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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Napoleon’s Engagement Ring to Joséphine Sells for $948,000

The engagement ring that Napoleon Bonaparte gave to his future wife Joséphine in 1796 sold for more than $948,000 (not including commission and other fees) at auction in France on Sunday—shattering its high estimate of $20,000.

The gold ring, with an origin listed as 18th Century, is adorned with two pear-shaped stones (also described as “tear shaped” in media reports), a blue sapphire and diamond that rest side by side facing opposite directions. Each gem weighed one carat each, according to the auction house.

Bidding at the at the Osenat auction house in Fontainebleau opened at 10,000 euros but the first bid was for 50,000 euros and quickly went up to $130,000 euros, then pacing itself to $450,000. Several bouts of laughter were heard during the bidding as seen through the auction house’s live website. Right before the hammer fell at 630,000 euros someone pushed it to 640,000, which produced more laughter. After approximately 50 bids, the ring sold for 730,000 euros.

The sale was held Sunday to honor the 250th anniversary of Joséphine's birth, according to reports. The ring was described as modest by the auction house, purchased from someone who had not yet acquired great wealth and power. However, it gain a lot of international interest based on its historical significance.

Empress Joséphine was 32 years old, six years older than Napoleon, and a widow with a son and daughter at the time of their marriage on March 9, 1796, just before Napoleon departed for his Italian command, according to the auction house.

The ring is from the collection of Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie, according to the auction house. Napoleon III, the last monarch of France, was the nephew and heir of Napoleon. It was sold at Sunday’s auction of the “Collection of Prince Victor Napoleon and Princess Clementine of Belgium.”

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