WASHINGTON: A simple diamond ring that a young Napoleon gave to his first wife Josephine on their engagement has sold for close to USD 1 million – almost fifty times its pre-sale estimate – at an auction. The anonymous bidder paid USD 949,000, almost 50 times the USD 20,000 Osenat auction house in France had expected to bring in. Including the buyer’s 25 per cent commission to Osenat, the total price for the ring was USD 1.17 million, ABC News reported.
“In my wildest dreams, I did not think we would outsell the estimate by more than 47 times,” said Osenat’s Emily Villane, who led the auction. “We based the estimates in our catalogue on the actual market value of the ring, minus Napoleon and Josephine provenance. It is not our job to tell bidders how much they should pay for the historical premium,” Villane said. There was intense interest in the ring, she said. In addition to the 300 people in the Fontainebleau auction house, about 50 more international bidders were hooked up by phone.
Osenat, which is in Fontainebleau, outside Paris, also received more than 40 written bids by email from the US alone, she said. The 18th-century ring is studded with opposing tear-shaped jewels – a blue sapphire and a diamond. The carat weight of the two gems is little less than a carat each. When French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte met Josephine in September 1795, she was a 32-year-old widow with two children.
They got married on March 9, 1796, just before Napoleon left to lead the French army on a successful invasion of Italy. During this absence he wrote to her frequently, sometimes twice a day. She could not bear Napoleon any children; as a result, he divorced her in 1810 to marry Marie Louise of Austria.