Marie Antoinette's dazzling diamond bracelets auctioned for €7.2m

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A pair of diamond bracelets that former French queen Marie Antoinette had smuggled out the country before being guillotined during the French Revolution have fetched more than double the pre-sale estimate at auction in Switzerland.

The heavy 18th century bracelets – made up of 112 old-cut diamonds – had been valued at between 2 million and 4 million Swiss francs. They finally went under the hammer on Tuesday evening for 7.46 Swiss francs (€7.2 million).

They were bought by an anonymous telephone bidder.

The staggering sum reflects a growing interest in jewellry and clothing belonging to the former queen of France.

Auction house Christie's had billed the bracelets as one of the last remaining vestiges of Marie Antoinette's rich jewellry cabinet that were still available for sale.

"Her style defines the unique aesthetics of Versailles: opulent and regal, yet youthful and romantic," said Christie's Europe chairman François Curiel, adding she was "a tastemaker extraordinaire, then and now."

Young queen with a taste for jewels

The Austrian-born monarch was just 14 when she married the future Louis XVI in 1774 and had the bracelets commissioned around two years later.

When King Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette and their children tried to flee the French Revolution in March 1791, the queen had the royal jewels smuggled out of the country in a wooden box and into the trust of the former Austrian ambassador in Brussels.

They were then passed on to relatives in Austria and inherited by Marie Antoinette's sole surviving daughter Marie Therese after she was released from prison in 1795.

The bracelets remained within royal lineage for more than 200 years. Christie's said this was the first time the jewels had been put up for auction.

In November 2018 a natural pearl and diamond pendant once owned by Marie Antoinette fetched a record 32 million euros.

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