Royal Gems

Today, it is a given that gems are associated with European royalty, but until the late Middle Ages, gemstones were scarce in Europe. They mostly made their way west to Europe through an ancient network of trade routes, called the Silk Road, which began in India. Sea explorations eventually made acquiring gems easier, and by the mid-sixteenth century, gemstones had become a significant part of Europe’s royal treasuries. Royal collections peaked in the 18th century with diamonds flowing in from Brazil, emeralds from Colombia, and sapphires, rubies and pearls from Asia. However, as monarchies waned, some of these royal jewels began to be auctioned off, with the French crown jewels notably being sold in 1887. In 2018, Sotheby's Geneva held a significant auction of the Bourbon-Parma royal family's jewels. Around 100 lots were sold, 10 of which were items that once belonged to the French queen, Marie Antoinette (1755-1793).

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