2. Sir Godfrey Baring (1871-1957) was a politician and yachtsman who was a central figure at Cowes Week. He was also the father of Poppy Baring (1901-1980), one of the "Bright Young Things" who caught the eye of two British princes. Prince Albert (later King George VI) proposed marriage in 1921, and Poppy accepted, but his parents refused to approve the match. A few years later, Poppy was romancing Bertie's younger brother, Prince George (later the Duke of Kent), but once again, parental disapproval kept them from marrying.

3. According to this post, the tiara ("a RUBY AND DIAMOND TIARA, of flower and foliage design, with mounts to form brooches and hair ornament") was sold for £900, while the necklace ("a RUBY AND DIAMOND NECKLACE OR TIARA, of cluster and foliage design") fetched £1,250. Unfortunately, neither lot was illustrated in the sale catalogue.