Rare French Jewel Returns Home

The Louvre was able to negotiate the return of a 141-ct. diamond brooch, part of the French crown jewels, 121 years after it was sold at auction from the same museum.

The brooch was reportedly purchased for approximately $10.8 million. It was recently estimated by Christie’s to be worth $6 million to $8 million.

Christie’s negotiated the sale of the brooch with its owner, jeweler Ralph O. Esmerian, the Louvre, and the Friends of the Louvre. The auction house announced the sale Tuesday.

The brooch was created by François Kramer for the wife of Napoléon III, Empress Eugénie (1826-1920). On May 12, 1887, the French Crown Jewels were sold at public auction by order of the Third Republic, in the Salle des Etats of the Louvre. The buyer, for $135,000, was the jeweler Emile Schlesinger acting for Caroline Astor of New York.

The brooch remained in the Astor family but after 121 years was to be offered for auction at Christie’s New York on April 15. At that time, the Louvre and the Friends of the Louvre decided to return the jewel to France. So when the auction sale was canceled for legal reasons, the Louvre was able to negotiate a private sale with the agreement of Esmerian.

“Among the great missions of the Louvre is the development of the museum’s collections, with a particular focus on works of art and precious objects belonging to members of the former French Royal family,” said Henri Loyrette, president of the Louvre. “The crown jewels are important among the nation’s treasures and we are thrilled to see the brooch of Empress Eugénie returning to France.”

Added François Curiel, president of Christie’s Europe, who negotiated the sale, “As a French citizen responsible for Jewelry at Christie’s, nothing could have pleased me more than to negotiate this sale of national importance. Christie’s is proud to have facilitated this historic return.”