Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Fine and Decorative Art and Design

First Advisor

Devon Zimmerman

Second Advisor

Betsy Thomas


The auction of the Royal Jewels from the Bourbon-Parma Family is considered iconic. It took place as an evening sale at the Mandarin Oriental in Geneva, on November 14, 2018 amid great interest from collectors and the media alike. It comprised a hundred lots from the collection of the Bourbon Parma Family, several of them with royal provenance. The most important pieces were ten objects that are believed to have belonged to Marie Antoinette’s personal jewelry collection. The white-glove sale achieved a total price of $53.1 million (CHF 53.5 million). This was a new record for a royal jewelry auction, surpassing previous record achieved by the Duchess of Windsor auction of 1987 with sales of $50.3 million. Out of all the lots, a magnificent diamond and pearl pendant of superb quality belonging to Marie Antoinette, sold for CHF 36.4 million or 68% of the total sale (Image 1). This amount also set the auction record for the pearl category. It achieved a price more than three times the value of the previous record holder, La Peregrina, an extraordinary pearl drop set in a Cartier necklace of diamonds, rubies and pearls, which sold for $11.8 million in the Elizabeth Taylor sale at Christie’s in New York in 2011. The success of the auction far exceeded expectations. The overall value achieved was more than seven times their high estimates. Several items outperformed their estimates by over a 1000%, including the record-breaking diamond and pearl pendant (Lot no. 100), as well as a diamond and woven hair ring considered to contain the hair of Marie Antoinette herself (Lot 92.).