LONDON (Reuters Life!) - A set of pearls once belonging to Marie Antoinette and taken to Britain by a friend for safekeeping failed to find a buyer at auction on Wednesday.
Now part of a diamond, ruby and pearl necklace, France's ill-fated queen gave a bag of pearls and diamonds to Lady Sutherland, the British ambassador's wife, before she fled revolutionary France in 1792, a year before the monarch's death.
Marie Antoinette, legendary for her extravagance, did not know her fate at the time and would have hoped to be reunited with her treasures one day, according to Christie's officials.
Christie's said Sutherland arranged for clothes and linen to be sent to the queen while she was in prison.
"This was reportedly the last gesture of kindness shown to the doomed queen," the auctioneer said in a statement.
Marie Antoinette was executed by guillotine in October 1793.
The diamonds were made into a necklace, while the pearls were mounted later for the occasion of the marriage of Sutherland's grandson in 1849.
Christie's did not specify which of Sutherland's descendants was selling the necklace, which had been expected to fetch 350- 400,000 pounds ($716,000-818,000).
The failure of the necklace to sell brought an anti-climactic end to the Magnificent Jewels sale in London, where the top lot, a pear-shaped diamond weighing more than 17 carats and set as a pendant, fetched one million pounds ($2.05 million) including buyer's premium.
Overall the sale raised 9.3 million pounds ($19.1 million).
(Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato)