A large, drop-shaped natural pearl pendant sold for more than $NZ52 million today at a rare auction of jewellery that once belonged to French Queen Marie Antoinette, which Sotheby's is calling a record price for a pearl at auction.
The Queen Marie Antoinette's Pearl, a diamond-and-pearl pendant, was among the highlight offerings on the block at the Sotheby's sale of jewellery from the Bourbon-Parma dynasty in Geneva.
Sotheby's billed the sale as a once-in-a-lifetime chance to scoop up heirlooms and jewels that have been held in the Bourbon-Parma dynasty for generations.
Some of the Marie Antoinette jewellery hadn't been seen in public for 200 years - until now.
Like many of the 10 former Marie Antoinette pieces up for sale, the pendant obliterated the pre-auction estimate - in its case, one million to two million US dollars.
The buyer wanted to remain anonymous, the auction house said.
The diamond and pearl jewellery of Marie Antoinette that went under the hammer epitomised the aloof, pre-Revolutionary opulence of French royals brought down by the uprising.
The wife of King Louis XVI, she was executed in France's revolutionary fervour in 1793.
Before falling to the guillotine, she had secretly smuggled abroad some of her most treasured possessions to her relatives amid rising the revolutionary fervour that ultimately marked the beginning of the end of France's centuries-old monarchy.
The queen's jewellery also included a set of pearl and diamond earrings, a diamond brooch, and a natural pearl and diamond necklace.