Marie Antoinette's Prized Pearls to Be Auctioned at Sotheby's Geneva on Nov. 14

With a revolution raging in France in March 1791, Queen Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI prepared for their escape. The queen spent an evening carefully wrapping her most precious jewels in cotton and then packed them neatly into a wooden chest. The diamond, ruby and pearl treasures were secretly shipped to Vienna in the care of Count Mercy Argentau, a loyal retainer to the queen.

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“The jewels made it, but unfortunately, she did not,” Daniela Mascetti, deputy chairman of Sotheby’s Jewelry Europe, told The New York Post.

Three months later, the royal family was captured in Varennes as they were trying to leave France. Both Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were imprisoned and executed by guillotine in 1793. Their son died in captivity shortly afterwards at the age of 10.

Their last surviving child, Marie-Thérèse, was finally allowed to flee to Vienna after serving three years in solitary confinement. There, the teenage princess reclaimed her mother's jewels that had been kept safe by her cousin, the Austrian Emperor Francis II.

The jewelry remained in the queen's family for the next 200 years and has never been seen by the public — until now.

Earlier this week, Sotheby's New York put on display several jewels from the collection of Marie Antoinette. Visitors to the landmark store were even permitted to try on the regal pieces, which will be offered for sale at Sotheby's Geneva on November 14. The jewels are currently on an international tour, with stops in Dubai, New York, London, Singapore, Taipei and Geneva.

The highest-value item in the group is a natural pearl and diamond pendant set with an oval diamond in a diamond bow motif. The slightly baroque drop-shaped natural saltwater pearl measures approximately 15.90mm x 18.35mm x 25.85mm. The piece carries a pre-sale estimate of $1 million to $2 million.

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A second notable lot from the collection is a fabulous necklace featuring 119 natural pearls. It is composed of three rows of slightly graduated pearls measuring from approximately 7.3mm to 9.3mm.  Interestingly, 116 were confirmed by a European gem lab to be natural saltwater pearls, while three were found to be natural freshwater pearls. The necklace is adorned with a star-motif clasp set with cushion-shaped, circular-cut and rose-cut diamonds. Estimated price: $200,000 to $300,000.

Marie Antoinette's jewelry is part of a larger auction collection comprised of pieces from the Bourbon Parma family — a family linked to the royal dynasties of France, England, Spain, Austria, Holland and Italy.

"Every jewel is absolutely imbued with history," said Mascetti. "This extraordinary group of jewels offers a captivating insight into the lives of its owners going back hundreds of years. What is also striking is the inherent beauty of the pieces themselves: the precious gems they are adorned with and the exceptional craftsmanship they display are stunning in their own right."

Credits: Jewelry images courtesy of Sotheby's. Marie Antoinette portrait by Joseph Kreutzinger [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Greville Emerald Tiara Takes Center Stage at Princess Eugenie's Royal Wedding

As Princess Eugenie exchanged wedding vows with Jack Brooksbank on Friday at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle, England, all eyes were on her magnificent emerald tiara.

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Dubbed the Greville Emerald Kokoshnik Tiara, the diamond-encrusted platinum headpiece features a 93.7-carat oval-shaped emerald center stone flanked by six additional emeralds on each side. Jewelry experts have pegged the value of the tiara at somewhere between $6.5 million and $13 million.

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The Greville Tiara was lent to Princess Eugenie by her 92-year-old grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II.

The emerald tiara was originally designed for Dame Margaret Greville in 1919 by Parisian jewelry house Boucheron. The tiara reflects the "kokoshnik" style popularized by the Russian Imperial Court and introduced into western Europe after the Russian Revolution.

When she died in 1942, the socialite left many of her jewels — including the Greville Tiara — to the Queen Mother. Queen Elizabeth II inherited the piece when her mother passed away in 2002 at the age of 101.

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Throughout the pageantry of the royal wedding, the tiara was in constant view because the 28-year-old bride chose to forgo the traditional veil.

Her choice of tiara surprised many royal watchers. They had speculated that Princess Eugenie would wear the York tiara, which her mother, Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, donned when she married Prince Andrew in 1986.

Instead, Princess Eugenie decided to "go green." Her emerald tiara was complemented by emerald drop earrings, a gift from the 32-year-old groom.

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During the marriage ceremony at St. George's Chapel, Brooksbank placed a simple gold wedding band on his bride's finger. Despite its simplicity, the ring reflects a rich royal family tradition. Since the Queen Mother's wedding in 1923, the royal family's wedding bands have been crafted of pure Welsh gold, sourced at the Clogau mine in Bontddu.

The mine dates back to the Bronze Age, and commercial mining began there in the mid-1880s. The mine was closed in the 1990s, but Queen Elizabeth II had received a kilogram of the rare gold for her 60th birthday in 1986. The Queen’s reserves have been the source of royal wedding bands ever since.

Credits: Screen captures via YouTube.com/The Royal Family Channel.

Music Friday: Tom Jones Can't Compete With a Diamond-Gifting Rival in ‘I (Who Have Nothing)’

Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you romantic throwback tunes with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. In Tom Jones's soaring rendition of “I (Who Have Nothing),” the Welch crooner assumes the role of a poor man trying to win the heart of his true love. While his rival has the means to buy her diamonds, all Jones can offer are the words, "I love you."

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He sings, "He, he buys you diamonds / Bright, sparkling diamonds / But believe me, dear when I say, / That he can give you the world, / But he’ll never love you the way / I love you."

The passionate young man professes his love, but it's not enough.

The song ends with Jones's character — nose pressed against his window pane — painfully watching his love "go dancing by wrapped in the arms of somebody else."

Written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, "I (Who Have Nothing)" has been covered by dozens of artists, both male and female, for the past 55 years, but the version that rises above the rest is performed here by Sir Thomas John Woodward (better known as Tom Jones). His powerful interpretation elevated the song to #14 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1970.

The first artists to hit the airwaves with “I (Who Have Nothing)” were Ben E. King and Shirley Bassey, both in 1963. Since then, the song has been covered by singers as diverse as Petula Clark, Luther Vandross, Liza Minnelli and Neil Diamond.

Interestingly, "I (Who Have Nothing)" was derived from an Italian song called "Uno Dei Tanti," which translates to "one of many" in English. Joe Sentieri released the Italian version in 1961.

Jones, whose soulful voice and great looks melted hearts during the 1960s and 1970s, has sold more than 100 million records and charted 36 Top-40 hits, including “It’s Not Unusual,” “What’s New Pussycat” and “Delilah.” He's still touring at the age of 78.

We invite you to enjoy the video of Tom Jones performing “I (Who Have Nothing).” The lyrics are below if you’d like to sing along.

“I (Who Have Nothing)”
Written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Performed by Tom Jones.

I, I who have nothing
I, I who have no one
Adore you, and want you so
I’m just a no one,
With nothing to give you but oh
I love you

He, He buys you diamonds
Bright, sparkling diamonds
But believe me, dear when I say,
That he can give you the world,
But he’ll never love you the way
I love you

He can take you anyplace he wants
To fancy clubs and restaurants
But I can only watch you with
My nose pressed up against the window pane
I, I who have nothing
I, I who have no one
Must watch you, go dancing by
Wrapped in the arms of somebody else
When darling it’s I
Who loves you

I love you
I love you
I love you



Credit: Photo by VMusic2016 [CC BY-SA 4.0 ], from Wikimedia Commons

'Opal Peacock' Brooch Showcases One of the Finest Examples of October's Birthstone

Gifted to the Smithsonian in 1977 by legendary jeweler Harry Winston, the "Opal Peacock" brooch showcases a 32-carat black opal sourced from Lightning Ridge, Australia. The cabochon-cut gem, which displays a vivid blue and green play-of-color reminiscent of a peacock's plumage, is considered one of the world's finest examples of October's birthstone.

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For his Opal Peacock brooch, Winston adorned the kaleidoscopic center stone with sapphires, rubies, emeralds and diamonds set in 18-karat yellow gold. The impressive piece is currently on display at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

The black opal — characterized by a blue, gray or black body color — is regarded as the king of the opal world. Lightning Ridge, a small outback town in New South Wales, is the only place in Australia, and one of the few places in the world, where the highly prized black opal is found. Other varieties include white opals, boulder opals, crystal opals and fire opals.

According to the Smithsonian, opals can form only when an undisturbed space in a rock holds a clean solution of silica from which water is slowly removed over a period of thousands of years.

The opals consist of transparent spheres of silica that are tightly packed. The voids among the spheres contain only air or water. In precious opal, the silica spheres are uniform in size and are stacked into an orderly arrangement, which gives the structure the ability to break visible white light into separate colors.

Interestingly, an opal's silica structure contains 3% to 20% water, according to the American Gem Society.

Since opal was first discovered in Australia circa 1850, the country has produced 95% of the world’s supply. Scientists believe that the abundance of opal can be traced to a vast inland sea that once covered a large portion of Australia.

As the sea regressed, a rare episode of acidic weather was taking place, exposing pyrite minerals and releasing sulphuric acid. As the surface of the basin dried further and cracked, silica-rich gel became trapped in the veins of the rock. Over time, the silica solidified to form opals.

Even though Australia is the world leader in opal production, the October birthstone is also mined in Mexico, Brazil, Honduras, Ethiopia, the Czech Republic and parts of the U.S., including Nevada and Idaho.

Credits: Photos by Chip Clark/Smithsonian.

'Diavik Stars of the Arctic' to Headline Rio Tinto's 'Specials' Tender on Oct. 25

Inspired by the constellations that light up the night sky of Canada's remote Northwest Territories, "The Diavik Stars of the Arctic" will headline Rio Tinto’s upcoming "Specials" tender — a showcase of rough diamonds greater than 10.8 carats.

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Among the diamonds comprising The Diavik Stars is the 177.71-carat "Vega of the Arctic," one of the largest and most valuable gem-quality rough diamonds ever produced at Rio Tinto's Diavik Diamond Mine, which is located just 136 miles (220 km) south of the Arctic Circle.

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A second standout is the "Capella of the Arctic," a dazzling yellow diamond that weighs 24.82 carats.

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Rio Tinto reports that this yellow diamond is extraordinarily rare because the mine, on average, delivers only five of these diamonds each year. That translates into less than 0.001% of its annual production.

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The 59.10-carat "Altair of the Arctic" rounds out the trio of fabulous gems which, as a group, underscore the rare combination of size, quality and color being produced by the Diavik Diamond Mine.

The Diavik Stars of the Arctic will be exhibited in the diamond centers of Antwerp and Israel before bidding closes on October 25.

Astronomy buffs will recognize that the Vega, Capella and Altair diamonds share their names with some of the brightest stars in the night sky.

According to Rio Tinto, the Diavik Diamond Mine produces predominantly gem-quality diamonds destined for high-end jewelry in all major consumer markets around the world.

The mine, which began production in 2003, is jointly owned by Rio Tinto (60%) and Dominion Diamond Mines (40%).

Credits: Images courtesy of Rio Tinto.