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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 December 2007, 15:27 GMT
Historic necklace fails to sell
Necklace with Marie Antoinette's pearls
The pearls were set in the necklace in 1849
Pearls which belonged to Marie Antoinette have failed to sell at auction in London.

The 33 pearls were expected to fetch up to 400,000, but only 340,000 was offered, which was below the reserve price, auction house Christie's said.

The deposed Queen of France gave them to the Countess of Sutherland for safe keeping before she was executed.

The pearls had been smuggled to Britain shortly before the queen was beheaded in the French revolution in 1793.

Lady Elizabeth, Countess of Sutherland, was given the bag of pearls as part of a plan to help Marie Antoinette and her family escape from France.

Pearls and rubies

She had planned to return the pearls but the queen was killed and over 50 years later she mounted them on a necklace to celebrate her granddaughter's marriage.

Since then the necklace has been owned by the Staffordshire-based Sutherland family.

The necklace features 21 drop-shaped natural grey pearls, each suspended from a diamond collet, and 12 button-shaped pearls mounted in gold on a ruby collar.

Raymond Sancroft-Baker from Christies, said: "The owner phoned me up one day and said 'I have Marie Antoinette's pearls to sell'.

"I nearly said 'oh yes, we've had three this week,' but I held my tongue and said 'how fascinating'.

"He is directly descended and it's an amazing thing to have happened."

The jewel sale, which also contained a 17-carat diamond, tiaras and a Cartier bracelet, saw bidders spend 9.3 million.

Christie's spokesman on the auction

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