By Eileen R. Eichhorn
Who would have guessed in in the year 2015 two stone rings would be so popular again! Do you know the history of this love gift? The ring style has a famous past: “Toi et Moi” means “You and Me” in French and refers to a ring that showcases two stones. These were common engagement rings during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, symbolizing two souls that are intertwined. The ring that is believed to have started the trend was the gorgeous sapphire and diamond engagement ring Napoleon gave to Josephine in 1776.
The engagement ring the young Napoleon “must have broken his wallet” to buy for his fiancée Josephine shattered expectations on March 24, 2013 at the Osenat auction house in France when it sold for close to $1 million according to Osenat’s expert, Jean-Christophe Chataignier.
The winning bidder, who wanted to stay completely anonymous, paid $949,000, almost 50 times the $20,000 Osenat had expected to bring in. Including the buyer’s 25 percent commission to Osenat, the total price for the ring was $1.17 million.
“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. “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.”
There was intense interest in the ring, she said. In addition to the 300 people in the Fontainebleau auction house, about 50 more international bidders were hooked up by phone.
Osenat, which is in Fontainebleau, outside Paris, also received more than 40 written bids by email from the U.S. alone, she said.
The auction house set up extra phone lines and hired 10 additional people to be prepared for the sale.
“It was 15 minutes of relentless bidding,” Villane said. “We opened at 10,000 euros, I raised it to 50,000 euros. From then on it was going up by 10,000. When the hammer went down at 730,000 euros there was a huge applause.”
The sale was timed to coincide with the 250th anniversary of Josephine’s birthday.
The golden ring is in an 18th century setting called “toi et moi,” “You and Me,” with opposing tear-shaped jewels — a blue sapphire and a diamond. The carat weight of the two gems is little less than a carat each.
Osenat already had clues that it had a blockbuster on its hands several days before the auction.