Napoleon's wife’s engagement ring becomes a megahit at an auction, by guest blogger Brenda Panin

  • Sol Rivero

Are you a history and jewelry aficionada? Then you’ll love this week’s post by guest blogger, writer and jewelry-lover Brenda Panin! Discover the mysteries behind Napoleon’s wife’s engagement ring and its incredibly successful auction:


Napoleon’s wife’s engagement ring: the story behind the jewel

Napoleon Bonaparte, one of the most celebrated French emperors who extended his power and might in Europe, may have been regarded as a dictator, but apart from his military ideals, the emperor had a softer heart and avowed love for Josephine De Beauharnais, who became his first wife. He proposed to her on 9th March, 1796 and later on surprised her with an amazing gift of a ring a few days before the eve of their engagement.

Notably, there was a huge difference between the couple’s ages with Josephine being 32 years at then, 6 years older than Napoleon and a widow with two children. Hence, the news of their marriage didn’t go well with most people especially Napoleon’s family. Finally, the couple divorced in 1810 since Josephine didn’t bear him a son which meant no heir to the throne upon his demise.

The diamond and sapphire engagement ring was Napoleon’s offer to her and later on he send numerous love letters and other several precious gems during his absence as he guided the French in their successful invasion of Italy. Josephine treasured the ring and she gave it to her own daughter Hortense, who became the Queen of Holland. The ring possession later went to Hortense’s son, Napoleon III and his wife, Empress Eugenie, whose family the relic still belongs.


The present of Napoleon’s wife’s engagement ring

Today, the same ring has been sold in auctions with bidders competing to have it in their possession. In the Osenat, Paris auction the ring had been put in an estimate value of $20,000 on the basis of the current market value of the ring and without it being connected to Napoleon and Josephine. 

The catalog price of the ring was based on the judgment that Napoleon had little money and power at the time he bought it and that the ring was ordinary. As it seems, at the time of purchase, Napoleon was a young and an ambitious officer and must have broken his wallet to purchase the engagement ring. Moreover, the quality of the ring makes its price to be at around $20,000 in the market today. 

The start of the Osenat auction saw the bids going for as low as 10,000 euros, which later stepped up to 50,000 euros, almost the double the catalog price, and the price relentlessly went up higher and higher to $100,000, and later the bid became humorous when a bid of $650,000 was declared. In the end, the gavel ended up with a winning bid of 730,000 euros or approximately $950,000. The winner requested not to be named, but it became known that he a businessman. 

The Osenat auction house, Fontainebleau bidding seemed to have been fun and humorous and some of the information about it can be found on the auction house’s live website today. In fact, no one anticipated for it to be sold about 47 times the catalog price, but the bidders were 300 in the Fontainebleau auction house, 50 international bidders who send their bids by making a call and 40 bidders who send an email, mainly from the US. Basically, the auction treated the ring with modesty and this explains the low catalog price. However, its historical significance is what made the ring’s price to skyrocket and the auction attracting many bidders including international ones.


What is notable is that the highest bid of $950,000 is without additional charges and commission, and some estimates give the final figure close to $1.17 million. As such, the historical importance of the ring cannot be belittled because even after a series of affairs, remarriage and exile at St. Helena, Napoleon still recognized Josephine and in his last words he mentioned her, “France. The army. The head of the army. Josephine”.

Napoleon's wife engagement ring has two pear shaped gems, a blue sapphire and a diamond, that are counterpoised to each other. The carat weight of the two gems is less than one carat each, but its design seems simple and of high quality. The golden ring is poised because it is derived from the 18th century setting known as toi et moi meaning You and Me, and that it once belonged to an Empress of France, Josephine. Therefore, it might have seemed to be an unappealing ring to many because of the age and names attached to it, but the historical premium sale became a megahit in a recent auction in France.


Brenda Panin is a market researcher and a part time writer interested in dynamic gold market. In her free time Brenda enjoys writing and researching, always on the lookout for something new. She enjoys seeing her readers getting useful information from her articles.


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