The ring that a young Napoleon gave to Josephine for their engagement in 1776 has been sold at auction for $949,000 (€730,000), not including commission and other fees. The winning bid was almost 50 times the $20,000 estimate that the auction house expected it to bring in. The auction was held on Sunday in honor of the 250th anniversary of Josephine’s birth.
“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, told ABC News. “We based the estimates in our catalog 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.”
The auction house described the 18th century ring as a “simple” band decorated with two pear-shaped gems, a blue sapphire and diamond, which face opposite directions. “At the time, Napoleon had very little money,” Osenat’s Jean-Christophe Chataignier explained to the Daily Mail. “The ring is a very ordinary one.” An ordinary ring, save for the fact that the man who gave it to his beloved went on to become the emperor of France. Though their marriage ended in divorce after 14 years, Josephine was said to have cherished the ring and continued to pass it down as a family heirloom.
The ring came 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. The auction winner has remained anonymous — but a glint of blue and white on one’s finger is sure to give the buyer away eventually.