Golden leaf from Napoleon's crown fetches £550k

A golden laurel leaf cut from the crown of French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was auctioned near Paris on Sunday for $730,000 (around £550,000), exceeding all estimates.

The small 10-gram decoration was worth less than $500 if melted down for its metal, auctioneer Jean-Pierre Osenat said.

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Its value "certainly isn't based on the weight of the gold, but on the weight of history," he added, according to Reuters.

Napoleon famously crowned himself emperor at Notre Dame cathedral in 1804, placing the Roman-style laurel wreath on his own head, even though Pope Pius VII was there presiding over the coronation.

The man whose empire once stretched from Barcelona to Hamburg said he owed his authority to himself and not to God.

The leaf on sale on Sunday however never made it to the ceremony.

Before it started, Napoleon complained the crown was too heavy, leaving its creator Martin-Guillaume Biennais to remove six leaves.

Each of Biennais' six daughters received a leaf. The one under auction has stayed in the family ever since.

The crown, inspired by the laurel wreath worn by Roman emperor Julius Caesar, contained more than fifty leaves and was melted down in 1819.

"This small leaf represents the grandeur of the story of Napoleon," Osenat said.

Napoleon's famous bicorne hat was sold at auction in 2014 to a South Korean bidder for 1.9 million euros, nearly five times the asking price.

10 incredible auctions
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10 incredible auctions

The most expensive watch ever sold at auction fetched just under $24 million in November 2014. The gold pocket watch was made by Patek Philippe, and is the most complex ever made without the use of computer technology.

The Henry Graves Supercomplication was commissioned in 1925, and took eight years to make.

The world's most expensive stamp sold at auction in 2014 for over $9 million.

The British Guiana One-Cent Magenta is as rare as a stamp can get. British Guiana was one of the first countries in the New World to start issuing stamps, but in 1856, they ran out, and asked the local newspaper printer to produce extras.

There were two denominations: the four-cent, which is very rare, and the one-cent - of which only one has ever been discovered.

In May 2015, an anonymous London businesswoman snapped up the licence plate KR15 HNA for £233,000, making it the most expensive standard number plate ever to be sold in the UK.

Queen Victoria's bloomers sold at auction for £6,200, along with a pair of her silk stockings.

They have a 52-inch waist, and belonged to the monarch in the 1890s - "towards the end of her life when she had eaten a lot more than most people could afford to," said auctioneer Michael Hogben. In today's sizing, they'd be a size 26.

In 2014, a three-year-old slice of cake sold at auction for $7,500 (£4,800). The reason the stale cake was in such demand was that it was from the marriage of Prince William to Kate Middleton in 2011.

The buyer said he intended to give it away as part of promoting his Silicon Valley start-up.

A British coin sold at auction for a record-breaking £430,000 in 2014. After fees, the buyer paid £516,000 - making it the most expensive modern British coin ever to be sold.

The coin is only one of two in existence. It was a 'proof' for a gold sovereign which was meant to be produced to commemorate the coronation of Edward VIII in 1937. However, Edward abdicated in 1936, so the coronation never happened and the coins were never made


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