Dubai: Some of the jewels worth $2.9 million that were previously worn by Marie-Antoinette herself have just arrived in Dubai and they’re now available for public viewing.
Part of the private collection of the last queen of France, the pearls, diamonds and other luxurious pieces had been kept away from the public eye for more than 200 years and they’re believed to have sparked the French revolution.
According to auction house Sotheby’s, who are bringing in the royal jewels, the public display at the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), which starts today (October 8) until October 11, provides a glimpse into one of the most prominent figures in the history of Europe and the splendour of old France.
The collection includes seven of Marie-Antoinette’s favourites, a pearl necklace, pearl earrings, a single strand natural pearl necklace and two brooches with yellow diamonds. They’re estimated to be worth $1.6 million to $2.9 million (Dh10 million).
Marie-Antoinette's diamond brooch is estimated to be worth $50,000 to $80,000. (Sotheby's)
They are on display as part of the $5 million jewellery owned by the Bourbon Parma dynasty, one of Europe’s most important aristocratic families. The royal pieces will go under the hammer in Geneva, Switzerland later this year and they are shown in Dubai alongside a portrait by Rembrandt, estimated to be worth $8 million.
The ill-fated Marie-Antoinette was known for her great love of pearls and diamonds. When the revolution broke out, she had her jewels smuggled out of France to Austria. She was later beheaded in 1793, just months after the execution of her husband, King Louis XVI.
A painting of Marie-Antoinette. (Sotheby's)
Some of these jewels have survived after being handed down through generations of royal bloodlines. The valuable pieces have been brought to the UAE because the Middle East is home to a number of collectors who have a deep appreciation for jewellery and exquisite pieces.
Marie-Antoinette's natural pearl and diamond necklace is valued at $200,000 to $300,000. (Sotheby's)
“The exhibition that we are bringing to Dubai is thoroughly imbued with history, from the impressive pearls and diamonds that adorned the ill-fated Queen Marie-Antoinette to an emotionally intense portrait that underscores the genius of Rembrandt,” said Edward Gibbs, Sotheby’s Middle East and India chairman.
Rich people in UAE
The UAE is home to a growing number of high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs), those with net assets of at least $1 million. As of 2017, there are around 88,700 HNWIs in the UAE and many of them hold collectables, including art pieces, luxury watches and classic cars.
Christie’s, another auction house, has recently held a sale of super-luxury watches in Dubai. At the end of the event, buyers bagged several valuable pieces, including King Farouk’s personalized Patek Philippe 1518, commissioned by the monarch in 1944 selling for just over $900,000.
And since its first Dubai auction of “Modern and Contemporary Middle Easter Art” in 2006, Christie’s has managed to sell more than $200 million worth of art in Dubai. The auction house’s latest sale, the March 2018 auction of “Post-War and Contemporary Art and Important Watches,” generated more than $10 million in sales.
“Based on our research, there is potential of Dubai becoming a fine art hub in the future,” according to a report by New World Wealth.
About Marie-Antoinette’s jewels
In March 1791, after the revolution broke out, King Louis XVI, his wife, Marie Antoinette and their children prepared to run away from France.
The queen spent an entire evening in the Tuileries Palace wrapping up all of her diamonds, rubies and pearls and storing them in a wooden chest.
One of Marie-Antoinette's beloved jewels, a pair of natural pearl and diamond pendent earrings, is worth $200,000 to $300,000.
Days later, the royal jewels were sent to Brussels. From there, Count Mercy Argentau, one of the few men who had retained the queen’s trust, took the jewels to Vienna and into the safe keeping of Marie Antoinette’s nephew, the Austrian emperor.
The royal family was imprisoned in the Temple tower in 1792. The king was executed by guillotine in 1793 and months later, Marie-Antoinette was also beheaded. Their 10-year-old son, Louis XVII, died in captivity.
Where is the exhibition in Dubai?
The collection can be viewed at Level 1, Gate Village Building 3, DIFC. It is open to the public from 10am to 4pm daily.
Entrance is free and anyone can check out the collection.