Golden leaf cut from Napoleon's crown fetches $730,000

PARIS, Nov 15 (Reuters) - A golden laurel leaf cut from the crown of French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was auctioned near Paris on Sunday.

The small 10-gram decoration - worth less than $500 if melted down for its metal - was expected to reach around 300 times that, auctioneer Jean-Pierre Osenat said. But it smashed estimates and fetched a staggering $730,000.

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

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.

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Golden leaf cut from Napoleon's crown
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Golden leaf cut from Napoleon's crown
An auctioneer displays a gold laurel leaf from French Emperor Napoleon's imperial crown at the office of the Osenat auction house in Paris, France, November 15, 2017. The leaf will go under the hammer on Sunday and is expected to fetch between 100,000 and 150,000 euros. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Auctioneer Jean-Pierre Osenat displays the court waistcoat of French Emperor Napoleon at the office of Ossenat auction house in Paris, France, November 15, 2017. The court waistcoat will go under the hammer on Sunday and is expected to fetch between 100,000 and 150,000 euros. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer
An auctioneer displays a gold laurel leaf from French Emperor Napoleon's imperial crown at the office of the Osenat auction house in Paris, France, November 15, 2017. The leaf will go under the hammer on Sunday and is expected to fetch between 100,000 and 150,000 euros. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer
Auctioneer Jean-Pierre Osenat displays the court waistcoat of French Emperor Napoleon at the office of Ossenat auction house in Paris, France, November 15, 2017. The court waistcoat will go under the hammer on Sunday and is expected to fetch between 100,000 and 150,000 euros. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer
An auctioneer displays a gold laurel leaf from French Emperor Napoleon's imperial crown at the office of the Osenat auction house in Paris, France, November 15, 2017. The leaf will go under the hammer on Sunday and is expected to fetch between 100,000 and 150,000 euros. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer
This picture taken on November 15, 2017 in Paris shows a gold laurel leaf from the coronation crown of Emperor Napoleon I. The gold leaf is due to be auctionned at the Osenat auction house in Fontainebleau on November 19, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN (Photo credit should read STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/Getty Images)
This picture taken on November 15, 2017 in Paris shows a vest which belonged to Emperor Napoleon I, and a gold laurel leaf from his coronation crown. The items are due to be auctionned at the Osenat auction house in Fontainebleau on November 19, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN (Photo credit should read STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/Getty Images)
This picture taken on November 15, 2017 in Paris shows a gold laurel leaf from the coronation crown of Emperor Napoleon I. The gold leaf is due to be auctionned at the Osenat auction house in Fontainebleau on November 19, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN (Photo credit should read STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/Getty Images)
This picture taken on November 15, 2017 in Paris shows a gold laurel leaf from the coronation crown of Emperor Napoleon I. The gold leaf is due to be auctionned at the Osenat auction house in Fontainebleau on November 19, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN (Photo credit should read STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/Getty Images)
This picture taken on November 15, 2017 in Paris shows a gold laurel leaf from the coronation crown of Emperor Napoleon I. The gold leaf is due to be auctionned at the Osenat auction house in Fontainebleau on November 19, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN (Photo credit should read STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/Getty Images)
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The man whose empire once stretched from Barcelona to Hamburg said he owed his authority to himself and not to God.

The leaf sold 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.

Bidders also had a chance to buy a silk court waistcoat with gilded silver embroidery worn by the emperor and a powder box belonging to his wife Josephine.

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.

(Editing by Richard Lough and Andrew Heavens)

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