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An engagement ring originally given to his first wife, Joséphine de Beauharnais, by the French Emperor Napoleon recently sold for almost 50 times the value listed in the auction house catalog. The March auction was held on 250th birthday of the former Empress of France.

Osenat’s, the Paris auction house had put a catalog value of $20,000 on the ring. An auction spokeswoman, Emily Villane , noted “We based the estimates in our catalogue on the actual market value of the ring, minus the connection with Napoleon and Josephine.”

The auction attracted over 300 live participants and 50 bidders participating by phone. Over 40 written bids were also submitted. The opening 10,000 euro bid was quickly stepped up to 50,000 euros — double the catalog price — then the bidding pushed the price higher in 10,000 euro increments. Bidding was described as “relentless”. The gavel came down on a winning bid of 730,000 euros, or about U.S.$950,000. The crowd cheered the final result. The winning bidder was an unnamed businessman.

Mounted on the simple gold ring holds two pear shaped gems, one diamond and a blue sapphire, mounted counter-posed to each other. Each of the gems is one carat in size. From the picture the ring is of a simple design but the sapphire and diamond appear to be of the highest quality.

sapphire and diamond