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Napoleon and Josephine engagement ring sells at auction for $949,000

The engagement ring that a young Napoleon bought for his fiancée Josephine sold at auction for a surprising $949,000.
Napoleon Josephine engagement ringEnlarge
A diamond and sapphire engagement ring given in 1796 by Napoleon Bonaparte to Josephine de Beauharnais is displayed on a table on March 22, 2013 in Fontainebleau, outside Paris, ahead of an auction entitled 'L'empire à Fontainebleau, les rendez-vous de l'histoire'. The ring was up for bid March 24 at the Osenat auction house. It was estimated to fetch $13,000 to $20,000, but brought in $949,000. (PATRICK KOVARIK/AFP/Getty Images)

The engagement ring that a young Napoleon bought for his fiancée Josephine sold at auction for a surprising $949,000.

The winning bidder, who remains anonymous, paid almost 50 times the $20,000 France's Osenat auction house expected it to bring in. Including Osenat's 25 percent commission, the ring sold for $1.7 million.

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"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."

The gold ring, listed as 18th Century, has two pear-shaped stones affixed on it — a blue sapphire and a diamond — and each gem weighs one carat. Its auction was held on Sunday in honor of the 250th anniversary of Josephine's birth.

Josephine was a 32-year-old empress six years older than Napoleon. She was a widow and had a son and a daughter when she married the French leader on March 9, 1796, just before Napoleon left for his Italian command.

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