Photo Courtesy Of CSO
The city of Agra was founded by the Mogul Emperors who made it their capitol for more than a hundred years in the 1500's and 1600's until Aurangzeb, the 6th mogul emperor transferred the seat of the monarchy to Delhi in 1658. It was in Agra that Akbar received a letter from Queen Elizabeth I of England and Jahangir issued a charter to the British East India Company in 1612, granting it freedom to trade in India.
The story of the Agra Diamond begins in 1526 when Babur the first Mogul emperor (1483-1530) took possession of Agra after defeating the Rajah of Gwailor in battle. Babur was the son of Omar Sheik, King of Ferghana (now Turkestan), his real name was Zahir al-Din Muhammed, but he was given the name Babur, meaning 'the tiger.' He was both a brilliant soldier and scholar, determined to become absolute ruler in India. After his success on the battlefield, Babur sent his son and successor, Humayun, to occupy Agra, a feat he duly accomplished in the process capturing members of the family of the slain Raja. Their lives were spared. It is said that as an expression of their gratitude they presented their captors with jewels and precious stones. Since it is recorded that Babur wore the Agra Diamond in his turban, the stone was probably one of those jewels.
It is likely that the Agra remained in the ownership of following Mogul emperors because Akbar (1556-1605), the 3rd emperor, was said to have worn the diamond in his headdress and Aurangzeb (1658-1707) had the stone safely lodged in his treasury. Later the Agra may have been among the loot captured by the Persian, Nadir Shah, when he sacked Delhi in 1739. If that were so, then it must have been among the jewels recaptured when Nadir Shah encountered difficulties during the homeward journey because the diamond returned to India.
The story of how the pink diamond thought to have been the Agra, left India was sold to Edwin Streeter, the famous London jeweller and author, by the fifth Marquess of Donegall in 1896. Lord Donegall stated that in 1857, the year of the Indian Mutiny, while he was serving in India, the diamond was taken from the ruler of Delhi. At the time he was secretary, and belonged to the same regiment as the young officer who had gained possession of the stone.
The officers decided to smuggle the diamond home to England rather than give it up, and share the proceeds, but the question arose as to how to get it there. Nobody seemed to be able to suggest a way that would prove successful until the evening before the departure of the regiment. During the course of the dinner the youngest subaltern suddenly jumped to his feet and said "I have it. We will conceal the diamond in a horse ball and make the horse swallow it". The plan met with general approval. A ball was secured, the inside scooped out, the diamond inserted and the end stopped up. Finally the animal was made to swallow it. When the regiment reached the port of embarkment, the horse was taken ill and had to be shot. The diamond was then removed from its stomach and taken to England.
There seems to be no reason to dispute the truth of these events, what would be the purpose of creating them? However there is reason to cast doubt upon the date it is said the events took place. It is known that by 1844 the Agra was already in the possession of Charles, Duke of Brunswick, one of the great jewel collectors of the 1800's, the man for whom the Brunswick Blue Diamond is named. The Duke of Brunswick paid 348,600 French francs (equal to about £13,670), a high price, for the Agra Diamond on November 22nd, 1844, to Blogg, a name which appears in the 1860 catalogue of the Duke's jewel collection. The person was most definitely George Blogg, a partner in Blogg & Martin, a well-known firm of diamond merchants in London at that time. In addition the Duke bought three other diamonds from Blogg that same day and had previously bought four more from the same source on November 8th. A note in the catalogue specifically drew specifically mentioned the diamond having been taken by Babur in Agra in 1526 and to its rank as being equal to 14th in importance among the world's great diamonds.
In the normal course of events it would be odd to expect a serving officer to possess a detailed knowledge of precious stones, but on the other hand accuracy would certainly be expected of the person compiling a catalogue of a gem collection in the calibre of the Duke of Brunswick's. One can only conclude, therefore, that the diamond eating by the horse and subsequently smuggled to England was not the same stone owned by the Duke of Brunswick, unless Lord Donegall's memory had failed him and the account he had retold to Streeter referred to happenings prior to 1844. Possible proof of the existence of two separate diamonds is supplied by other writers who have stated that the smuggled stone weighed 46 carats rather than 41 carats.
Sometime later the Agra was recut down to 31.41 carats (32.24 metric carats). This was done to eliminate some black inclusions. The truth is even harder to come by as a result of a statement by an American visitor to Paris, the scene of the recutting in 1899. He believed the stone was the same one that he had owned for some time and which had formerly weighed 71 carats. Had the horse been forced to swallow an even larger stone?
Whats known for sure is that in 1891 Edwin Streeter purchased the Agra from Bram Hertz, one of the foremost diamond dealers in Paris and the man responsible for recutting the diamond. In trade for the necklace, Streeter gave Hertz a pearl necklace worth £14,000 and £1000 in cash.
While the Agra was in Streeter's possession, February of 1895, it was featured in a lawsuit that captured public attention. One London newspaper called it the "Extraordinary Jewellery Case". Certainly some of the allegations about the plaintiff, a young man named Joseph Charles Tasker, suggested that he was a true person of the prevailing fin de siècle decadence. Indeed the ties between fact and fiction were further cemented because counsel for the defendants, Messrs Streeter & Co., was none other than Sir Edward Clarke who, less than two months later, was to appear for Oscar Wilde at his famous trial. By the time he came to retire from the Bar, Sir Edward must have acquired a considerable degree of knowledge of historical diamonds because he also appeared for the owner of the Hope Diamond in further litigation in July, 1899.
In opening the case to the jury, Tasker's counsel, Mr. Finlay, said that the action had been brought for the purpose of having certain alleged purchases made by his client declared invalid and set aside. Tasker was a 25-year-old gentleman who, a few years earlier, had inherited a fortune of £700,000 from a relative. In today's inflated currency, this would easily equate to $4 or $5 million. On May 21st, 1894, Tasker, in company with his former tutor, Baron von Orsbach, went to Messrs Streeter's shop for the purpose of seeing a model of the Holy City set in jewels. While there he was introduced to a Mr. Rogers who in later transactions, the jury would find acted as a canvasser for Streeter's. For the next three weeks Rogers seemed to have devoted himself to Tasker, lunching with him, dining with him, and being constantly in his company. At that time the plaintiff was in bad health due to his intemperate habits, and very often had to pass much of his time in bed.
Mr. Finlay said that whenever Rogers saw Tasker he showed Tasker expensive gems which it was alleged by the defendants, the plaintiff bought. Within three weeks £100,500 worth of gems were alleged to have been purchased. Furthermore Rogers showed Tasker the Agra Diamond, Tasker allegedly bought it for £15,000. Rogers also showed him a model of the Hope Diamond, saying that Streeter's would get it out of the Court of Chancery, where it was, and sell it to him for £32,000. The plaintiff agreed to buy it at this price but ultimately the transaction came to nothing. Counsel then produced two "experts" in court to give their opinions concerning the value of the Agra. A Mr. Jones who said he was a dealer in precious stones valued it at £8000 while a Mr. Spink valued it at £10,000. After the judge had overruled his submission that there was no case to go before the jury, Sir Edward Clarke addressed the jury.
Sir Edward said that when they considered the way in which this had been launched and the way in which it had been conducted he did not doubt that they would think that no more unfair way of getting a bargain could be devised then that adopted by the plaintiff of traducing the tradesman with whom the bargain was entered into. This was a most serious attack on Streeter and his employees. The case they had come to meet was that they had made a false representation and by it the plaintiff was induced into these contracts. An attempt had been made to shrink the charge of misrepresentation, and to say now that the plaintiff was not capable of entering into any business transactions owing to his drunken habits. He was, however, surrounded by people who would have protected him if he was being attacked in an unfit condition. Could Baron von Orsbach taken a man, incapable due to drunkenness to Messrs Streeter's on the occasion of the exhibition of the Holy City?
Turning to the Agra Diamond, Clarke said that its purchase was not done in a single day. The bills in payment for it were brought ready-drawn because the bargain had been made the day before. It true that Mr. Streeter, instead of giving actual money, had given jewelry (the pearl necklace) worth £14,000 for the diamond, but by doing this he said that Mr. Streeter was quite justified in saying that the diamond had cost him £14,000. That was not misrepresentation. The plaintiff had made this bargain and now wished to get out of it. It was arranged that he should pay the bills. When Mr. Rowe and Mr. Rogers, two employees of Streeter & Co. went to the hotel there was no undue haste or secrecy. The plaintiff's cousin looked at the bills before they were signed.
He submitted that there was no ground for saying that the defendants had taken advantage of the plaintiff or made any misrepresentations. Sir Edward then drew the jury's attention to the difference in the value of the jewels in dispute given by the two experts called on behalf of the defendant and said that he would call others. Later during the proceedings they turned to be a Mr. Dodd, a diamond merchant who stated that he had thirty or forty years' experience in the trade. He considered that a stone the size of the Agra was unique because of its rose-pink color and that £15,000 was a fair price for a collector to pay. He was followed by a Mr. James Amos Foster of Holborn Viaduct, a wholesale diamond merchant with 25 years experience. In his opinion the Agra was a pink-white stone of very unusual size; he had seen it seven years prior in Paris when the price of the stone was £20,000. It was a stone that would be saleable for the occasion of a coronation or royal wedding. It would fetch anything from £14,000 from £20,000.
On the third day of the court action Edwin Streeter gave evidence. After telling the story of his purchase of the Agra from Hertz, Streeter said he had had plenty of experience of gems and that his book on diamonds ("Great Diamonds of the World") was well known. When he wrote it there were not more than seventy diamonds above 30 carats in the world. The rose-pink, the green or blue diamonds were rare. The Agra was bought cheap at £15,000. When cross-examined about his so-called pedigree he said it had been written for him by a Colonel Birch, and Indian scholar, after the colonel had been to the Indian office and obtained the information. The pedigree spoke of the stone having been seen in the treasury of Aurungzeb in 1665 and previously it had been purchased by the Emperor Babur, the famous descendant of Timur of Western Tartary, and founder of the Mogul Empire. It was also stated that Akbar had worn it in his headdress and that Nadir Shah had owned it. Under further cross-examination Street said he knew nothing about the statements contained in the pedigree: he did not know that Babur died in 1530 and that Aurungzeb was not born until 1618 (inexplicable admissions by Streeter because he had narrated precisely the facts about the two rulers in his book "Great Diamonds of the World", published in 1882.) Some comic relief was then supplied by the following exchange in court:
Sir Edward Clarke: "Is there only one Babur?"
Mr. Finlay: "Only one Babur, founder of the Mogul Empire, and only one Mr. Streeter."
Streeter then said that he did not know who Aurungzeb was.
Mr. Finlay: "Was he a Frenchman?"
Mr. Streeter: "An Indian Prince I should imagine from his name, but as I did not live in 1665 I cannot tell you."
Mr. Finlay: "Did Hertz marry into the family of Nadir Shah?"
Mr. Streeter: "I do not know anything about Nadir Shah."
Mr. Finlay: "Is Mr. Hertz a very old man? Because Nadir Shah died in 1747."
Mr. Streeter: "He is about as old as myself."
Under further cross-examination, Streeter said Hertz had told him the Agra had arrived in Europe and that he had it re-cut. He might, if published in a fresh edition, introduce a description of it in his book on famous diamonds. He had never heard of the diamond until he bought it. He believed the stone was the only one of its kind in the world. He knew of no other Indian diamond of that color.
On the fifth day, the judge had summed up, the jury retired; four hours of deliberation resulted in a verdict for the plaintiff concerning certain items of jewelry and for the defendant concerning others. However, with regard to the Agra Diamond they found for Tasker, the plaintiff.
The year after this lawsuit, Lord Donegall related to Streeter the story of how a pink diamond allegedly the Agra, had left India. Perhaps he had read the court proceedings and wished to set the record straight, and in the process contradicting the researches of the Indian scholar, Colonel Birch, and the India office, too.
The Agra remained in Streeter's stock until he retired from the business in 1904 when his successors, the Parisian firm of jewelers, La Cloche Frères, who had acquired the premises and stock through the United Investment Corporation, dispersing the contents. Many of the lower priced items were bought by Debenham & Freebody. The remainder, comprising the more valuable items, were put up for sale by Christie's of London. The sale took place on February 22nd, 1905. The Agra, as the highlight of the sale, was the final lot. It was described as a "magnificent rose pink diamond of the highest quality, weight 31 and 13/32 carats." Although no name was attached to the diamond, it was obvious it was the Agra Diamond. The Times reported that the sale attracted a large crowd of people including a number of Indian collectors. The bidding opened at 1000 guineas and at 5100 guineas was knocked down to Mr. Maz Meyer of Hatton Garden, with Mr. S. Harris as the underbidder.
Four years later, on June 24th, 1909, jewels belonging to the dealer Salomon Habib came up for auction in Paris. They comprised of eight items: the fifth was the Idol's Eye and the eighth was the Hope. The sixth was a cushion-shaped rose-colored diamond weighing 31.50 carats; it had a reserve price of 300,000 francs put on it but reached only 82,000 francs. No name was attached to the stone but it is hard to believe that it could have been any other diamond than the Agra.
Shortly afterwards the gem was acquired by Mr. Louis Winans. He had inherited a fortune from his father, William Walter Winans, an American railroad engineer from Baltimore who built Russia's first commercial railway from St. Petersburg to Moscow.
t was in 1843 that Czar Nicholas I (1825-1855) invited George W. Whistler, half-brother of the artist James McNeill Whislter ("Whistler's Mother"), to be the consulting engineer on the proposed railway linking these two cities. Whistler in turn asked Ross Winans, a leading engineer and inventor to take charge of the mechanical department. Winans, however, declined the invitation and sent his sons William and Thomas instead. The Winans brothers' contract was to equip the new Russian railway with locomotives and stock cars and in so doing they established workshops in Alexandrovsky, near St. Petersburg. When the railway was completed in 1851, Thomas Winans returned to Baltimore with his Russian wife while William Winans stayed on until 1862 to finish existing contracts. In 1868 the Russian government took over the family's interest in return a large bonus.
Louis Winans eventually settled in Brighton, England, where he commissioned a local firm of jewelers, Lewis & Sons to help form his remarkable collection of colored diamonds. The Winans collection included some spectacular stones - besides the Agra Diamond, which was the highlight, the Golden Drop weighing 18.49 carats was part of the collection. It is one of the most intense and pure yellow diamonds of its size ever known.
The Agra and two other diamonds from this collection were put up for sale at Christie's in London on June 20th, 1990, by the vendor who had inherited them in 1927. During World War II, she had commissioned her local blacksmith to make an iron box and into it she placed the Agra Diamond along with all her jewels and colored diamonds inherited from Louis Winans. This casket was buried in her garden and was still safely in place at the end of the war.
The Agra was graded by the Gemological Institute of America as a naturally colored Fancy Light Pink, VS2 clarity diamond. It measured 21.10 by 19.94 by 11.59 mm and weighed 32.34 carats. It was expected to fetch £1,500,000 but after fierce bidding it sold for £4,070,000 (about $6.9 million). The winning bid was made by telephone and came from the SIBA Corporation of Hong Kong, the same company that owns the Allnatt Diamond. The total value of the gems and jewelry sold at this record auction was £12,900,000. Since that appearance the Agra has been recut to a modified cushion shape (and judging by photos, most likely a stellar brilliant cut) weighing 28.15 carats. Sources: Famous Diamonds by Ian Balfour, Diamonds - Famous, Notable and Unique by GIA, and the Gemstone Forecaster.
Ahmadabad, the capitol of the Indian state of Gujarat, is located 550 km north of Bombay, on the Sabarmati River. The city has long been a center for trading and cutting diamonds, both of which are still pursued there today (although to a lesser degree). One famous visitor to Ahmadabad in the 1600s was the French traveller and gem merchant, Jean Baptiste Tavernier. Over a period of 40 years, he made six trips to the East. In chapter XXII of part II of his book Travels in India, Tavernier described some of the notable diamonds and rubies which he had seen during the course of his travels, often accompanied with illustrations, from which the following is from:
"No. 4 represents a diamond which I bought at Ahmadabad for one of my friends. It weighed 178 ratis, or 157½ of our carats...[no. 5] represents the shape of the above mentioned diamond after it had been cut on both sides. Its weight was then 94½ carats. The flat side, where there are two flaws at the base, was thin as a sheet of thick paper. When I had the stone cut I had this thin portion removed, together with a part of the point above, where a small speck of the flaw still remains."
This is the only instance of Tavernier supplying drawings of both rough and polished forms of a diamond. The briolette-shaped diamond was presumably cut in Ahmadabad: after that its history is uncertain. Who was the friend Tavernier purchased the diamond for? The most likely person was his sovereign, Louis XIV of France, to whom he had sold several diamonds, among them two briolettes. But there was never any reference to a diamond such as the Ahmadabad entering the Crown Jewels of France. Others, including Edwin Streeter, the author of two books on famous diamonds, have indicated that the diamond may have found its way to Persia via one of the numerous ports of Gujarat which served as a gateway to the Persian Gulf and Arabia, but no trace of it has been found among the Iranian Crown Jewels. A 'friend' is an unlikely epithet to the mighty Aurengzeb, the last of the Mogul emperors (1659-1707) and a noted collector of diamonds, of which one is reputed to have been the Ahmadabad. It is more likely that the 'friend' was one of the emperor's courtiers, who would have bought the gem for the emperor.
The Ahmadabad is next reported to have belonged to the Begum, Hazrat Mahal, the wife King Wajid Ali Shah of Oudh, who had been exiled to Calcutta by the British after his refusal to sign a treaty of abdication at the time of the Indian Mutiny of 1857. She was a beautiful woman and an outspoken rebel leader at the time of the Mutiny. When British forces regained control after the rebellion, she fleed to Nepal where, it is said, she traded the diamond in return for her safe passage.
It is unlikely that the Ahmadabad Diamond has completely disappeared. It should be noted that its weight is lighter than that of the recorded weight of 90.5 carats of the Ahmadabad; however, such a drop in weight might be explained by its transformation from a briolette to a pear shape. But of greater significance is the fact that this gem possesses a minor flaw at its base, at the culet facet. Is it not probable that this is one of the two small specks of flaw which Tavernier stated had remained after the cutting had taken place? Therefore, it is possible that this diamond, besides possessing a notable beauty found in the finest diamonds from the historic Golconda mines of India, is also a long-lost gem. (A gemologist friend of mine believes there is no way that one could cut a 90-carat briolette into a 70-carat brilliant pear. He thinks this story is just one that has been made up by the auction house to make the stone more interesting. "Judging by the style of the cut," he writes, "I’d say it was cut around the early 20th century. It’s therefore quite likely be an African stone (the Premier mine is known to have produced 'Golconda-type' stones.)"
The Ahmadabad has been graded by the GIA as D-color, VS1 clarity and was accompanied by a working diagram indicating that the clarity is improvable. The gem is an antique pear-shaped brilliant and its weight is 78.86 carats. I have not seen its GIA certificate but I would wager its culet was graded as Extremely Large, as can be seen in the photo above. I am guessing the gem was was more of a double-sided rose cut originally, with a pear-shaped outline, essentially a somewhat flattened briolette. Also, the pavilion mains are horizontally split, a cutting step visible in the above photo. The gem came up for sale at Christie's in Geneva in November of 1995 when it was bought by Robert Mouawad for $4,324,554. Sources: Famous Diamonds by Ian Balfour, Travels in India by Jean Baptiste Tavernier (translated into English by Valentine Ball), and various internet/magazine articles.
When Porter Rhodes travelled to the Isle of Wight in 1881 to show to his fine white diamond crystal to Queen Victoria and Empress Eugénie of France, who was at that time residing nearby, he helped to dispell a myth: South African diamonds were usually yellowish in color and therefore less valuable. Both the Queen but in particular the Empress, who was knowledgable about diamonds, believed this to be true and were, therefore, surprised to examine a fine white octahedral crystal originating from the Cape Mines of South Africa. It was not until the Excelsior was found in 1893, the Jubilee in 1895 and above all, the discovery of the Premier Mine in 1902 that South Africa finally achieved recognition as a source of large white diamonds as well as yellow ones.
The early years of the South African diamond mining industry certainly witnessed the appearance, in unheard of numbers, of large yellow crystals, many of them octahedral in shape. The reigning Shah of Persia, Nasir ud-Din Shah (1848-1860) was among the first to appreciate them because he added numerous yellow diamonds to the Crown Jewels of Iran, the largest of which is a 135-carat monster rivalling the Regent Diamond in size and shape. A few, including the Tiffany Yellow, came from the Kimberly Mine but by far the greatest number originated in the De Beers Mine, which is the most likely source the Allnatt originated from.
This 101.29-carat cushion cut its color having been certified by the GIA as Fancy Vivid Yellow, VS2 clarity, is named after its former owner, Alfred Ernest Allnatt. He was a soldier, a sportsman, an active patron of the arts and a noted benefactor in many spheres. He paid a then world record price for The Adoration of the Magi by Rubens which he presented to King's College, Cambridge, England, as an alterpiece for its famous chapel. He also had a passion for the Turf and bought 11 yearlings formerly owned by the late Sir Sultan Mohammed Aga Khan; he commented at the time, "All I know about horses is they are nice things to amble about on." The Aga Khan also owned several exceptional diamonds, among them the 33.13-carat pear-shaped Aga Khan III, which came up for sale at Christie's in Geneva in May of 1988.
Major Allnatt did not buy any of the Aga Khan's diamonds to add to his yearlings, but he did purchase this very fine diamond and in the early-1950s he commissioned Cartier to design a floral brooch setting for it. The piece is a design of a flower with five petals, lined with white baguette-cut diamonds, the petals themselves being comprised of brilliant cut diamonds, and the stem and two leaves also being comprised of the same cutting styles. The Allnatt is at the center of the flower. The entire piece is made of platinum. It was auctioned by Christies, again in Geneva, in May of 1996. On that occasion it fetched the phenomenal sum of $3,043,496. The present owner of the gem is the SIBA Corporation. The stone originally weighted 102.07 carats but was recut in the late-1990s to its present weight, improving its color from Fancy Intense to Fancy Vivid Yellow.
Actress Jenna Elfman opens the Splendour of Diamonds Exhibit at the Smithsonian,
the Allnatt Diamond being the large yellow stone in front of her on the pad. The
Millennium Star, at the left, is set in a diamond necklace.
The Allnatt paid a visit to the Smithsonian Museum from June 27th to September 30th, being part of an exhibit titled The Splendour of Diamonds. The exhibit lasted from June 27th to September 15th and featured a number of other unusual colored diamonds, namely the Millennium Star, the Heart of Eternity, the Pumpkin Diamond, the Moussaieff Red (formerly known as the Red Shield), the Ocean Dream, and the Steinmetz Pink.
The American Star
Photo © EightStar Diamond Co. of Santa Rosa, California. Click to enlarge
The American Star Diamond began life as an unnamed 14.89-carat D-color, Flawless-clarity modern round brilliant. It was bought in late 1999 by the EightStar company of California, with the intent of a recutting. The plan was to prove, on a large scale, that the EightStar approach brings otherwise unattainable sculptural and optical perfection to the round brilliant, even ones the rest of the world already thinks are as good as it gets.
As with every EightStar diamond, the American Star was cut using an exclusive light-tracking instrument called a 'FireScope' which allows cutters to align facets so precisely they can completely control the flow of light into and out of a diamond. "Without a Firescope, diamond cutting is guesswork," says Richard von Sternberg, EightStar's founder and president. "With it, our cutters look inside a diamond and fix fatal problems other cutters never even see."
After taking ten months for planning, including the design and manufacture of custom cutting equipment, the diamond was slowly recut from 14.89 to 13.42 carats over a six-week period in September-October 2001. "One reason for the slow grind is that EightStar cutters consult with the Firescope at every stage of work," von Sternberg notes. "Ordinarily, that means 200 Firescope checks. In the case of the American Star, however, I lost count at 500."
Given such attention during cutting, it shouldn't be surprising that EightStar produces less than 2000 diamonds every year. "Since the key to diamond beauty is cutting for maximum light output, we treat every diamond, regardless of size or quality, like a potential masterpiece," von Sternberg insists. "So we cut the tiniest engagement diamond to the same high standard we would cut a giant diamond destined for a royal crown."
Once an EightStar diamond is finished, the Firescope plays just as important a role for consumers as cutters because it furnishes irrefutable proof that every EightStar has achieved light optimization. That proof: a unique eight-rayed spear-like pattern called, appropriately, an 'EightStar.' EightStar dealers almost always deal in regular standard round brilliants as well as EightStar stones, so customers can easily compare the two cuts.
To most of EightStar's competitors who cut for bulk not beauty, sacrificing 10 percent of a D-color IF-clarity 15-carat diamond's weight is a catastrophic loss. But Mr. von Sternberg sees the loss as a gain. "What is it about a diamond that you notice first and foremost from clear across a room?" he asks. "Its blaze of white light or its glitter of spectral fire. Hence we have no choice but to cut for sizzle not size."
It should also be noted that several of EightStar's competitors do not cut fancy color color diamonds, sticking to colorless and near-colorless stones, which they consider to be more marketable, despite the growing trend towards fancy color stones. This is not the case with EightStar. In early 2005 the company sold a fine natural blue EightStar diamond of approximately half a carat. Its exact color grade is not known but is rumored to be better than Fancy Blue. The gem appeared in the February 2005 edition of Robb Report magazine and is arguably the finest cut round natural blue diamond in the world presently.
Special thanks to Richard von Sternberg and Martin Haske for information! Other sources: Robb Report magazine, Jeweler's Circular Keystone. For more information about the American Star tour, the EightStar diamond or the Firescope, see www.eightstar.com. Note to editors: Richard von Sternberg is available for interviews.
This rare black diamond of African origin is reported to be completely black. It weighs 33.74 carats, has 145 facets and was cut from a 55.85-carat rough. The stone was first shown in February, 1973, at D. Drukker & Zn., Amsterdam. It was auctioned off at www.christies.com in November, 2001, for $352,000, setting a world record for the highest price fetched by black diamond at auction. The stone is cut in a pear shape, with horizontally split main facets on the crown.
The Archduke Joseph
This 76.45-carat diamond gets its name from from Archduke Joseph August (1872-1962), a previous owner of the gem and a prince of the Hungarian line of the Hapsburg dynasty. The Archduke was a descendant of the Emperor Leopold II, son of Empress Maria Theresa who owned the famous Florentine Diamond, one of the most notable and unique diamonds in history and an heirloom of the Hapsburgs for many years. But whereas the Florentine was unusually large for an Indian diamond and light yellow in color, the Archduke Joseph is a colorless diamond; it possesses the most notable characteristic of the best Golconda diamonds, namely a high internal clarity. Thus its D-color certification. It is cut in a rectangular cushion shape, perhaps a style of cutting that is not entirely unfitting with its Indian origin. It has horizontally divided pavilion main facets.
Singer Celine Dion wearing the Archduke Joseph during a special on CBS.
The Archduke Joseph - better known as Joseph of Alcsut - was the oldest son of Duke Joseph Carl Ludwig and Princess Clothilde of Saxe-Coburg. He married Augusta in 1893, daughter of Prince Leopold of Bavaria, Duchess of Gisela, and a granddaughter of Emperor Franz Joseph. He began his eminent military career in 1902 when he enlisted in the Hungarian territorial reserve, simultaneously studying law at Budapest University. On the death of Emperor Franz Joseph he became commander of the Hungarian front line forces during World War I, reconquering the eastern part of Siebenburgen and initiated the negotiations for a cease-fire. In October of 1918, he was named Regent of Hungary by the Emperor Charles I, but his efforts for forming a government were overturned by the onset of the October 31st Revolution, whereupon he retired to his Alcsut estate.
Photo © Tino Hammid
During the so-called "Traitor Republic," due to his great popularity, Archduke Joseph was put under surveillance while remaing at Alcsut. In August of 1919 he succeeded in becoming the Regent of Hungary but was compelled to resign within two months because the Allied Forces would not allow a Hapsburg to hold a commanding position in Hungary. In late 1944 he emigrated to the United States and returned to Europe to live with his sister, Princess Margaret von Thurn und Taxis, and published several memoirs and historical studies. He died in 1962, not completely removed from politics, having become a member of the Upper House soon after its restoration.
Set in a more elaborate necklace.
It is thought that at some point he gave the diamond to his son, Joseph Francis (1895-1957). Minutes taken on June 1st, 1933 record that the diamond, at the time belonging to Archduke Joseph, was at the time deposited with the Hungarian General Credit Bank in the presence of a state counsellor. Three years later the diamond was sold to a European banker who kept it in a safe deposit box in France during World War II, where it forunately escaped the attention of the Nazis.
Actress Laura Harring wearing the Archduke Joseph.
The location of this stone remained a mystery until it came up for auction in London in June, 1961. At the time it was believed to be the largest loose fine quality diamond ever to have been auctioned in Great Britain, but it was withdrawn from the sale when the bidding stopped at £145,000. Later it was reported that a syndicate of Hatton Garden buyers had made an unsuccessful bid for the diamond. It came up for sale again at Christie's in Geneva in November of 1993, when it was sold for $6,487,945. The diamond originally weighed 78.54 carats but was slightly recut in the late-1990's by Molina Fine Jewelers (the diamond's present owners) down to its current 76.45-carat weight. The diamond has been graded as being Internally Flawless. Sources: Famous Diamonds by Ian Balfour, Diamonds - Famous, Notable and Unique by Lawrence Copeland, and numerous magazine articles.
The Hanoverian rulers of Great Britain amassed a large collection of personal jewelry and Queen Charlotte, the consort of King George III, was surely no excpetion. She received many jewels, the most notable being the diamonds she was given by the Nawab of Arcot. These included five brilliants, the larest of which was a 38.6-carat oval-shaped stone and was later set in a necklace with the two smallest stones.
Arcot, a town near Madras, became famous for its capture and defense by Clive in 1751 during the war between the rival claimants to the throne of the Carnatic. In 1801 it passed into British hands following the resignation of the government of Nawab Azim-Ud-Daula, who had given the diamonds to Queen Charlotte in 1777.
The Queen died in 1818 and under the terms of her will the Arcots were ordered to be sold to Rundell & Bridge who in 1804 had been appointed jewelers and silversmiths to the Crown by King George III. The claus about her "Personals" read:
"...of chief value being the jewels. First those which the King bought for £50,000 and gave to me. Secondly those presented to me by the Nawab of Arcot to my four remaining daughters, or to the survivors or survivor in case they or any of them should die before me, and I direct that these jewels should be sold and that the produce...shall be divided among them, my said remaining daughters or their survivors, share and share alike."
However, a delay resulted in the implementing of the Queen's will. This was the result of the attitude taken by her eldest son, George IV, who upon the death of his father George III in 1820, decided that the whole of his father's property should pass to himself, not upon the Crown. Consequently he appropriated the money and the jewels and acted in a similar manner with reguard to his mother's jewelry. The Arcots were set in a crown for George IV and later in the crown of Queen Adelaide, the consort of his successor, William IV.
The terms of Queen Charlotte's will concerning the pieces of jewelry were thus not executed until many years after she died. King George IV died on June 26, 1830. John Bridge of Rundell & Bridge died in 1834; the firm was sold and the executors ordered the sale of the Arcots together with the round brilliant with may have been the Hastings Diamond and which had also been set in the crown made for George IV. The historic sale took place in London at Willis's Room in St. James on July 20th, 1837. The first Marquess of Westminster bought the Arcots for £10,000 as part of a birthday present for his wife. He also bought the round brilliant and the Nassak Diamond.
The Westminster Tiara. The large round center diamond was thought to be the Hastings Diamond. The Arcots are on either side.
The Arcots and the other diamonds remained in the possession of the Grosvenor family for many years. In 1930 the Parisian jeweler Lacloche mounted the Arcots in the Westminster Tiara, a bandeau style piece, together with the round brilliant and no less than 1421 smaller smaller diamonds. The tiara was pieced to form a design of pavè-set scrolls with arcading, and with clusters of marquise-shaped diamonds between the sections, tapering slightly at the sides, with baguette diamond banding framing the large center stone and with diamond baguettes dispersed singly throughout the tiara. In her memoirs, Loelia, Duchess of Westminster, third wife of the second Duke of Westminster, wrote about the Arcots, "fixed by themselves on the safety-pin they looked extremely bogus, so that a friend who saw me that evening remarked, 'What on earth does Loelia think she's doing, pinning those two lumps of glass on herself?'"
The Van Cleef & Arpels necklace, with the Arcot I at the bottom.
In June of 1959 the third Duke of Westminster sold the Westminster Tiara to help meet the cost of heavy death-duties. Harry Winston paid £110,000 for it at auction - then a world record price for a piece of jewelry. Mr. Winston had the two Arcots recut in order to obtain greater clarity and brilliance, the larger to 30.99 metric carats and the smaller to 18.85 metric carats. Each was remounted in a ring and sold to American clients in 1959 and 1960 respectively. The larger of the two, Arcot I, was then set as the pendant to a necklace by Van Cleef & Arpels and was later sold at auction at Christie's in Geneva in November of 1993 when it was bought by Sheik Ahmed Hassan Fitaihi, the Saudi Arabian dealer.
The Arcot I necklace being worn. Not sure who the woman is.
It is said that this amber-colored, cushion-shaped diamond weighing 102.48 carats, was formerly part of the Russian Crown Jewels. It must have been a late addition to that collection because the stone bears all the characteristics of one from South Africa. In 1934 the Russian Trade Delegation sold the diamond to Mr. Ashberg, a leading Stockholm banker. The Stockholm firm of Bolin, former Crown Jewellers to the Court of St. Petersburg, mounted it as a pendant. In 1949 the Ashberg was displayed, mounted in a necklace containing diamonds and other gemstones, at the Amsterdam Exhibition, the aim of which was to attract new workers to the diamond industry.
Ten years later the Bukowski auction house in Stockholm put the Ashberg up for sale but it failed to reach its reserve and was withdraw. Then its owner succeeded in selling the gem to a private buyer whose name was not revealed. Finally, in May, 1981, Christies auctioned the diamond in Geneva where once again it failed to reach its reserve and was withdrawn. Source: Diamonds - Famous, Notable and Unique by GIA and Famous Diamonds by Ian Balfour.
The Beau Sancy
Photo courtesy AFP
A photo of the Beau Sancy, reunited with the Sancy, which is just off-camera to the left. Finnish gemologist Herbert Tillander, after years of preparatory work, correspondence and persuasion convinced the relevant authorities to stage an exhibition of the two diamonds. In October of 1972, Prince Louis Ferdinand himself (the head of the Hohenzollern family -- the owners of the stone) came to Helsinki to open the exhibition Two Historic Diamonds. The diamonds had been seperated for about 370 years.
At the time of the marriage of Prince Albert of Prussia with Princess Mary of Sachsen-Altenburg in Berlin, the bridge was described in the newspaper accounts of the wedding as wearing "the crown necklace, with the celebrated 'Sancy' diamond." Much surprise and mystification were caused by this statement, apparently made on authority; for amongst the many strange peregrinations of the "celebrated 'Sancy' diamond," a visit to the Prussian "Schatz-Kammer" had not hitherto been mentioned. We are now in a position to clear up the mystery, thanks to the subjoined extract from an official communication obligingly made to us on June 7th, 1881, by Herr Smernitz, minister of the Royal Household, Berlin: --
"Amongst the numerous diamonds of the Royal Treasury there is one only possessing historical interest. This is a brilliant of splendid shape weighing 34 carats, worn as a pendant to a necklace, and known as the 'Little Sancy.' This diamond was bought by Prince Frederick Henry of Orange, who died in the year 1647, and who was grandfather of King Frederick I of Prussia. Through King Frederick it passed from the Orange bequests to the Prussian Royal Treasury."
It thus appears that at her wedding Princess Mary of Sachen-Altenburg wore not the celebrated "Sancy" diamond, but this "Little Sancy", correctly enough described as attached to the "crown necklace." Of the very existance of this "Little Sancy", the public has been hitherto profoundly ignorant. Nor does it even now appear by what right it bears the name "Sancy" at all. The explanation, however, is not far to seek. We already have seen that Nicholas Harlai, Signeur de Sancy, was evidently a diamond collector, and that he died in the year 1627. After his death his collection was no doubt dispersed by his family, and in this way the diamond, weighing 34 carats, would be thrown into the market. Hence its purchase by Frederick Henry of Orange, in 1647, is easily accounted for. A diamond of its weight, rare enough in those days, at least in Europe, would naturally be associated with its owner, the famous collector, M. Sancy, and as the largest, weighing 54 carats, was known as the "Great Sancy"; the other, weighing 34 carats probably the next in size, took the name of the "Little Sancy." Source: Great Diamonds of the World, by Edwin Streeter, second edition, printed 1882.
Photo courtesy Hohenzollern Castle
The above account of this diamond was written by Edwin Streeter. He was the first author to write in-depth on the subject of famous diamonds. His book Great Diamonds of the World actually went on to have about five or six editions. This diamond is now more commonly known as the Beau Sancy Diamond.
This illustration of the Beau Sancy is from Thomas Cletscher's Sketchbook,
which has been reproduced in a number of different places, among them Herbert
Tillander's book Diamond Cuts in Historic Jewelry - 1381 to 1910. The stone
is double-sided -- the opposite side looks essentially identical to this drawing.
Nicholas Harlay de Sancy, diplomat, financier and ardent monarchist, is remembered as the owner of the 55.23-carat shield-shaped diamond, the Sancy, one of the most celebrated gems in history. Sancy also owned another sizeable and beautiful diamond whose existence was documented on January 31st, 1589 as follows:
"A great flawless diamond, facet cut, weight 37 to 38 carats or thereabouts, set in a golden frame and the end of which hangs a great round pearl, flawless and perfect, of about 20 carats; also a great heart-shaped ruby set in gold at the base of which hangs a great pear-shaped pearl, for the price of 20,000 ecus. The large jewels were pladged and put into the hands of the said Sieur de Sancy that he might pawn them in Switzerland, Germany or elsewhere with the charge that if they were pledged for less than 24,000 ecus. His Majesty will only pay the said Sancy the price for which they were pledged."
This diamond came to be known as the 'Beau Sancy', or 'Little Sancy' and was destined to pursue a different course of history from Sancy's larger diamond. The Beau Sancy is a colorless, rounded pear shape, cut with a total of 110 facets, including the two small table facets.
Both of Nicholas de Sancy's diamonds came to be the subject of protracted negotiations with parties in Constantinople and the Duke of Mantua, a connoisseur and avid collector of fine gems. On October 10th, 1589, Sancy wrote to M. de la Brosse, who was acting on behalf of the Duke:
"One of my diamonds weighs 60 [old] carats. I want nothing less than 80,000 ecus for the big diamond and 60,000 for the smaller. If it pleases His Highness to take one or both of them, I will sell them to him, but I wish ready money, or most of it guaranteed, for the rest, in Venice or France, and wish no delay for the most shall not exceed three years."
The negotiations with the Duke of Mantua continued well into 1604 and ultimately came to nothing. Instead, Sancy sold the large diamond to King James I of England. There remained the Beau Sancy which, in 1604, was bought for merely 25,000 ecus by Marie de Médicis, the consort of King Henry IV of France. In The French Crown Jewels, Bernard Morel suggests that it is a strong bet that the King himself paid for the diamond in order to assuage the feelings of indignation aroused in the Queen when she learned that Sancy had sold his bigger diamond to the King of England. The Beau Sancy was set in the top of the crown which Marie de Médicis wore at her coronation in 1610.
After the murder of Henry IV in the same year, the Queen became Regent and devoted herself to affairs of state; she developed a passion for power which led to civil unrest in France and estrangement from her son, King Louis XIII. Marie de Médicis was exiled in disgrace to Compiégne, escaped to Brussels in 1631 and at Cologne in 1642, having intrigued in vain against Cardinal Richelieu, the statesman who is acknowledged as the architect of France's greatness in the seventeenth century. She died in straitened financial circumstances which led to the sale of her possessions to pay her debts. The Beau Sancy was sold to Frederick Henry, Prince of Orange, for 80,000 florins. It is said that history never repeats itself but does sometimes produce curious parallels: in 1644, two years after the death of Marie de Médicis, her daughter, Queen Henrietta Maria, the wife of Charles I, King of England, was forced to pawn the Sancy's large diamond so as to raise funds to support the Royalist cause in the Civil War in England.
Prince Frederick Henry (1584 - 1687), the son of William the Silent, the principal leader of the Dutch struggle for independence from Spain, achieved fame as a general and a politician. He was the first of his line to assume, as leader of the United Provinces of Holland, a semi-monarchical status and to determine both domestic and foreign policies. Until the age of 41 it was said of him that he was 'too fond of women to tie himself permanently to one of them.' He did eventually succumb, to endow the Hague in the seventeenth century with some semblance of baroque court life.
It was a grandson of Prince Frederick Henry who, in 1689, ascended the throne of England as William III. He inherited the Beau Sancy and gave it to his consort, Queen Mary II, as a wedding gift. The couple were childless so the diamond came into the possession of another grandson of the Prince of Orange, Frederick III, Elector Prince of Brandenburg, who, in 1701, became King of Prussia under the name of Frederick I. Valued at 300,000 Reichstalers, the Beau Sancy became the most important stone in the Crown Jewels of Prussia and was set in the royal crown. In an inventory of the crown jewels made in 1913 the diamond featured as the pendant to a necklace of 22 diamonds, part of a diamond suite which also included a large breast ornament, a pair of earrings and a fan.
The Beau Sancy is was in the possession of the head of the house of Hohenzollern, Prince Louis-Ferdinand of Prussia, grandson of William II, the last Emperor of Germany, until May 2012 when it was put up for auction at Sotheby's Geneva as part of their May 14th, 2012 sale "Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels" (sale GE1202), figuring as lot 595. Sometime before the auction the diamond was submitted to the Gemological Institute of America and found to weigh 34.98 modern metric carats. Its color was graded as K (faint brown), SI1 clarity, good polish, fair symmetry, no fluorescence, with dimensions of 22.78 x 19.58 x 10.98 mm. GIA described it as a Modified Pear Double Rose Cut. Report #1142121953. The stone has some bruises and chips but this isn't surprising considering its great age. The stone was also found to be a Type IIa diamond.
The stone had an estimate of 1,850,000 to 3,650,000 Swiss francs ($1,980,055 to $3,906,595 US). I was personally guessing it would sell for about $6 to $7 million. Lo and behold! In the event it sold for 9,042,500 Swiss francs ($9,678,188 US). According to the New York Daily News, five different bidders spanning three continents bid on the stone, the winning bid coming from an anonymous telephone bidder.
Source: Famous Diamonds by Ian Balfour
Diamond Cuts in Historic Jewelry - 1381 to 1910 by Herbert Tillander
Thomas Cletscher's Sketchbook, published in the 1600s
Sotheby's Auction House
The New York Daily News
The Beluga Diamond was cut by the William Goldberg firm from a rather flat, blocky 265.82-carat rough and weighs 103-point-some carats. I am still researching it. It is the largest standard oval brilliant cut diamond in the world and appeared in an article about 'blood diamonds' in the March 2002 issue of National Geographic magazine.
The Beluga, along with the smaller stones that were cut from the diamond crystal. The rectangular-looking stone is an Ashoka cut. This cutting style was developed by the William Goldberg firm, the first Ashoka cut is named the Ashoka Diamond and incidently was a 41-carat D-color Flawless stone from the Golconda area of India. The cutting style is a rectangular but the ends are rounded and the pavilion and crown have a number of facet edges creating criss-crossing patterns. Some of them are a little more towards square, others, like this one, more rectangular. On the right is a triangular or heart shape (can't quite tell) and on the left appears to be another Ashoka cut or possible a standard cushion cut.
The Black Orlov
Photo by Cartier
According to the legend, the Black Orlov is said to have taken its name from the Russian Princess Nadia Vyegin-Orlov who owned it for time during the mid-eighteenth century. It is a 67.50-carat cushion-cut stone, a so-called black diamond (actually, a very dark gun-metal color). It is reported to have belonged to a nineteenth-century shrine near Pondicherry, India, and to have weighed 195 carats in the rough. Unfortunately the Indian origin of this stone is almost certainly false. There is no documentation of Russia having had a princess by that name, or of India having produced any black diamonds of note.
The stone has been exhibited widely, including at the American Museum of Natural History in 1951, the Wonderful World of Fine Jewelry & Gifts at the 1964 Texas State Fair, Dallas, and the Diamond Pavilion in Johannesburg in 1967.
The Black Orlov was owned by Charles F. Winson, New York City gem dealer, who valued it at $150,000. It is mounted in a modern diamond-and-platinum necklace. An alternate name is the Eye of Brahma Diamond. In 1969, the stone was sold for $300,000. It was resold in 1990 at Sothebys for $99,000. On October 11th, 2006, the necklace containing the stone figured as lot #433 in a Christie's Magnificent Jewels sale where it sold for $352,000. Its estimate had been $100,000 to $200,000. Source: Diamonds - Famous, Notable and Unique by GIA, the Gemstone Forecaster, and the Cartier archives.
The Blue Empress
Harrods department store in London has unveiled a diamond necklace valued at around £10 million ($16 million US) which it hopes will be sold as a Christmas present. The necklace has already attracted a bid of $10 million. It is built around the Blue Empress - a rare blue pear-shaped diamond. It weighs 14 carats (the exact weight hasn't been published).
The necklace in which it is set is made from 18K white gold and a number of smaller round white diamonds. It is among a unique collection of 11 blue diamonds mounted in settings from Los Angeles-based designer Christian Tse. Curiously, the Harrods website mentioned nothing of the stone, or the other blue diamonds.
Model Yasmin Le Bon wearing the Blue Empress necklace at Harrods.
A spokeswoman for the Steinmetz Group, which polished the Blue Empress, said: "Colored diamonds are very rare but blue diamonds are even more so. It would certainly make an incredible Christmas present but it could also be bought by an businessman as an investment or by a diamond collector."
This is to be updated as more details develop.
The Blue Heart
Photo by Chip Clark
Some reports refer to this unusual diamond as the "Eugénie Blue" although it is now recognized that there is no evidence of its having been owned by the Empress. Had she owned it, wouldn't she have chosen to flee with it rather than the diamond which is named after her? However, a French link does exist because the cutting firm of Atanik Ekyanan of Neuilly, Paris cut this heart shape, which weighs 30.82 metric carats and is of a rare deep blue color, sometime between 1909 and 1910. This date raises the question whether the rough stone came from Africa or India.
Another photo of the stone, this time in its platinum ring surrounded by
25 white diamonds. The photo at the top of the page of the stone out of
its setting is the only one I have seen, which leads me to believe that
it was put back into the ring setting sometime after the photo was taken.
The stone measures 20.01 mm wide, 19.99 mm tall and 11.89 mm deep.
In 1910 Cartier purchased the diamond and sold it to an Argentinian woman named Mrs. Unzue. At the time, it was set in a lily-of-the-valley corsage and remained so until Van Cleef & Arpels bought the gem in 1953. They exhibited it set in a pendant to a necklace valued at $300,000 and sold it to a European titled family. In 1959 Harry Winston acquired the gem, selling it five years later, mounted in a ring, to Marjorie Merriweather Post. Finally Mrs. Post donated to the Blue Heart to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. where it remains to this day.
The Eugenie Blue Diamond among other diamonds in the Smithsonian's collection. The round yellow diamond in the back weighs about 12 carats. The Shepard Diamond is the large yellow cushion shaped stone, weighing 18.30 carats. The round brilliant white diamond is the Pearson Diamond, weighing 16.72 carats. The pink pear shape weighs 2.86 carats, and the two uncut green diamonds weigh 2.05 and 0.97 carats. The round yellow diamond weighs about 12 carats.
Sources: The National Gem Collection by Jeffrey E. Post, Famous Diamonds by Ian Balfour and Diamonds - Famous, Notable and Unique by GIA.
This 30.06-carat blue diamond was cut by the William Goldberg Corporation. He named the stone after his wife, Lili. The stone's shape is a sort of tapered cushion. More details lacking.
Three of the world's most famous blue diamonds. Left to right: The Heart of Eternity,
the Hope, and the Blue Heart Diamond; 27, 45 and 30 carats, respectively. The Hope
looks larger than 45 carats because it is a rather flat stone. The Heart of Eternity
is Fancy Vivid Blue, the Hope is Fancy Deep Grayish-Blue and the Blue Heart's color
grade is still unknown. (Probably Fancy Vivid or Fancy Deep.)
The Blue Magic
Here is what Christie's said about the stone when it was up for auction as part of their Simply Blue sale in 2001:
"A MAGNIFICENT FANCY VIVID BLUE DIAMOND RING
Set with a modified pear-shaped fancy vivid blue diamond weighing 12.02 carats to the tapered baguette-cut shoulders and 18k white gold hoop. With certificate 11568233 dated 19 June 2001 from the Gemological Institute of America stating that the diamond is fancy vivid blue, natural color, VVS2 clarity.
Historically, blue diamonds originated from the Kollur mines near Golconda in the Indian state of Hyderabad. It is here that historically important stones such as the Hope Diamond and the Tereschenko were mined. Most of what is known about early mining activity in India comes through the 17th century traveler and one of the premier gem-merchants of his time, Jean-Baptiste Tavernier.
His main client was Louis XIV and it is known that he sold to the King a very large blue diamond known as the French Blue which is thought to have yielded the Hope; it is here that the history of blue diamonds began. These Indian deposits have now been worked out and so nearly all the blue diamonds that now appear on the market come from the Premier Mine near Pretoria in South Africa.
Natural blue diamonds are amoung the rarest of colored diamonds and their color comes from the presence of minute amounts of the element boron incorporated within the crystal lattice of the stone during its crystalization process. They belong to the extremely rare Type IIB category of diamonds and are semi-conductors of electricity; an attribute which makes them unique amongst other diamonds.
The pear-shaped diamond of 12.02 carats offered here is part of a very elite group of remarkable blue diamonds offered at auction and has been awarded the highest color grade of VIVID by the GIA. Furthermore it is to date the largest vivid blue diamond to appear at auction making it a highly rare and collectible gem."
The stone did not sell. Christies was predicting it to go for between $5,000,000 and $6,000,000 U.S. dollars. I contacted Christie's and asked them about the stone, they told me that the owner does not plan to put it back up for auction in the foreseeable future.
The Blue Magic out of its 18K white gold ring setting. The gem measures 21.42 × 11.61 × 7.76 mm.
The Briolette of India
The Briolette of India is a legendary diamond of 90.38 carats, which, if the fables about it are true, may be the oldest diamond on record, perhaps older than the Koh-I-Noor Diamond. In the 12th century, Eleanor of Aquitaine, the first Queen of France and later England, brought the stone to England. Her son, Richard the Lionhearted, is said to have taken it on the Third Crusade.
It next appeared in the 16th century when Henry II of France gave it to his blonde mistress, Diane de Poitiers. It was shown in one of many portraits of her while at Fontainebleau.
Harry Winston examining the Briolette of India with a jeweler's loupe.
After disappearing for four centuries, the stone surfaced again in 1950 when the jeweler, Harry Winston, of New York, bought it from an Indian Maharajah. It was sold to Mrs. I.W. Killam and bought back by Mr. Winston, following her death, about 10 years later.
In 1970, Mr. Winston showed the stone at the Diamond Dinner for American Fashion Editors. Source: Diamonds - Famous, Notable and Unique (GIA)
The Briolette of India set in a necklace with a diamond and a large pearl.
The book Diamonds - Famous, Notable and Unique was published in 1974, since that time new information on the Briolette of India has surfaced. The gem was thought to have a history extending to the Middle Ages, unfortunately recent research has revealed it was cut in Paris in 1908-9. Nevertheless, the gem is very unique and remains the most famous briolette-cut diamond in the world.
Photo © Debeers Group
The diamond Jubilee of De Beers Consolidated Mines passed off quietly in 1948, the massive post-WWII growth and expansion of the diamond industry had barely begun, while several important sources of diamonds, including the Premier Mine, were still closed, while others remained to be discovered. Forty years later the annual output of diamonds exceeded 100 million carats and sales of rough diamonds reached around $5 billion.
On March 11th, 1988, the centenary celebrations of De Beers took place in Kimberly and a banquet was held to close the Kimberly Mine (aka the "Big Hole"). An audience of four hundred people, including representatives of several national governments of diamond-producing countries and dignitaries from various sections of the industry, listened to the welcoming speech of the chairman, Julian Oglivie Thompson, totally unprepared for his final sentence: "We have recovered at the Premier Mine a diamond of 599 carats which is perfect in color - indeed it is one of the largest top-color diamonds ever found. Naturally it will be called the Centenary Diamond."
The Centenary, appearing to be lit by multi-colored lights.
No more fitting way of celebrating 100 years of achievement by De Beers could have been devise than the discovery of such a diamond and nowhere was it more likely to have been recovered than at the Premier Mine. Over the years this extraordinary mine has produced several outstanding diamonds of the most superb color, which have been cut into famous gems: The Cullinan in 1905; the Niarchos in 1954; the Taylor-Burton in 1966 and the Premier Rose in 1978. Now that the second millennium has ended, it is interesting to reflect that only nineteen gem-quality diamonds larger than the Centenary rough have been found during its course. The Premier Mine itself has produced nearly three hundred stones weighing more than 100 carats, and a quarter of the world's diamonds weighing more than 400 carats.
The Centenary was found on July 17th, 1986 by the electric X-ray recovery system at the Premier Mine. Only a handful of people knew about it and all were sworn to silence. In its rough form it resembled an irregular matchbox with angular planes, a prominent elongated "horn" jutting out at one corner and a deep concave on the largest flat surface. The shape of the stone expressed problems in cutting with no apparent solution.
The man chosen to evaluate the Centenary was Gabi Tolkowsky, famed in the diamond industry as one of the most accomplished cutters in the world. His family had long been in the diamond trade and it was his great-uncle, Marcel Tolkowsky, diamond expert and mathmetician, who published a book in 1919 titled "Diamond Design", which for the first time set out exact ways of cutting the modern round brilliant cut. Gabi Tolkowsky himself was the creator of five new diamond cuts, revealed in 1988, which concentrate on maximizing brilliance, color or yield - or a combination of all three from off-color rough diamonds previously thought difficult to cut profitably into conventional round or fancy shapes. Named for flowers, the cuts are largely based on unorthodox angle dimensions. The overall proportions as well as the use of more facets around the pavilion increase brilliance and improve visual impact when viewed face-up.
Gabi Tolkowsky examines the Centenary with a jeweler's loupe.
A good photo to show you how massive this diamond is. :)
When he first saw the Centenary, Tolkowsky was astounded by its exceptional purity. "Usually you have to look into a diamond to appreciate its color, but this just expressed itself from its surface. That is very rare," Tolkowsky said. He knew the protruding "horn" would have to be removed as well as other "asperities," as he called them, which interfered with the stone's basic shape. At the same time, Tolkowsky realized that the diamond would be difficult to polish because its shape did not offer an obvious approach. Usually a diamond will suggest two or three shapes to its cutter but the Centenary was more generous - if more baffling - by providing several possibilities. In the end Tolkowsky submitted his appraisal, saying that the diamond must be kept intact to produce one singe large modern-cut diamond.
He was asked to cut the Centenary, and late in 1988 Tolkowsky, two master cutters - Geoff Woolett and Jim Nash - together with a handpicked group of engineers, electricians and security guards set to work in a specially designed underground room in the De Beers Diamond Research Laboratory in Johannesburg, South Africa. It was crucial that the room, like the special tools needed for faceting, should be stable and strong; nothing must rattle, everything must be tight, there should be no mechanical vibration or variation in temperature around the cutting table.
For one whole year while the right tools and technical conditions were created, the Centenary remained unaltered and untouched. Tolkowsky examined the stone until he knew every fissure and crevice of it. Using the most sophisticated electronic instruments he gazed deep into the crystal structure. "From the moment I knew I was going to cut it," he said, "I became another man. A strange man. I was looking at the stone in the day, and the stone was looking at me at night."
A picture of the Centenary in the hand of some unknown hand model. Another good photo to show scale.
The first step before the diamond could be faceted was the elimination of large cracks from the edge of the stone running a considerable depth inside it. He decided not to saw or cut with a laser because both methods would heat or vibrate the diamond. Instead, he turned to the time-honored method of kerfing by hand. It took Tolkowsky 154 days to remove about 50 carats which otherwise would have been polished to dust. At the end was a roughly-shaped rounded crystal about the size of a bantam's egg, weighing about 520 carats. After that was an endless process of drawing and measuring as possible shape designs began to emerge. In all, thirteen different designs were presented to the De Beers board, with the strong recommendation they should chose a modified heart shape. Once this recommendation had been accepted, the final process of faceting the Centenary began in March, 1990. By January, 1991 it was nearing completion.
When cutting was completed the Centenary weighed 273.85 carats, measured 39.90 × 50.50 × 24.55 mm, and had 247 facets - 164 on the stone and 83 around its girdle. Never before had such a high number of facets been polished onto a diamond. In addition, two flawless pear shapes weighing 1.47 and 1.14 carats were cut from the rough. Amoung top-color diamonds the Centenary is surpassed only by the Cullinan I (aka the Star of Africa) and the Cullinan II, which were cut from the Cullinan crystal before modern symmetrical cuts were fully developed in the 1920's, making the Centenary the largest modern fancy cut diamond in the world and the only one to combine the oldest methods - such as kerfing - with the most sophisticated modern technology in cutting. The Cullinan diamonds are actually near-colorless, but qualify as white diamonds. The GIA color grading letters D, E and F qualify as colorless, and the Centenary is the best of the three - a 'D'. This spectacular gem, which has become the ultimate example of those qualities was shown to the world for the first time in May, 1991. Mr. Nicholas Oppenheimer, then Deputy Chairman of De Beers rightly declared "Who can put a price on such a stone?" confirming that it was insured for around $100 million.
Whether the Centenary Diamond has since been sold is a mystery. The De Beers Group's policy is not to dislose such information so that the anonymity of its clients is protected. Some day the Centenary will probably resurface, perhaps at auction, or in a museum display housing some country's crown jewels. Gabi Tolkowsky has since cut another large gem of note, the Pink Sun Rise, a 29-carat pink diamond with a facet pattern similar to the Centenary's. Also cut the largest faceted diamond in the world - the Golden Jubilee. Sources: Famous Diamonds by Ian Balfour, The Nature of Diamonds by George E. Harlow, and the De Beers website.
In the autumn of 2001, I found Gabi Tolkowsky's mailing address on the internet, and decided to write to him. He lives in Antwerp, Belgium, which comes as no surprise as as this is the diamond cutting capitol of the world. Among the questions I asked him was whether he had heard about the Centenary Diamond selling or not. In his reply he told me he had heard the rumor, but no one had confirmed it to him.
Photo Giraudon, Paris
The Grand Condé is one of the most unusual of the world's notable diamonds: a light pink pear-shaped stone of 9.01 carats. Agents of Louis XIII are said to have bought the stone in 1643 after which the King presented it to Louis de Bourbon, Prince of Condé, who had distinguished himself as Commander of the French Army in the Thirty Years' War and who became known as the Grand Condé. Until his death in 1686, the Prince was known as an enthusiastic patron of the arts and an ardent admirer of various charming women, one of whom described him as a much more effective and able general than paramour!
The diamond remained in the Condé family until the Duc d'Aumale bequeathed it to the French Government in 1892. Today, it is on display in the Museé de Condé in Chantilly, France, where according to the terms of the Duc's will, it must always remain. On October 11th, 1926, the diamond was stolen from the museum but later found and returned. It is also known variously as the Condé Pink, the Condé Diamond, or Le Grand Condé.
A glass replica of the Condé.
Many sources have quoted this gem as weighing around 50 carats, which is false. The gem's actual weight is 9.01 carats, and however the 50-carat statement got started is still unknown, but I'd imagine its something like a gemologist probably wrote a book a hundred years ago and mistook the stone for a different one. When following authors/gemologists went to research the stone, they came across the 50-carat figure and repeated it, thus starting a cycle. Special thanks to Greg Thompson of the Texas Faceters Guild for varifying the stone's actual weight! I had already seen both figures being quoted as its weight and was baffled at the figures being so drastically different! :)
The Cullinan I - aka the Star of Africa. 530.20 carats.
Royal Sceptre with Star of Africa
(The stone can be removed from the Royal Scepter and worn as a pin or pendant.)
The Star of Africa, a pear shaped diamond weighing 530.20 carats, aka the Cullinan I. It measures 58.9 × 45.4 × 27.7 mm, and has 76 facets (counting the culet and the table). It is called the Cullinan I because it's the largest of the 9 large stones cut from the Cullinan Diamond, and the Cullinan II is the massive 317.40-carat cushion shaped diamond in the center-front of the Imperial State Crown of Great Britain. The Crown also features the Black Prince's Ruby, as well as St. Edward's Sapphire, and the Stuart Sapphire. All the stones in the crown seem to have a history. The Star of Africa holds the place of 2nd largest cut diamond in the world and is on display with the other Crown Jewels in the Tower of London.
The nine largest pieces of the Cullinan Diamond. The largest piece would of course be cut into the Cullinan I (530.20 carats)
and the the next largest into the Cullinan II (317.40 carats), and so on. This photo was probably taken in 1908, the year
after the Cullinan rough was presented to King Edward VII for his 66th birthday.
Publicity photo of the Cullinan crystal being handed from Fred Wells (right)
to McHardy, who then hands it to Sir Thomas Cullinan (left).
Late one afternoon in 1905, Mr. Frederick Wells, the superintendent of the prolific Premier Mine in South Africa, was making a routine inspection trip through the mine when his attention was attracted by something reflecting the last slanting rays of the setting sun. Curious, he stopped for a closer look. He was eighteen feet below the surface of the earth, and the shiny object was on the steep wall of the mine a few feet above him. Mr. Wells quickly scaled the wall and extracted from the blueground what appeared to be a large diamond crystal. At first, he thought he was being fooled by a large piece of glass, but tests proved it to be the largest gem-quality diamond ever discovered. It weighed 3106 carats, or about 1? pounds. It was named after Sir Thomas Cullinan, who opened the mine and was visiting on that eventful day. Many diamond experts believe that the huge stone was only a fragment, and that another piece, (possibly as large or even larger) either still exists and awaits discovery, or was crushed in the mining process. The latter is very unlikely. The prospect of finding the portion of the Cullinan has added zest to the activities of numerous miners and prospectors. The Cullinan was sold to the Transvaal government, which presented it to King Edward VII on his 66th birthday on November 9th, 1907. It was insured for $1,250,000 when it was sent to England. The King entrusted the cutting of the stone to the famous Asscher's Diamond Co. in Amsterdam, which had cut the Excelsior and other large gems. The huge diamond was studied for months. On February 10th, 1908, Mr. Asscher placed the steel cleaver's blade in a previously prepared V-shaped groove and tapped it once with a heavy steel rod. The blade broke, but the diamond remained intact! The second time, it fell apart exactly as planned, and an employee at the factory reported that Mr. Asscher had fainted. A second cleavage in the same direction produced three principal sections; these in turn would produce nine major gems, 96 smaller brilliants, and 9.50 carats of unpolished pieces. The nine larger stones remain either in the British Crown Jewels or in the personal possession of the Royal Family. These historically celebrated gems and their present mountings are as follows: The Cullinan I, also known as the Star of Africa, weighs 530.20 carats. King Edward placed it in the Sovereign's Royal Sceptre as part of the Crown Jewels, and it is now on display in the tower of London. The Cullinan II is a 317.40 carat cushion cut stone mounted in the band of the Imperial State Crown, it is also in the Tower of London as part of the Crown Jewels. The Cullinan III is a pear-shaped diamond weighing 94.40 carats, and is in the finial of Queen Mary's Crown and can be worn with the IV as a pendant-brooch. Many of Queen Mary's portraits show her wearing these two stones, and Elizabeth II makes use of them the same way. The Cullinan IV, a 63.60-carat cushion shape, was originally set in the band of Queen Mary's crown, but can also be worn as jewelry, as described above. The Cullinan V is a triangular-pear cut weighing 18.80 carats, was originally mounted in a brooch for Queen Mary, to be worn alternately in the circlet of her crown as a replacement for the Koh-i-Noor. This was after the Koh-i-Noor was removed to the new crown that was made for Elizabeth (now the Queen Mother) in 1937.
The Cullinan IV (upper, 63.60 carats) and Cullinan III
(lower, 94.40 carats), set in a pendant brooch.
The Cullinan VI, an 11.50 carat marquise-cut stone, was originally presented by King Edward to his wife, Queen Alexandra, and is now worn by Elizabeth II as a drop on a diamond and emerald necklace. It was worn more frequently by the young Queen than any other section of the Cullinan. The Cullinan VII is an 8.80 carat marquise-cut stone mounted in a pendant on a small all-diamond brooch, in the center of which is the 6.80-carat cushion cut Cullinan VIII, and lastly, the Cullinan IX, a 4.39 carat pear shape, is mounted in a ring with a prong setting that was made for Queen Mary; it too is sometimes worn by Queen Elizabeth.
The Cullinan VI (lower, 8.80 carats) and Cullinan VIII (upper, 6.80 carats)
Elizabeth II's Imperial State Crown of Great Britain
Imperial State Crown: originally made for Queen Victoria's coronation in 1838, it was remade for George VI in 1937. It contains the 317.40 carat Cullinan II. The large stone above the Cullinan II is the Black Prince's Ruby, which is actually a red spinel. The stone was at one time a giant bead. Note the red dot on the upper part of the stone - this is a ruby that was used to plug a small hole that went right through the stone. The Stuart Sapphire is a fine 104-carat oval shaped sapphire that appears on the backside of the crown. It was among the Crown Jewels of Charles II. The sapphire in the center of the cross on the top of the crown is St. Edward's Sapphire, (believed to have belonged to Edward the Confessor), and the four large drop-shaped pearls are said to have been Elizabeth I's earrings.
The Cullinan II Diamond. Note the two tiny platinum loops on the edges.
This is so the stone can be worn as a brooch, alone or with the Cullinan I
attached. However, it usually resides in the front of the Imperial State Crown.
The Stuart Sapphire has been moved to its own section.
St. Edward's Sapphire, from the top of the Imperial State Crown. Photo © HMSO, London
The Black Prince's Ruby on the front of the Imperial State Crown, a name which is misleading because the stone is actually a red spinel weighing about 170 carats. The gem is a large bead - the lighter-colored dot on the front of the stone is actually a ruby plugging up the hole that goes through the stone. Photo © HMSO, London
Considered to be the most celebrated diamond in the Iranian Crown Jewels and one of the oldest known to man, the 186-carat Darya-i-Nur is a crudely fashioned stone measuring 41.40 × 29.50 × 12.15 mm. The name means Sea of Light, River of Light, or Ocean of Light. It is a table or 'taviz' cut diamond.
Both the Darya-i-Nur and the historic Koh-i-Noor are said to have been in the possession of the first Mogul emperor of India, from whom they descended to Mohammed Shah. When the latter was defeated by Persia's Nadir Shah during the sack of Delhi in 1739, he surrended all his chief valuables, including the diamonds and the well-known Peacock Throne.
After Nadir's assassination in 1741, he Darya-i-Nur was inherited by his grandson, Shah Rokh. Later, it descended in succession to Mirza-Alam Khan Khozeime and thence to Mohammed Hassan Khan Qajar. Finally, it came into the possession of Lotf-Ali Khan Zand, who was defeated by Aga Mohammed Khan Khan Qajar.
In 1797, Aga Mohammed was succeeded by his grandson, Fath Ali Shah, who was both a collector and connosseur of gems and whose name is engraved on one side of the great diamond.
In 1827, Sir John Malcolm, a British emissary to the Persian Court and author of Sketches of Persia, described the Darya-i-Nur and the Taj-e-Mah (another famous diamond in the Persian Regalia) as the principal stones in a pair of bracelets valued at one million pounds sterling.
During the reign of the next shah, Nasser-ed-Din (1831-1896), the stone was mounted in an elaborate frame, which is surmounted by the Lion and Sun (the emblem of the Imperial Government of Iran) and set with four hundred fifty-seven diamonds and four rubies. It is still mounted in that same frame today.
Although some researchers contend that the Darya-i-Nur was acquired by the East India Co. and exhibited at London's Crystal Palace Exhibition in 1851, Iranian officials at the Central Bank of Iran in Tehran, where the Crown Jewels are kept, told the Gemological Institute of America in 1964 that it has never left the Treasure Vaults.
In 1906, Mohammed Ali Shah, after being defeated by the Constitutionalists while carrying the diamond and other valuables with him during the Persian Revolution, took refuge in the Russian Legation and claimed that the jewels were his personal property. However, as a result of intense efforts made by the freedom fighters, this priceless token of Nadir's conquests was restored to the country.
Today, the Darya-i-Nur holds a prominent place amoung the Iranian Crown Jewels. The Iranian Crown Jewels were studied and authenticated in 1966 by Dr. V.B. Meen of the Royal Ontario Museum. It is now believed that the Darya-i-Nur is the major portion of Tavernier's Great Table. Source: Diamonds - Famous, Notable and Unique by GIA.
It should be noted that the exact weight of the Darya-i-Nur is not really known. The figure of 186 carats listed here by GIA is an estimate. The stone is estimated to weigh somewhere between 175 and 195 carats, and it is a light pink color. The reason the exact weight is not known is because the stone cannot be removed from its setting without major risk of destroying the setting. It is more than likely that the stone was cut from the Great Table Diamond, and stone that was described by Jean Baptiste Tavernier as being over 400 carats, pink, and very flat.
The De Beers
Not long after the formation of De Beers Consolidated Mines Limited in March 1888, a huge light yellow octahedral crystal was found in the De Beers Mine. The gem weighed 428.50 old carats (old carats being the pre-1913 non-metric carat) and measured 47.6 mm through its longest axis and 38.1 mm square. Excluding Victoria, aka the Great White or Jacob, the source of which remains doubtful, the De Beers was the largest diamond found at the four mines at Kimberly during the time period.
Weighing 234.65 carats, the De Beers is the seventh largest faceted diamond in the world, not including the Nizam, a now-lost stone which is said to have been only partially cut. It isn't known where the De Beers was cut, but because of its pre-eminence as a cutting center at the time it is very likely that the work was carried out in Amsterdam.
After its display in Paris the Maharaja of Patiala bought the De Beers. In 1928 Cartier of Paris set it as the centerpiece of a ceremonial necklace that came to be known as the Patiala Necklace. Sometime during the 1930's the diamond was acquired by its present owners who loaned it in 1973 for an exhibition in Israel.
The Patiala Necklace is a candidate for one of the most
spectacular pieces of jewelry ever created.
After the end of the Raj, the art deco Patiala Necklace disappeared. Then in 1998, someone came upon the remnants of it in a second hand jewelry shop in London. All of the big stones were gone: seven stones ranging from 18 to 73 carats, set above a pendant, and the 234.69-carat De Beers Diamond, seventh largest in the world. Cartier acquired the remains of the necklace and spent four years restoring it. They tried recreating the original replacing the missing diamonds with a variety of natural stones such as white sapphires or white topazes, but with disappointing results. Back to the diamonds. The original diamonds were of course not available including the De Beers Diamond itself. While the search for replacements continues, Cartier decided to use cubic zirconium to substitute for the seven diamonds and synthetic rubies to substitute for the original Burmese marvels. A replica of the De Beers Diamond was created and set in the necklace, but what type of synthetic material used has not been released to the press. (One source actually said synthetic yellow sapphire, but this would have taken a prohibitively long time to cut and polish due to the immense size of the replica and the fact sapphire is a very tough stone, being a 9 on the Mohs hardness scale. Therefore, it is more than likely tha yellow cubic zirconium was used, and another clue is that in a number of photos of the necklace, the De Beers replica casts off a number of different colors, something a synthetic yellow sapphire wouldn't do to that degree, but which a yellow cubic zirconium would.) The necklace originally contained about 2,930 diamonds weighing about 962.25 carats.
On May 6th, 1982, the De Beers came up for auction at Sotheby's in Geneva. It was generally thought that bidding could reach as much as $4.5 million. At the event the stone was bought when the top bid of $3.16 million remained below its undisclosed reserve.
In his book Precious Stones and Gems, Edwin Streeter has unwittingly been the cause of some confusion concering this diamond. He wrote that it was shown at the Paris Exhibition as the "Victoria"; this has led to the listing in some publications of a diamond called the Victoria I, weighing 228.50 old carats, also found in 1888 and also a light yellow color, and afterwords sold to an Indian prince. A mathmatical calculation will show that this is the same stone as the De Beers and not to be confused with the diamond known variously as the Imperial, Great White or Jacob, a diamond which was cut into a cushion shape of 184.50 carats. Sources: Diamonds - Famous, Notable and Unique by GIA, Famous Diamonds by Ian Balfour, the Cartier website, and numerous articles on the internet.
The De Young Red
Photo by Chip Clark
A red diamond weighing in at 5.03 carats. The cut is a round brilliant, but as you can see, the main kite-shaped facets on the crown are horizontally divided in two, giving the stone slightly more brilliance than a standard round brilliant. This stone was once bought at estate sale mistakenly as a red garnet! (It is not a pure red, however, there is a slight brown hue to the stone, which is what makes it appear more like a fine garnet than ruby like the Hancock Red and the Red Shield.) It is the third largest red diamond in the world. The second largest is simply known as the Red Diamond, an emerald cut weighing 5.05 carats. The diamond was found as a rough in South Africa in 1927, and was later bought and put in a private collection, unfortunately its whereabouts are presently unknown. The first largest is the Moussaieff Red, a very fine ruby-red diamond cut by the William Goldberg Diamond Corporation from a 13.90-carat rough and sold to the Moussaieff jewelry firm sometime around the year 2001. At 5.11 carats, it weighs just slightly more than the previously mentioned diamond. The De Young Red is in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C. A red diamond surrounded by white diamonds set in brooch sold at Christie's Hong Kong auction May 1st, 2001 for about $300,000. The Fancy Red center diamond was only 0.73-carat and was I1 clarity. I am still trying to find out more about that stone.
The De Young Red sitting in its display case, lit with a fiberoptic light.
The Dresden Green
Link to a large photo:
Dresden Green Diamond (in its hat clasp ornament)
In the rough, greenish diamonds tend to occur as one of three types: a stone, often a crystal shape, possessing a light tinge rather like the color of water in a swimming pool; a stone with a dark green skin; a yellowish-green stone characterized by a degree if lubricity. After being cut and polished, diamonds of the first and second types usually lose their greenish color to become white gems or, alternatively, light yellow stones known as "silvery capes". The few truly green faceted diamonds therefore originate from the third type. The famous collection of De Beers Fancy Colored Diamonds, which has been displayed throughtout the world includes some beautiful examples of green diamonds.
Since this is the story of a truly rare gem, a scientific explanation for the phenomenom of green diamonds is needed. The green color is usually caused by the crystal's coming into contact with a radioactive source at some point during its lifetime, and in geological terms, this is measured in millions of years. The most common form of irradiation diamonds chance into is through bombardment by alpha particles which are present in uranium compounds or percolating groundwater. Long exposure to these particles forms a green spot on the surface of the diamond, or sometimes produces a thin green coating which is only skin deep and can easily be removed during the faceting process. But bombardment by beta and gamma rays well as neutrons will color the stone to a greater depth and in some cases turn the whole stone's interior green.
Heating the stone might sometimes improve the color but care must be taken to keep the temperature below 600°C, because at this temperature the green color is likely to turn to a light yellow or brown. The change in color is caused by the change in the crystal's lattice structure. Before bombardment by radioactive particles the crystal's lattice was stable but the initial radioactive shock was sufficient to disturb the equilibrium and produce a green coloration. Tempering will distort the lattice further abd produce another change of color. This phenomena is analogous to a piece of elastic that has been overstretched; it will stretch back so far, but never returns to its original length. Similarly, after a treatment the diamond's lattice remains permanently distorted.
The Dresden Green out of its setting.
Research has disclosed that green or irradiated diamonds are more common from alluvial deposits, although they are found in primary sources, usually in the upper part of the diamond-bearing volanic pipe, but green diamonds of any size are rare. The Dresden Green, which probably weighed over 100 (old) carats in its rough form, is unique amoung world famous diamonds. It was originally probably an elongated unbroken stone since greenish diamonds rarely occur as cleavages.
The Dresden Green gets its name from the capitol of Saxony where it has been on display for more than 200 years. The earliest known reference to its existence occurs in The Post Boy, a London new-sheet of the 1700's. The issue dated October 25th - 27th, 1722 included this article:
"On Tuesday last, in the afternoon, one Mr. Marcus Moses, lately arrived from India, had the honor to wait on his Majesty [King George I (ruled 1714-27)] with his large diamond, which is of a fine emerald green colour, and was with his Majesty near an hour. His Majesty was very much pleased with the sight thereof. It is said there never was seen the like in Europe before, being free from any defect in the world; and he has shown his Majesty several other fine large diamonds, the like of which 'tis said were never brought from India before. He was also, the 25th, to wait on their Royal Highnesses with his large diamond; and they were surprised to see one of such largeness, and of such a fine emerald color without the help of a foil under it. We hear the gentlemen values it at £10,000."
Marcus Moses was an important diamond merchant in London during the first part of the 18th century - he had once been involved with the Regent Diamond.
Another early reference to the Dresden Green is found in a letter dated from 1726, from Baron Gautier, the "assessor" at the Geheimes Rath's Collegium in Dresden, to the Polish ambassador in London, which speaks of the green diamond being being offered to Frederick Augustus I (1694-1753) by a London merchant for £30,000. This ruler, known as Augustus the Strong, was responsible for the construction of some great buildings in Dresden, which he duly filled with great collections of rare and expensive treasures - sculptures, paintings, and objets d'art. He accumulated a collection of crown jewelsas the ruler of Saxony, and when he was elected to the throne of Poland in 1697 he commanded new regalia be made for his coronation. Frederick Augustus set aside a group of rooms in Dresden Castle to house his collection of jewels and other treasures, and named them the Green Vault, their interior decoration being trusted to Persian designers. The final result was considered to be one of the finest examples of Baroque. Nowadays, the contents of the Green Vault is housed in a contemporary Albertinium Museum, built on the site of the original castle that was destroyed during World War II.
A model of the green diamond was owned by the eminent physicist Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753), whose collection of books, manuscripts and curiosities formed the basis of the British Museum. When Sloane retired from active work in 1741 his library and cabinet of curiosities had grown to be of unique value and on his death he bequeathed his collection to the nation, on the condition that Parliament pay his executors £20,000. The bequest was accepted and went to help form the British Museum, opened to the public in 1759.
Neither George I nor Frederick Augustus I purchased the green diamond; instead it was the latter's son, Frederick Augustus II (1733-1763) who became its first royal owner. He bought the Dresden Green from a Dutch merchant named Delles, at the Leipzig Fair in 1741. Various figures are given for the purchase price but the most interesting was found in a letter to Frederick the Great, King of Prussia (1712-1786), which states that "For the seige of Brünn the King of Poland was asked for heavy artillery. He refused due to the scarcity of money; he had just spent 400,000 thaler for a large green diamond." On orders of Frederick Augustus II, the court jeweller, Dinglinger, set the diamond in the Decoration of the Golden Fleece, but this setting lasted for only four years and was broken up in 1746. The king then commissioned the goldsmith Pallard in Vienna, to design another Golden Fleece incorporating both the Dresden Green and the Dresden White, a cushion-shaped diamond weighing 49.71 carats.
The Golden Fleece ornament with the Dresden White (top). The center third of the
ornament which encompasses the Dresden Green was saved from disassembly and remains
part of the present ornament. The top part of the ornament encompassing the Dresden
White was saved and is now part of the Dresden White's ornament (see photo below).
From 1756 to 1763 during the continued hostilities of the Seven Years War, the contents of the Green Vault were removed for safety to the fortress of Königstein, located in southeast Dresden by the Elba River. Several years after the war, which saw the defeat of Saxony, Pallard's Golden Fleece ornament was also broken up. In 1768 another jeweller, Diessbach, worked the green diamond into a hat clasp along with two other white brilliants, weighing almost 40 carats total, and a number of smaller diamonds. The Dresden Green survives in Diessbach's ornament today.
The Dresden Green ornament on display in the Green Vault among other pieces of regalia.
The white diamond ornament to the left of it contains the Dresden White Diamond at its top.
In 1806 Saxony became a kingdom and the royal line continued until 1918 when the last king abdicated. The contents of the Green Vault remained on display to the public until the beginning of World War II. In 1942 they were removed again to Königstein, thus escaping the shattering air raid by the Allied Forces on the night of February 13th, 1945 which devasted Dresden. Later that same year the Soviet Trophies Commission, which had made its headquarters in Pillnitz Castle near the center of the ruined city, took the contents of the Green Vault to Moscow, the Crown jewels being among the first items to travel there. They were returned in 1958.
The Dresden Green's facet layout, captured from its Gemcad file. This design
originally appeared in the winter, 1990 issue of Gems & Gemology, and was
converted into Gemcad by Robert Strickland in 1998.
The Gemmological Institute of America examined the stone in 1988. The Dresden Green Diamond was proved to be not only of extraordinary quality, but also a rare type IIa diamond. The clarity grade determined by GIA was VS1 and the gem has the potential of being internally flawless. (This means that the stone's flaws are near the outer surface, probably the pavilion of the stone, where a slight re-cutting could remove them and improve the clarity of the stone.) The gem measures 29.75 × 19.88 × 10.29mm. Unbelievably, the GIA graded the symmetry good and the polish very good. This is amazing for a diamond cut prior to 1741. Also, the Dresden Green has a natural green body color. This is extremely rare. Diamonds with green skins or scattered green patches are more common.
Another photo of the Dresden Green, photographed
from the underside with the culet facing outward.
In the summer of 2000, Ronald Winston completed arrangements for the Dresden Green to be exhibited in October, 2000, in the Harry Winston Gallery at the Smithsonian Institution, alongside the world's most famous diamond – the Hope. The 40.70-carat Dresden Green – the largest and finest natural green diamond ever found, has long been considered a "sister" to the Hope Diamond, which it closely matches in size, intensity of color, and historical importance. Friday, October 14th, marked the official public opening of this remarkable exhibition.
It was the twelve-year quest of Ronald Winston to bring these two diamonds together. "There is only one other diamond, the Dresden Green, which comes close to the Hope Diamond in rarity and uniqueness," said Ronald Winston. "I always hoped that in my lifetime I would be able to witness the Hope Diamond and the Dresden Green on exhibit together. This would have been the crown in my father's 'Court of Jewels,' an unparalleled collection which toured the country in the 1950's and included some of the most famous diamonds in history."
The Dresden Green remained at the Smithsonian until January of 2001, when it returned the Albertinium Museum in Dresden, where it remains to this day. Sources: The Harry Winston website, Famous Diamonds by Ian Balfour, The Nature of Diamonds by George E. Harlow, the Gemstone Forecaster.
The Earth Star
The Earth Star was cut from a rough gem weighing 248.9 carats found in the Jagersfontein Mine on May 16th, 1967. It travelled right through the recovery process until it appeared on the grease table in the recovery plant. Not surprisingly its appearance caused a commotion at the mine and to many in the diamond industry because too amoung the numerous fine diamonds found at Jagersfontein, there had been few brown gems. In all its long existence, the mine had never been known for producing large stones of this color. Moreover this specimen came from the 2500-foot level of the mine workings, which is exceptionally deep in a volcanic diamond-bearing pipe for a gem of this size to be found in.
Baumgold Bros. of New York purchased the stone and cut it into a pear shape weighing 111.59 carats, then the largest faceted brown diamond in the world. The diamond was found to have a greater degree of brilliance than is usually seen in a gem of such a strong color: the combination of color and brilliance led to Joseph Baumgold naming it the Earth Star. The diamond returned to South Africa in 1971 for display at the exhibition held to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the discovery of the Kimberly Mine. The diamond would later be bought in 1983 for $900,000 by Stephen Zbova of Naples, Florida. Sources: Famous Diamonds by Ian Balfour and Diamonds - Famous, Notable and Unique by GIA.
De Beers Archives
This 10.73-carat brilliant is not, by ordinary standards, exceptional. However, it was cut from the first diamond found in South Africa and therefore has historical significance. In 1866 a shepherd boy found a small, shiny stone on the south bank of the Orange River near Hopetown. The pebble was kept for a while by a 15-year-old boy named Erasmus Jacobs, who later gave it to his neighbour, farmer Schalk van Niekerk, a collector of unusual stones.
Van Niekerk entrusted the pebble to John O'Reilly, a traveling peddler, who sent it, in an unsealed envelope, to Dr W.G. Atherstone of Grahamstown, one of the few people in the Cape Colony who knew anything about minerals and gems. Dr Atherstone identified it as a 21.25-carat brownish yellow diamond. It was sold for £1500 to Sir Phillip Wodehouse. The diamond was shown at the Paris Exposition in 1867 and later cut to its present form. Although Erasmus Jacobs never found another diamond, Van Niekerk was luckier. Three years later, having learned something of precious stones, he bought what became known as the Star of South Africa.
The Excelsior I, set in an elaborate bracelet by Mouawad.
On may 28th, 1971, a sad but inevitable event in mining history occured: operations finally stopped at the Jagersfontein Mine. Not long before, the mine had celebrated its centenary, the first diamond having been picked up in the Jagersfontein valley in the Orange Free State in August of 1870. Although Jagersfontein was the first South Africa 'pipe' or 'dry diggings' to have been established, its fame was always overshadowed by the mines in the Kimberly district, about 130 km northwest. Yet the output of the mine was great enough to inspire the term "Jagers" to denote a diamond with a beautiful faint bluish tint. In addition Jagersfontein was the source of two of the largest and finest diamonds ever found.
The earlier of these discoveries caused the most dramatic moment in the mine's history. On the evening of June 30th, 1893, an African picked up an immense diamond in a shovel of gravel which he was loading into a truck; he hid it from his overseer and delivered it directly to the hands of the Mine Manager. As a reward he received £500 plus a horse equipped with a saddle and bridle.
The diamond weighed 971 old carats, equivalent to 995.2 metric carats. It possessed the forementioned blue-white color charateristic of the finest Jagersfontein diamonds, especially cleavages, and was of very fine quality, although there were a number of internal black spots, another Jagersfontein characteristic. The shape of the stone was out of the ordinary: flat on one side and rose to a peak on the other, somewhat like a loaf of rye bread. Apparently this is what inspired the diamond to be named 'Excelsior', meaning higher.
The Excelsior may justly lay claim to be the 'Great Unknown' of famous diamonds. As will be explained further along, there is no single Excelsior fragment of exceptional size which would have helped to keep its name in the public eye, thus helping keep track of the fragments. In addition, except for having stimulated some interest among local diggers, the finding of such a large stone seems to have made singularly little impact. No account of the discovery appeared in the more authoritative and prestigious British newspapers which often reported lesser discoveries at the time. Maybe if the diamond had been originally been given a less unglamorous name its fame might have spread further outside of South Africa. Yet consider the facts ... before the discovery of the Excelsior the only rival to the stone was the legendary Great Mogul, of Indian origin, generally thought to have weighed 787½ old carats in the rough. The so-called Braganza Diamond, which was found in Brazil in the 1700s and according to some sources weighed 1680 carats, was considered to have been a white sapphire, topaz or light aquamarine, very unlikely a diamond. So the the Excelsior still ranks as the second largest rough diamond of gem quality ever found, only the Cullinan being larger.
After various highs and lows the Jagersfontein Mine eventually became the sole property of the New Jagersfontein Mining & Exploration Company Limited, formed in April of 1887. It so happened that on the very day the Excelsior was found the contract between the mining company and the consortium of London firms which purchased the mine's output expired. If the diamond had been found a few hours earlier it would have made a substantial difference in profit to the parties concerned. However, the Excelsior was shipped to the London offices, located at 29 and 30 Holborn Viaduct, of Messieurs Wernher, Beit & Co., the largest of the ten firms that comprised of the London consortium. Wernher, Beit & Co. sought to insure the diamond for £40,000 but could only get insurance to the extent of £16,250.
In the Directors' Report for the year ended March 31st, 1894, the Chairman of the New Jagersfontein Mining & Exploration Company stated:
"In addition to the foregoing the Company still retains an undivided one-half share in the 'Excelsior' diamond weighing 971 carats, found on 30 June, 1893, which (although it is impossible at the present moment to place any exact value upon, and therefore has not been stocked at all) will ultimately prove a very valuable asset in the Company."
The diamond remained in London where it was joined in 1895 by the second of the two large diamonds to have originated in the Jagersfontein. This weighed 634 carats, equivalent to 650.8 metric carats, and was first named the "Reitz" after F.W. Reitz, then president of the Orange Free State. It was renamed the 'Jubilee' when it was cut in 1897, the year of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee; the 75th anniversary of her coronation. Accordingly the Chairman of the Mining Company, at the Annual General Meeting held in Kimberly on May 28th, 1896 stated:
"Since the last meeting a large and very fine diamond of 634 carats, named the Reitz Diamond, has been found, and although neither the 'Excelsior' nor this recent acquisition has yet been disposed of, your Directors have deemed it advisable, in the interests of the present shareholders, to stock the Company's one half interest in both diamonds, but the actual figure, as will be obvious to all, it is most injudicious to state publicly."
The Heart of Eternity and the Excelsior I bracelet - a nice contrast of beautiful blue and white diamonds.
The very next day after this meeting, the minutes of a Company Board meeting recorded the receipt of the following letter to the Secretary, New Jagersfontein Mining & Exploration Co. Limited, Kimberly:
"Dear Sir, I beg to inform you that the Messrs Wernher, Beit & Co., Barnato Bros & Mosenthal Sons & Co. have accepted your offer to buy your company's half interest in the two stones called the 'Excelsior' and 'Reitz' Diamonds weighing 971 and 634 carats respectively for the sum of £25,000 (twenty-five thousand pounds) cash.
"It is specially agreed upon that the price paid above is not to be disclosed outside the Diamond committee or your Board of Directors.
"I should thank you to confirm the terms of this letter and on receipt of your reply pay your company the stipulated £25,000 on behalf of the above-named firms.
I am, Dear Sir, Yours faithfully, Herrman Hirche."
The minutes continue: "Resolved that the above sale be accepted and the Secretary was instructed to confirm the same."
Thus was concluded what can only be described as one of the most profitable transactions - from the purchaser's point of view - ever to have been made in the diamond trade. As a result of the sale the Jubilee crystal was cut the following year into two gems. The larger of the two was a rectangular cushion shape weighing 245.35 carats, which would rank as the sixth largest polished diamond in the world. But no buyer appeared on the scene for the Excelsior crystal and eventually in 1903, it was sent to I.J. Asscher of Amsterdam. This famous company, destined to cut the Cullinan diamond crystal, had been founded by Mr. J.J. Asscher (1843-1902).
Yet another misfortune dogged the Excelsior, since it was destined not to become one of those diamonds which yields a single magnificent gem, instead it was cut into a number of smaller ones. There were suggestions that no prospective buyer could be found due to the diamond's extraordinary size. In his book, Some Dreams Come True, by Alpheus F. Williams, who succeeded his father as General Manager of De Beers, entertained no doubts about the subject, considering the decision to cleave the diamond into several smaller fragments as the greatest tragedy of modern times in the history of famous diamonds. he wrote:
"It was unpardonable that this exquisite diamond was so cleaved that the largest stone cut from it weighed only 70 metric carats. The intrinsic value meant more to its owners than its historical importance, so different from the spirit of the owners of the Cullinan diamond who, in deciding to have the diamond cleaved into nine pieces, insisted that one of the pieces so cleaved should be, when cut, the largest diamond in the world."
On the other hand two points should be kept in mind when considering this extract from Mr. Williams' book. First, it will be recalled that the owners of the Excelsior had also been the owners of the Jubilee; no accusation, therefore could be levelled at them of necessarily wanting to place value before historical importance so as the Jubilee had been fashioned to yield one truly exceptional gem. Secondly, a comparison between the Cullinan and Excelsior diamonds is meaningless -- the Cullinan had only one large imperfection in the heart, the Excelsior possessed numerous dark inclusions. Dutch cutters, the world's best, decided this meant considerable loss of weight.
After prolonged study it was decided to first cleave the diamond into ten pieces: this operation which was performed by Mr. A. Asscher, resulting in the three largest pieces weighing 158, 147 and 130 carats. The polishing was supervised by Henry Koe and yielded 21 gems, ranging from 70 carats to less than 1 carat. They totalled 373.75 carats which represented a loss in weight of almost 63 percent. The final result, however, was considered to have been better than anyone had expected. The specifications of the larger gems cut from the Excelsior are as follows:
Excelsior I ... 69.68 carats ... pear shape
Excelsior II ... 47.03 carats ... pear shape
Excelsior III ... 46.90 carats ... pear shape (the Rovensky?)
Excelsior IV ... 40.23 carats ... marquise
Excelsior V ... 34.91 carats ... pear shape
Excelsior VI ... 28.61 carats ... marquise
Excelsior VII ... 26.30 carats ... marquise
Excelsior VIII ... 24.31 carats ... pear shape
Excelsior IX ... 16.78 carats ... pear shape
Excelsior X ... 13.86 carats ... pear shape
Excelsior XI ... 9.82 carats ... pear shape
The Excelsior gems were sold seperately, three of them were bought by Tiffany & Co., in their old store in Union Square in New York City. The names of the other buyers have not been disclosed but it is known that De Beers displayed one of the marquise-shaped fragments at the 1939 World's Fair in New York.
In January of 1984 Graff Diamonds Limited of London announced the acquisition and subsequent sale of five exceptional diamonds among a series of transactions to clients. The most historic stone was the Excelsior I which according to Laurence Graff, had remained in the posession of the same family in the United States until his firm's purchase of it. The gem reappeared for sale in May of 1991. The GIA certified it as 'G' color and VS2 clarity. In May of 1996 reappeared yet again for sale and was bought by Robert Mouawad for $2,642,000.
It is possible that two more of the larger gems cut from the Excelsior rough may have come to light within recent years. At an exhibition called The Court of Jewels presented by Harry Winston Inc. in San Antonio, Texas in 1949, there was a 40-carat marquise measuring 25.4 by 19 mm. Little appears to have been known about this diamond before its purchase from Harry Winston by a prominent American family. Could it have been the Excelsior IV? On January 23rd, 1957, a diamond necklace with a pendant, owned by Mrs. John E. Rovensky came up for auction at Parke-Bernet Galleries. The pendant was a pear-shaped diamond weighing approximately 46.50 carats. Since it had originally been purchased from Tiffany's, is there not a distinct possibility that this gem was noneother than the Excelsior III?
This cubic zirconium replica was designed and cut by Scott Sucher. Sucher said he had to use mathmatics to figure out the angles and measurements of the sides of the stone because of a lack of information about it. Only Jean-Baptiste Tavernier's drawing of the stone and a few black and white photos (from prior to 1921 when the stone disappeared) exist.
This image is from Jean Baptiste Tavernier's book "The Six Voyages of
Jean Baptiste Tavernier", first published 1676 in French, and translated
into English by Valentine Ball in 1925. The book shows the Florentine
as being a 9-sided double rose cut stone with a shield shape.
Once the great yellow diamond of the Medici Family, this historic Indian stone is actually light yellow in color with a very slight green overtone and is fashioned in the form of an irregular, nine-sided, one 126-facet double rose cut. It weighed 137.27 carats.
Legends surrounding the stone date as far back as 1467, when Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, is said to have been wearing it when he fell in battle. A peasant or foot soldier found it on the Duke's person and sold it for a florin, thinking it was glass, after which it changed hands innumerable times for small sums of money. Pope Julius II is named as one of the owners.
Authentic history begins when Tavernier, the famous French jeweler and traveler, saw the stone amoung the treasures of the Grand Duke of Tuscany in 1657. When the last of the Medici's died, it passed to Vienna through the marriage of Francis Stephan of Lorraine (who later became the Grand Duke of Tuscany) to Empress Maria Theresa and was placed in the Hapsburg Crown Jewels in the Hofburg, Vienna; at the time, it was valued at $750,000.
A photo of the Florentine's last known setting - a hat ornament.
This photo was probably taken between 1870 and 1900.
After the fall of the Austrian Empire, during World War I, the Florentine was taken by the Imperial Family into exile in Switzerland. Later, it was thought to have been stolen by a person close to the Family and taken to South America with other gems of the Crown Jewels. After this, it was rumored that the great diamond was brought into the United States in the 1920's and was recut and sold. As a matter of record, it must be listed with other "lost" renowned diamonds of the world. Officials at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, where the Florentine was on display prior to 1918 in a hat ornament, state to the Gemological Insitute of America in 1964 that they no knowledge of the stone's present location.
Alternate names are the Tuscan, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, the Austrian Diamond, and the Austrian Yellow Brilliant. Source: Diamonds - Famous, Notable and Unique by GIA.
A drawing of the Florentine from Max Bauer's 1904 book Precious Stones. The left and right are Bauer's front and side views of the stone, the center is the side view corrected to match Bauer's front view - note the extra facets. This style of briolette is called a double-rose, due to the fact the stone has a girdle. Briolettes, like the Briolette of India, are round when viewed from the end and usually have a very small hole drilled at their point, allowing them to be worn as a sort of large pendant-bead. To me, this design seems like it is one of the most accurate, with the actual diamond being slightly less oblong (less like a pear shape and more like a shield), as visible in the b&w photograph. You'll also note there more facets towards the center of the stone, whereas Tavernier's drawing leaves them out. The b&w photo shows a thin triangular facet, at a 4 O'Clock angle from the center of the stone. It appears grayish with the facets around it being illuminated. I believe this is one of the extra facets Tavernier's drawing left out, of which there are nine. At the 1:30 angle from the center, the extra facet is again visible but as a light gray with the facets around it dimmed.
In Herbert Tillander's book Diamond Cuts in Historic Jewelry - 1381 to 1910, there are a number of drawings of the Florentine from over the past few centuries. The Tavernier drawing (at the top of this page) is shown, the Bauer drawing as well as the 189-facet Cletscher drawing, and several others. Directly above is Tillander's drawing for the correct outline and faceting of the stone, which I agree with. It has 144 facets total -- 81 on the crown and 63 on the pavilion. The top drawing is the back of the diamond, the middle is the front, and the lower is a symmetrized version. The high center of the front of the gem is trihedrally faceted, whereas the same area on the reverse has only nine basic facets. (As it turns out, Tavernier's drawing was the reverse of the stone!) The stone is somewhat 'slanted'. This seems reasonable, considering the gem was cut around 1615. It is unlikely it would have been as symmetrical as diamonds cut later, like the Regent or the Tiffany Yellow, for example.
The Florentine Diamond (faceted in 1615) has several names. It has been called the Tuscan, the Tuscany Diamond, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, and even the Austrian Yellow Diamond - an unfortunate name, since it creates confusion with another lost diamond, the Austrian Yellow Brilliant.
The stone was drop-shaped with both the front and reverse more or less similarly faceted. The center of the front had trihedral faceting, but the matching area on the reverse simply had nine basic facets. Both front and reverse were stepped twice, producing nine rows, each containing nine facets in the front, and nine rows of seven facets on the reverse - 144 facets in all. The overall impression is a nine-rayed star.
Through the works of Speranza Cavenago Bignami, Guido Gregorietti and others, Herbert Tillander was able to trace the history of this stone. P. Aloisi stated in 1932 that the rough stone was 'acquired' in the late 1500s from the King of Vijayanagar (now Narsingha) in southern India by the Portuguese Governor of Goa, Ludovico Castro, Count of Montesanto, after the king's defeat by Portugese troops. The crystal was deposited with the Jesuits in Rome until, after lengthy negotiations, Grand Duke Ferdinand I of Tuscany succeeded in buying it from the Castro-Noranha family for 35,000 Portuguese scudi crocati.
Duke Ferdiand's son, Grand Duke Cosimo II (who ruled from 1609 to 1621), finally entrusted his father's purchase to a cutter, Pompeo Studentoli, a Venetian working in Florence. The finished gem was delivered on October 10th, 1615. An inventory drawn up on Cosimo's death confirms the acquisition of the rough diamond by Ferdinand and describes the gem as 'faceted on both sides and encircled by a diamond encrusted band'.
Dr. Heinz Biehn reproduced a sketch of a pendant containing the Florentine with a caption reading, "Il Gran Diamante del Serimo Gran Duca di Toschana, Pesa 138 Carati". Despite extensive investigation, the origin of this drawing remains obscure. The correct weight and the exact faceting indicate that it was probably drawn just after its fashioning in 1615. The outline differs slightly, most likely because the artist wished to show a perfect and therefore pleasing symmetry.
Thomas Cletscher, who must have seen the great gem in Florence, produced a clearly recognizable sketch of it in about 1625: neither the faceting nor the outline is absolutely correct, which indicates that it may have been done from memory. The faceting of the central trihedrally faceted section is fairly accurate, but the surrounding steps, which he depicts as being similarly fashioned, cannot be correct. Cletscher also gives the weights of the rough and the finished gem as being 170 carats and 120 carats, neither of which appear to be accurate.
A company called Gem Slueth set out to find out what happened to the diamond, and their initial theory was that it had been recut. But because of the Florentine’s unusual shape, anything other than a round cut would create a truly drastic loss of valuable diamond weight. Gem Slueth researched and found that there are only four light-yellow diamonds that weigh over 70 carats. Quickly three of these diamonds were eliminated as possibilities, due to one fact or another that places them somewhere else during the existence of the Florentine as a 137.27-carat stone. Only one, an 80-carat light yellow diamond that was auctioned in Switzerland in 1981, might possibly be the missing Florentine. Further research followed, including conversations with the woman who had sold the diamond in 1981. It had been, she reported, in her family since shortly after World War I (the Florentine was stolen in 1918). She remembered it being a very unusual shape prior to her father having the jewel recut. Lord Ian Balfour, Britain’s noted diamond historian and De Beers have supported Gem Sleuth’s theory on what became of the Florentine diamond. The theory has also appeared in numerous publications. The present whereabouts of the 80-carat diamond are unknown, but after personally corresponding with Ian Balfour, I get the impression it hasn't dropped from sight complete.
I would like to thank Phil Chan for this post-World War I history of the Florentine Diamond! :) He managed to get it off of Gem Slueth's web page before it went down. The website was www.gemslueth.com. I hope they come back on the internet someday because they were a very interesting site.
The Golden Jubilee
Golden Jubilee Diamond (another image)
Gabi Tolkowsky examines the diamond with a jeweler's loupe.
The Golden Jubilee is the largest faceted diamond in the world, weighing 545.67 carats. The stone was designed by Gabi Tolkowsky, who also designed the 273.85-carat Centenary Diamond, which is the largest D-Flawless diamond in the world. The Golden Jubilee was presented to the King of Thailand in 1997 for his Golden Jubilee - the 50th anniversary of his coronation. Prior to this event, the stone was simply known as the Unnamed Brown.
Tolkowsky describes the Golden Jubilee's cut as a "fire rose cushion cut." The color has been graded as "fancy yellow-brown", even though the above photo makes it look almost dark orange. It is only 15.37 carats larger than the Cullinan I, also known as the Star of Africa.
A small photo of the Golden Jubilee I managed to salvage from the DeBeers website.
Trivia Tidbit: The government of Thailand reported the stone as being a large golden topaz so as not to irritate the citizens -- Thailand has been in financial trouble for some years now, and the news of the purchase of the massive diamond would only make the popularity of the government drop.
A barely decent photo of the Golden Jubilee sitting on a cushion. I wish the stone was more publicized because then I wouldn't have to settle for tiny or grainy photos.
The Golden Maharaja
photo © Sothebys
This large earth-hue diamond was shown at the Paris World Fair of 1937 and was later loaned to the American Museum of Natural History for 15 years (circa 1975 to 1990) by its owner, Ella Friedus. Around 1991 she sold the stone for $1.3 million. The Gemological Institute of America reported the 65.57-carat gem as being Fancy Dark Orange-Brown, having VS2 clarity, and a slightly modified cutting style: Its crown and pavilion main facets are horizontally divided, an extra facet pattern sometimes applied when cutting larger diamonds. While its early history isn't known, its almost certainly a South African diamond. On April 25th, 2006 it was offered for sale at Sotheby's New York in a Magnificent Jewels sale, figuring as lot 434 and had an estimate of $400,000 to $600,000. It realized a sale price of $1,382,400, including the buyer's premium.
The Graff Pink Supreme
This 10.83-carat pink pear-shaped diamond is (or was) owned by Lawrence Graff of London. It is Internally Flawless and probably has the term 'Purplish' in its color grade -- it is a very saturated pink. Graff bought the stone at auction in November, 1993 at Christie's Geneva for 6,163,500 Swiss francs. AM-Diamonds, stop stealing my stuff, morons
The Great Chrysanthemum
In the summer of 1963, a 198.28-carat fancy brown diamond was found in the South African diamond fields. This unusual stone was purchased by Julius Cohen, New York City manufacturing jeweler, under whose direction it was fashioned by the firm of S & M Kaufman into a Fancy Orange-Brown 104.16-carat pear shape. The stone has a total of 189 facets (67 on the crown, 65 vertical facetrs along the girdle, and 57 on the pavilion) and measures 24.98 mm wide, 39.10 mm long, and 16.00 mm deep. It has a depth of 64.1% and a table of 44%. It was mounted as the central stone in a yellow gold necklace of 410 oval and marquise-shaped diamonds.
In the rough state, the diamond appeared to be a light honey color; after cutting, however, it proved to be a rich golden brown, with overtones of sienna and burnt orange, the warm colors of the brown chrysanthemum after which the stone was named.
The Great Chrysanthemum as seen in GIA's Diamonds - Famous, Notable and Unique. Photo © Julius Cohen Inc.
The Great Chrysanthemum has been exhibited by several retail jewelers in the United States and was shown as a Diamonds International Awards winner in 1965. In the same year, it was displayed at the Rand Easter Festival in Johannesburg, South Africa. Julius Cohen later sold to it an unknown foreign buyer. The diamond is currently owned by Garrard's of London. Sources: Diamonds - Famous, Notable and Unique by Lawrence Copeland (GIA), private sources.
A replica of the Great Chrysanthemum Diamond cut from cubic zirconium. The stone was cut by Hubert Rackets of the Texas Faceters Guild. Photo © Hubert Rackets and respective guild.
The famous Swiss jeweller Fawaz Gruosi is credited for starting the current enthusiasm for black diamond jewelry, launching the current fashion for black diamond in 1996 by creating some eye-catching collections of jewelry and watches set with black diamonds.
He is now exhibiting a heart-shaped black diamond, the largest black diamond of such cut in the world, weighing 115.34 carats. This heart is the centrepiece of a necklace made of 58.77 carats of smaller black diamonds, 378 white diamonds and 14.10 carats of tsavorite garnets, set in white gold.
It took three years to cut the Gruosi Diamond. Received rough in 1998 from India and weighing 300.12 carats, it was originally planned to have an oval shape, but as cutting progressed, the material of the stone proved extremely fragile and very difficult to work. (This is not uncommon. The Amsterdam Diamond, another famous black diamond, is a stone whose rough form was originally intended for industrial use. When they tried to saw the diamond apart, they realized it was tougher than most industrial diamond material, a characteristic of a gem-quality black diamond. It was faceted from a 55-carat rough into a 33-carat pear shape.) Another famous black diamond is the 67-carat Black Orlov.
The decision was made to cut this diamond in a heart shape, despite the considerable loss of carat-weight. In fact, the final weight loss after cutting and polishing was approximately 184.78 carats. This heart-shaped diamond was cut in Antwerp by one of the greatest black diamond cutting specialists in the world.
The Heart of Eternity
The Heart of Eternity, top, with the Excelsior Diamond bracelet, below.
It was expected that some 12-million people would visit the De Beers Millennium Jewels Exhibition at the Millennium Dome in London. There they were on view in a specially designed exhibit for the entire year of 2000. It is worth it to pause a moment and reflect on the rarity of blue diamonds. Pre-20th century accounts of great blue diamonds reinforce the trade's historical links with India, the only known early source of diamonds. These accounts tell of diamonds such as Tavernier Blue (now known as the Hope Diamond; 45.52 carats) and the 30.82-carat Blue Heart, which today are valued for their history and mystique as much as for their rare color. These diamonds are famous because of their incredible rarity - only red diamonds are rarer - and the De Beers collection of blues is something that will never be seen again.
In modern times, De Beers Premier mine in South Africa has become the only important source of blue diamonds, yet they make up much less than 0.1 percent of all diamonds recovered at this mine. Of all De Beers South African rough production, however, there is on average only one significant blue diamond mined per year. The best blue diamonds have a beauty that is not comparable to that of any other gem. These are greatly admired and eagerly sought after by collectors and connoisseurs. Of the ten highest per-carat prices paid for colored diamonds at auction, six have been blue diamonds. Some of these unique stones were sold for $550,000-$580,000 per carat. One 20 carat blue stone fetched well in excess of $10 million. "Fancy blue diamonds contain impurities of boron, which result in their blue color. Usually the blue of a diamond is strongly modified by gray or black. Few stones have intense, saturate color," explains Livnat, stressing that "the blue color is often not evenly spread throughout the stone and that, occasionally, parts of a blue stone may be totally white. To get a beautiful pure blue stone is truly a professional challenge."
Natural blue diamonds are much weaker in saturation than the blue objects they are compared to. Blue colors are not overly abundant in nature, although they do occur in certain flowers, fruits, birds, and gemstones. Actual diamond blues, however, are more likely to mimic the blue colors of indigo, ink and steel. Whatever term is used to describe blue diamonds, it is their combination of color, brilliance and rarity that makes them so special. The rough diamond was found by an alluvial digger in the early nineties. It originated in what was then known as Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and was purchased there many years ago by a De Beers buyer on the open market. The stone has been held in deliberate anticipation of this moment, though its polishing took more than three years. Its beauty has now been released by the extraordinary skill of the expert craftsmen, and international team (South African, Israeli, Belgian & American). The cutters received the ultimate compliment when former De Beers Chairman, the late Harry Oppenheimer, undoubtedly the doyen of the diamond industry and who has probably handled more important diamonds in his 70-year career than any other person in the world, described the Millennium Star as "the most beautiful diamond I have ever seen."
Originally, the rough stone was 777 carats, a magic number. Found in the Buyimai district, the discovery set off a gold-rush type of influx of diggers hoping to find a similar stone. But, as it was the only stone of this type found in the present millennium, statistically the odds are against finding another one within the next few hundred years or so. After studying and planning the cutting of the stone for about 4 to 5 months, it was decided to cut the rough in three pieces. The Millennium Star is the outcome of the largest piece. The cutters were very tightlipped about what happened to the other two pieces. In order to cut and polish the stone a special "operating theater" was built, not dissimilar to the conditions in a sterile hospital room. "No dust is allowed to touch the stone so the scaifes must be adjusted accordingly. It is vital to monitor the temperature of the stone during the cutting and polishing process. Actually, the temperature must be strictly controlled in order to avoid cracks or other damage, explains Nir Livnat, managing director of Johannesburg-based Ascot Diamonds, a member of the Steinmetz Group of Diamond Companies. Special tangs had to be designed to hold the stone, he added.
The craftsmen weren't about to reveal their company's professional secrets and refrained from giving more details on the manufacturing process itself, except to note that "the infrastructure and skills required to polish such large stones is extremely complex and dramatically different from the usual polishing factory." It was learned, however, that some 100 plastic models of the original rough were made, and these were almost all used to plan and design the optimum polished stone, both in terms of beauty and weight. The stone's classic pear shape totals 54 facets. Often large stones contain more facets in order to optimize the use of rough; having fewer facets invariably necessitates losing weight, but this loss is offset by far greater brilliance.
The Millennium Blue Diamonds, with the Heart of Eternity at the center.
Nicky Oppenheimer was careful not to put a value on the Millennium Star, saying that any figure he would give would be purely academic. The London Evening Star was not as conservative as Mr. Oppenheimer and insured the Star for 100 million English pounds. This is believed to be a fraction of its true worth. Beny Steinmetz, Co-Chairman of the Steinmetz Diamond Group, echoed the cautious approach of Oppenheimer, but pointed out that the previous record price paid for any polished diamond was $16.5 million for a 100.10 carat D-Flawless stone, the Star of the Season, that was auctioned by Sotheby's in May, 1995, thus selling for about $165,000 per carat. According to market sources, that stone was also manufactured and sold by the Steinmetz group. To the two senior principals of the Steinmetz Group, brothers Beny and Danny Steinmetz, it is rather symbolic that they were chosen to cut the De Beers Limited Edition Millennium Diamond. It is exactly 50 years ago, almost to the day, that the Steinmetz Diamond Company was established by the late Ruben Steinmetz, father of the present principals. "Ruben Steinmetz was known for manufacturing high quality goods," recalls his son, and, without saying so, one could sense that the sons are truly moved by their ability to continue family tradition. Nobody will ever "accuse" the hard and successful businessmen, what the Steinmetzes are, of being sentimental. But in the presence of the Millennium stones times stands still and one must reflect on one's past, one's roots and on the future.
Chairman Nicky Oppenheimer, who tends to be emotional about diamonds, summed it up by recalling that these incredible diamonds have been collected at the end of this millennium and presented to the world to celebrate the beginning of the next. Nature gives us so few blue diamonds that most people will not see one in their lifetime. "As we come together to celebrate the new Millennium, De Beers is giving the world a chance to see this unique collection - truly a once in a Millennium experience", reflects Oppenheimer. "To be able, therefore, to unveil a truly spectacular new diamond on the threshold of the new millennium is surely a uniquely opposite combination of two very rare events. To be able to unveil not only one diamond, but a collection of such rarity that most of us will not see its like again is, I think, the only adequate way to mark the passage of 2000 years of man's history," concludes Oppenheimer.
The Heart of Eternity paid a visit to the Smithsonian Museum in the summer of 2003, being part of an exhibit titled The Splendour of Diamonds (above photo). The exhibit lasted from June 27th to September 15th and featured a number of other unusual colored diamonds, namely the Allnatt, the Millennium Star, the Pumpkin Diamond, the Moussaieff Red (formerly known as the Red Shield), the Ocean Dream, and the Steinmetz Pink. An interesting note, every source I've seen mention the stone up till the Splendour of Diamonds exhibition describes the Heart of Eternity as Fancy Intense Blue, but the Smithsonian website says GIA has graded it as Fancy Vivid Blue, one color grade higher. The gem is on loan to the exhibit by a private collector, in other words, it was sold sometime after the Millennium Dome Exhibition. Sources: Chaim Even-Zohar, Famous Diamonds by Ian Balfour, the Smithsonian Institute and various articles on and off the internet.
Hope Diamond (a great photo by Chip Clark)
Hope Diamond in it's display case
Hope Diamond in it's display case (another angle)
Hope Diamond and a replica of the stone cut by Scott Sucher from blue cubic zirconium.
The 45.52 carat steel blue Hope Diamond was found in India back in remote times as a rough crystal weighing 112 carats. It first came to light when Jean Baptiste Tavernier, the noted French traveler of the 17th century, was approached in India by a slave who had a very secretive manner about him.
It turned out that he had in his possession an intriguing steel blue stone which at first look seemed to be a large sapphire, but the well-experienced Tavernier soon realized it was a diamond – the largest deep blue diamond in the world.
Tavernier's diagram of the Hope's 112-carat rough form.
Legend has it the diamond came from the eye of an idol in a temple on the coleroon River in India. If that is so, one can only conjecture that the eye must have had a mate, but the fate of "the other eye" has never come to light. It would not be the first famous diamond that started it's notoriety in a religious idol. The Idol's Eye and the Orlov both came from idols, according to legend. Tavernier purchased the stone and smuggled it to Paris, where he later sold it to King Louis XIV. It was cut there into a triangular-pear-shaped stone weighing 67.50 carats, and was then known as the French Blue or the Tavernier Blue.
The legends of the ill-fortune following the possessor of the Hope Diamond are many. From the start Louis XIV, for whom Louisiana was named by La Salle, who claimed the lower Mississippi in his name, (and was killed by his own men) had ill-fortune follow him, perhaps deservedly.
Louis XIV gave the diamond to Madame de Montespan, but she soon went into royal discard. Then came a day when a great festival was given in honor of the King. The Director of Finance, Nicolas Fouquet, had planned well for the occasion, hoping to impress the court. What matter if France was tottering on the brink of revolution, and the nation’s finances none too stable. Was not he, Nicolas Fouquet, reputedly a wealthy man?
So he would borrow the diamond, and the king, he though, would be pleased with such a man of impressively good taste. It didn’t work out that way. After the party, Louis XIV had Nicolas arrested for embezzlement, regained the diamond, and Fouquet was made a “quest” of the Crown at the Fortress of Pignerol where he died 15 years later. Perhaps the idol laughed.
If it did, Louis XIV paid no heed. He continued his harsh rule. It was little wonder that when he was taken to his final resting place, the only lackeys accompanied his funeral carriage down the rutted road to St. Dennis.
Other wearers of the jewel at the Court of France might well have given credence to the legendary curse. Princess de Lamballie, and Marie Antoinette whole followed, both were guillotined during the French Revolution.
The diamond disappeared, and for many years it was not heard from at all, but in 1830, a large steel blue diamond of a different shape, and weighing only 44.50 carats appeared on the market in England was purchased by Henry Thomas Hope, an English banker. In 1851 the diamond was shown at a London exhibition and was insured for a million dollars, an INSANE amount of money for the time period, but then again, this was the largest diamond of it’s type in the world. It was later inherited by a descendant, Lord Francis Pelham Clinton Hope. His wife, formerly a prominent American actress, May Yohe, and a stage star at the beginning of the 20th century, ran away with another man. She died in Boston, Mass., in 1913, practically penniless and forgotten. She had little reguard for the Hope Diamond, and wrote the then owner, Evalyn Walsh McLean, commenting unfavorably on the jewel and the misfortune of it’s owners. Lord Hope eventually went bankrupt and again, the diamond vanished, only to be discovered by the estate trustees after it had been sold as a piece of costume jewelry and lightly reguarded.
This photo by Dane Penland is the most well-known of the Hope Diamond in the world.
Penland is a photographer for the Smithsonian and has taken photos of many of their gems.
The next owner was Abdul Hamid II, Sultan of Turkey, Caliph of Israel, Prince of the Faithful, Master of the World (plus a few more lowly titles). His subjects called him Abdul the Damned and did not take lightly to his despotic rule. He squeezed $450,000 out of his subjects and paid the sum to a syndicate of diamond dealers. Then he gave the diamond to Subaya, one of the four wives and 233 concubines who shared his harem. She wore the diamond well, but not well enough, and started palace intrigue against the Sultan, who found out and had her executed. One day, Mrs. Evalyn Walsh McLean attended a Turkish Court function and saw the famous blue diamond. She longed to possess it. Years passed and finally Abdul realized that his subjects had some rights, and the pressures of the political system were upon him. He had the jewel smuggled to Paris to be sold. Meanwhile, he was dethroned and received not a penny for the jewel…the proceeds were seized by his successors in government. Mrs. McLean bought the stone in January, 1911 and frequently wore it at her famous Washington parties. In 1949, two years after her death, Harry Winston purchased the McLean collection which contained not only the Hope Diamond, but the Star of the East Diamond as well. He later gave it to the nation, and it is now on display in Washington D.C.
An interesting illustration of the medalion setting the Hope was in before the platinum
and diamond necklace setting (made by Cartier around 1910) in which it now resides.
The world contains many gems of great repute. But by all standards of comparison, for fame or infamy, no other jewel so captured the imagination as did the Hope Diamond and it’s predecessor the French Blue. Truly it is the Queen of the Court of Jewels. Source: Lapidary Journal, August 1961.
Photo from the formal presentation of the Hope Diamond to the Smithsonian on September 10th, 1958. From left to right:
Mrs. Harry Winston, wife of the donor; Leonard Carmichael, Secretary of the Smithsonian; Dr. George S. Switzer, Curator of Mineralogy.
In 1975, the stone was removed from it’s setting to be cleaned and weighed. It turned out to actually weigh 45.52 carats rather than 44.50 carats, which is what was previously thought. Many people also believe the Hope is the largest blue diamond in the world, this isn't true, though. It's actually the 4th largest. It is however, the largest dark blue. The others are lighter shades. Source: (odds and ends, misc. books)
A photo of the Hope from the December, 1971 issue of National Geographic.
This is what the Smithsonian Institute (the stone's home) has to say about it. There are few more interesting details because this owner has done the most research on the stone:
It is not known exactly when and where the Hope Diamond was discovered, but it was prior to 1668 and most likely in the Golconda area of India. This region was the only major source of diamonds in the world prior to their discovery in Brazil in 1723. The Kollur mine, in particular, was well known as a source of colored diamonds. In 1668, Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, a French gem merchant, sold a 112 3/16-carat (approximately 110.50 modern metric carats) blue diamond from India to King Louis XIV of France. The diamond was cut in the Indian style, which emphasized size rather than brilliance; probably only the natural crystal faces were polished. The king had the stone recut into a heart shape in 1673, improving its brilliance and reducing it to 67 1/8 carats (69.03 modern metric carats). It is unlikely that any small diamonds could have been fashioned from the cuttings of the original stone.* In 1749 Louis XV had the diamond, now known as the French Blue, set into a piece of ceremonial jewelry for the Order of the Golden Fleece, which also featured a large white diamond and a red spinel, and was only worn by the king. During the reign of King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette the French Revolution erupted, an sometime between September 11th and September 17th, 1792, the royal treasury was looted and the Crown Jewels, including the French Blue, disappeared.
Three of the world's most famous blue diamonds. Left to right: The Heart of Eternity, the Hope,
and the Blue Heart Diamond; 27, 45 and 30 carats, respectively. The Hope looks larger than 45 carats
because it is a rather flat stone. The Heart of Eternity is Fancy Vivid Blue, the Hope is Fancy
Deep Grayish-Blue and the Blue Heart's color grade is Fancy Deep Blue(?).
The whereabouts of the stolen blue diamond for the next twenty years remains a mystery. Finally, in 1812, a memorandum by John Francillon, a London jeweler, dated precisely twenty years and two days after the Frenh Crown Jewels had been reported missing, documented the presence of a 44¼-carat (45.52 modern metric carats) blue diamond in England in the possession of London diamond merchant Daniel Eliason. This diamond was undoubtedly cut from the French Blue, a contention supported by the fact that, according to French law, the statute of limitations for any crimes committed during wartime twenty years, of which Francillon and his client were surely aware. The Francillon memorandum established the person in possession of the diamond as its new legal owner.
* Up until recently it has been speculated that the 13.75-carat blue diamond known as the "Brunswick Blue", missing for well over a century now, was a fragment of the French Blue. Other experts have argued the Brunswick Blue II, a 6.50-carat pear-shaped blue diamond is the fragment of the French Blue, rather than the 13.75-carat Brunswick Blue. This was later disproven beyond a shadow of a doubt by gem cutter/diamond replicator Scott Suchor with the help of Smithsonian mineralogy curator Jeffrey E. Post in a Discovery Channel television special "Unsolved History: The Hope Diamond." No secondary gems were fashioned from the French Blue when it was recut into the Hope Diamond.
SOURCES: The National Gem Collection by Jeffrey E. Post, Famous Diamonds by Ian Balfour, Diamonds - Famous, Notable & Unique by Lawrence Copeland. Scott Sucher: www.museumdiamonds.com
My replica Hope Diamond pin I bought from the Smithsonian through their catalogue around 1992. The piece was about $52 at the time. It now sells for circa $80. I have seen two versions of this pin: One with plastic outer stones, and one with cubic zirconias. The CZ version is better looking, in my opinion.
King Louis XIV was respsonsible for the addition of this pale orangey-pink diamond to the Crown Jewels of France. However, the Hortensia was not one of the diamonds which the King had purchased from Jean Baptiste Tavernier, because the largest stone of this particular color which he brought back from India weighed only 14? carats. The Hortensia was the foremost diamond in the third of the nineteen florets of buttonholes listed in the inventory of the Crown Jewels of France, made in 1691.
The diamond, which weighs 20 carats (20.53 metric carats) is pale orangey-pink, rather flat and rectangular in shape and is cut on five sides. In the 1791 inventory of the Crown Jewels it was valued at no more than 48,000 livres on account of a crack extending from the edge of the girdle to near the culet. It takes its name from Hortense de Beauharnais, Queen of Holland, undoubtedly because she wore it. Hortense was the daughter of the Empress Josephine, the step-daughter of Napoleon Bonaparte and the mother of Napoleon III.
The Hortensia was among the jewels stolen from the Garde Meuble in September of 1792. One year later it was recovered from the attic of an old house in the Halles district of Paris. The Regent Diamond was with it, as were a number of other jewels. As he was about to be executed, a man named Depeyron disclosed that he had hidden it in a bag containing gold and other diamonds, including the forementioned Regent, and where they were hidden.
During the First Empire the Hortensia was mounted on the fastening of Napoleon's epaulette braid. Later it was set in the center of the headband of the great diamond-encrusted comb made by the Court Jeweler, Bapst, for Empress Eugénie in 1856. In between, in 1830, the diamond was stolen again, on this occasion from the Ministry of the Marine, but it was quickly recovered.
When the French Crown Jewels were sold in 1887, the Hortensia was one of the items excluded, along with the Regent, because of their historic and artistic interest. The Sancy Diamond wouldn't join them in the Louvre until a little less than a century later.
"It is a very nice pink colour with a slight orangy tone to it," writes Michael Hing, a jeweler from Great Britain. Michael and I have corresponded a number of times about the major diamonds he has examined. "You could describe it as peach-coloured, but definitely on the pink side of peach. It has good clarity but there's quite a large scratch/crack on the pavilion." This gap is visible in the photo, at the 7-o'clock position under the table. Sources: Famous Diamonds by Ian Balfour and Diamond Cuts in Historic Jewelry 1381 - 1910 by Herbert Tillander.
The facet layout of the Hortensia Diamond.
The Idol's Eye
When you see the term 'a blue-white Golconda diamond', this the
type of stone being refered to. The Regent Diamond
is another example of a large Golconda stone.
The various published accounts of the early history of the Idol's Eye are worth of being included in A Thousand and One Nights, unfortunately, for the most part they must be considered to be entirely unauthentic. The diamond may have been found at Golconda around 1600, but seven years later it was certainly not seized from the Persian Prince Rahab by the East India Company as payment for debt. No such person is recorded in the history of Persia, and the East India Company was not created until several years later.
The first authenticated fact in the diamond's history was its appearance at a Christie's sale in London on July 14th, 1865, when it was described as "a splendid large diamond known as the Idol's Eye set round with 18 smaller brilliants and a framework of small brilliants." It was knocked down to a mysterious buyer simply designated as "B.B.". Later it is stated that the 34th Ottoman Sultan, Abdul Hamid II (1842-1918) owned the Idol's Eye. However the Idol's Eye would never, as has often been asserted, have been set in the eye of a temple in Benghazi because there are neither temples nor idols in that city, Benghazi having been Muslim since the 8th century AD.
When consideration is given to the shape of the Idol's Eye - something between an Old Mine cut and a triangular brilliant - it is not difficult to envisage its setting elsewhere as an eye. Indeed the stone compares favorably with others deemed to have been set in this manner which suggests that certain idols found in sacred buildings in the East have had very oddly-shaped eye-like orifices. The Idol's Eye weighs 70.21 metric carats and is clearly a Golconda diamond, possessing a slight bluish tinge so characteristic of many diamonds from that source.
Abdul Hamid II presided over the most autocratic regime that the Ottoman Empire had experienced since the 1700s. He was eventually defeated by the internal opposition which coalesced as the Young Turks. After his deposition in 1909 he lived in exile, first in Salonika, then in Instanbul where he died in 1918. It is said that the Sultan, sensing in which direction the politcal wind of his country was blowing, made provisions for his coming enforced retirement, which included the despatch of his jewels to a place of safety. Unfortunately the servant entrusted with them turned traitor and sold them in Paris. Whether or not this is the true version of events, it is known that the Idol's Eye was one of several large diamonds belonging to the deal Salomon Habib that came up for auction in Paris on June 24th, 1909. Afterwards a Spanish nobleman bought the diamond which he kept in a bank in London for some years.
After the end of World War II the Idol's Eye re-emerged when it was acquired by a Dutch dealer, from whom Harry Winston bought it in 1946. In the following year Mr. Winston sold the stone to Mrs. May Bonfils Stanton, daughter of Frederick G. Bonfils, the publisher and co-founder of the Denver Post. If many of the earlier characters associated with the diamond's history have proved to be ficticious, Mrs. Stanton goes some way to make up for them. Once a great beauty, she became a legendary figure in American life. From her early childhood she displayed an interest in jewels and began to assemble a famous collection. In addition to the Idol's Eye it was to include the Liberator Diamond and a diamond necklace studded with twelve emeralds weighing 107 carats, once owned by the Maharaja of Indore. She lived in beautiful isolation in a palatial mansion copied from the Petit Trianon in Versailles, and was said to have worn the Idol's Eye at her solitary breakfast every morning. The gem was set as the pendant to a diamond necklace containing 41 round brilliants totalling about 22.50 carats, plus another 45 baguettes weighing about 12 carats. Mrs. Stanton was also a supporter of numerous philanthropic causes in her native state of Colorado. After her death, in her eighties, in March of 1962, her jewels were auctioned in November by Parke-Bernet Galleries Inc. of New York; in accordance with the directions contained in her will the proceeds were distributed among various charities.
Harry Levinson, placing the Idol's Eye necklace around the neck of his wife, Marilyn.
This photo is from an article from 1973, the year he put it up for sale, but it may
have been taken in 1962 when Mr. Levinson originally bought the stone.
The Chicago jeweler Harry Levinson bought the Idol's Eye for $375,000, for his wife, Marilyn. In 1967 he loaned it to De Beers for an exhibition at the Diamond Pavilion in Johannesburg. Six years later in 1973, Mr. Levinson put the diamond up for sale in New York but subsequently withdrew it when the bidding failed to reach his $1,100,000 reserve. In 1979 Laurence Graff of London purchased the Idol's Eye. Harry Levinson loaned the diamond, before it was sold to Laurence Graff, for display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, at a 1982 reception celebrating the 50th anniversary of Harry Winston Inc. In the following January, Mr. Graff sold the Idol's eye, together with the Emperor Maximilian and a 70.54-carat Fancy Yellow diamond named the Sultan Abdul Hamid II and thought to have once been part of that ruler's jewelry collection. The sale of these three diamonds to the same buyer is considered to have been one of the highest priced transactions ever known.
The facet layout of the Idol's Eye. Eventually this
design will be retro-engineered into Gemcad so
replicas of the stone can be faceted from CZ.
The diamond is actually something of a triangular Old Mine cut, but rather than having 8 main facets it has 9, along with 9 pavilion main facets corresponding. There are also a number of non-symmetrical facets scattered around the crown and pavilion of the stone, as can be seen in the facet layout drawing. Sources: Famous Diamonds by Ian Balfour, Traditional Jewelry of India by Oppi Untracht, and Diamond Cuts in Historic Jewelry - 1381 to 1910 by Herbert Tillander.
The Incomparable was found in its rough state weighing 890 carats, and was found in the town of Mbuji Mayi in the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) in the 1980s. It was found by a young young girl playing in a pile of rubble outside her uncle's house. This rubble had been legitimately collected from old mine dumps from the nearby MIBA Diamond Mine, having been rejected during the recovery process as being too bulky to be worth scanning for diamonds. The girl gave the diamond to her uncle, who sold it to some local African diamond dealers, who in turn sold it to a group of Lebanese buyers operating out of Kinshasa.
It was later purchased in Antwerp by the Senior De Beers Buyer. As a result, Sir Philip Oppenheimer, then president of the Central Selling Organization and a De Beers director, sold it to Donald Zale, chairman of the board of the Zale Corporation, the Dallas-based jewelry store chain. He bought the diamond in partnership with Marvin Samuels, of the Premier Gems Corporation, and Louis Glick, both prominent figures in the New York diamond industry. The huge stone was finally unveiled in November, 1984, which coincided with the Zale Corporation's 75th anniversary (their Diamond Anniversary). Shortly afterwards it was put on display at the Natural History wing of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC.
The Incomparable in the hand of Leo Wins, master diamond cutter.
The job of overseeing the cutting was given to Mr. Samuels, renowned for his experience and expertise in the faceting of large diamonds. This diamond showed its fair share of problems. Its basic shape is extremely irregular: it was thicker at one end, narrower at the other; sunken and pitted on one side, ridged on the other. The surface was very rough, pitted with various gaps, cavities and cracks. At least it came as something of a relief that, after a part of the surface had been initially polished and the interior opened up (which is known as "cutting a window") for inspection, It was virtually free of inclusions.
The Incomparable's 890-carat rough form, left, and the finished Incomparable in its gold ornament stand, right.
Four years were spent studying and then cutting the stone. Its owners were faced with a dilemma: Should they go for a gem with a weight that would exceed that of the Cullinan I (530.20 carats) or fashion a smaller, flawless gem, by removing the internal inclusions. "Never forget it - 531 carats. That indelible, non-negotiable 531, and only one chance to get it," Samuels later said. However, during the course of the second year's work on the stone, Mr. Samuels and the cutters knew it would be necessary to give up any thought of surpassing the weight of the Cullinan I, despite the reluctance of some who continued to argue for size as opposed to perfection.
The Incomparable, with its satelite stones. The stone
directly in front of it is the 15.66-carat kite-shape
mentioned in the paragraph below.
Before faceting of the largest piece began, work was started on the 14 fragments that had been sawn from the rough stone. Mr. John Sampson White, then Curator of Mineralogy at the Smithsonian, examined these "leftovers" and he made an interesting discovery; the first thing that caught his eye was their variation in color. He had handled the 890-carat uncut stone many times before but he had never noticed any differences of color within. Some of the fragments were rich yellow with a slight brown overtone, like a smokey amber; others were a pale yellow, and the rest were virtually colorless. Those with the brownish tone had come from the darkest zone of the crystal, but making up just part of the crystal's surface, most of this dark material had been removed. With this removal, the final body color of the diamond turned out to be mostly a medium yellow color. Mr. Sampson White's examination caused him to realize that the rough stone had not been uniformly colored, but extraordinarily color-zoned. That is, the crystal had been composed of sharply defined areas of differing colors, each color representing some change in the environment that must have happened as the crystal was growing. At one stage, the stone had been colorless, then nature had added a thickness of pale yellow diamond, followed by a "skin" of smokey amber-colored diamond. From the fragments, fourteen satelite gems were cut, the largest being a kite shape of 15.66 carats; the others of varying shapes, weighed 6.01, 5.28, 4.33, 3.45, 3.32, 3.31, two weighing 2.74, 1.99, 1.74, 1.63, 1.52, and 1.33 carats.
The Incomparable's very unusual facet pattern, as captured from its Gemcad file.
If you'd like a copy of this file, please email me.
The biggest piece of rough ultimately yielded a gem weighing 407.48 carats; it is the third largest diamond ever cut, only the Golden Jubilee and Cullinan I are larger. It measures 53.90 × 35.19 × 28.18 mm, and has been graded by the Gem Trade Laboratory Incorporated as a Shield-Shaped Step Cut, Internally Flawless clarity and Fancy Brownish-Yellow in color. GIA later graded the stone in 1988. Its unusual triangular shape elicited a new imaginary term from Marvin Samuels -- a "triolette."
Prior to its appearance at auction in New York on October 19th, 1988, the diamond was offered at Christie's in London where it was called "the Golden Giant." However, when the gem came up for auction again it had been renamed Incomparable, the largest diamond ever offered to the public for sale. It was hoped the diamond would fetch $20 million but it was withdrawn from sale when bidding failed the seller's reserve price (which actually was $20 million). Either way, history had been made: the late Theodore Horovitz of Geneva, placed a bid for $12 million, the highest price ever bid at auction for a single stone at that time. Louis Glick is said to still own the stone to this date.
In November, 2002, the Incomparable appeared on the internet auction site Ebay. The seller wanted an opening bid of about $15 million (I can't remember the exact number). Oddly, the word "Incomparable" was never mentioned anywhere in the text of the auction. The auction's time ran out, the stone remained unsold. The specifications of the stone itself were listed, as was a scan of the stone's GIA certificate. It is now the largest diamond ever offered on Ebay, or any other internet auction site.
British gemologist Michae Hing was able to handle the stone personally and has a funny story to tell about it: "The [stone's] stand is shaped like a polished golden spoon, with the handle of the spoon bent round to form the base. The spoon acts like a mirror to reflect the light and make the stone more brilliant and more orangy. The diamond is cut so fat, it’s almost cylindrical, and it looks much better in the stand (it just clips into place - there’s a sort of springy clip inside the lip of the stand). When I was in London, they took out the diamond for cleaning and they accidentally put it back in upside-down, so it was on display with the culet facing upwards for several weeks before I came back and pointed out that it was the wrong way up! Tens of thousands of people must have seen it, but nobody noticed."
Sources: Famous Diamonds by Ian Balfour, The Nature of Diamonds by George E. Harlow, various magazine publications, and the GIA website.
The Indore Pears
The Indore Pears set as a pair of earrings.
These two diamonds are linked to the Malabar Hill Murder: One evening in January of 1925 at an hour when the hanging gardens of Malabar Hill, one of the most salubrious parts of Bombay, were crowded with people, an official of the Bombay Corporation was driving along its ridge, accompanied by a friend and a Muslim woman. Suddenly their car was attacked by armed men. The official was murdered and the two others were injured badly. Four British officers passing by went to their aid, and managed to detain one of the assailant. The press reported that the evidence indicated that the robbery was not the motive for the crime, but rather revenge or an attempt at abduction. The Times stated that the Bombay police were offering a reward of 10,000 rupees for information, but added that 'it is feared however that the organization behind the gang is so powerful, wealthy and unscrupulous, that it would offer even greater inducements to remain silent.'
During an earlier case before the Bombay High Court it was revealed that the Muslim woman, Mumtaz Begum, had been a dancing girl at the Court of Tukoji Rao III, Maharaja of Indore, one of the three great Maratha states in central India. She had been one of the many concubines of the Prince, who was capivated by her, but she did not return his feelings. While the entourage of the Maharaja was travelling, the girl had jumped off his private train, escaping to Amritsar, thence to Bombay where she came under the protection of a rich merchant. It was agreed that the crime on Malabar Hill could not be ignored: Mumtaz Begum had recognized her assailants as an aide-de-camp of the Maharaja and members of the Indore army and mounted police. The Maharaja's involvement in the crime was never made public but he was asked either to appear at the subsequent official inquiry or abdicate in favor of his son. In the following year he chose the latter course.
The Indore Pears set in a baguette diamond necklace.
While travelling in Switzerland after his abdication, he met Nancy Ann Miller, a rich young American. Amid much publicity the couple married in 1928. The bride embraced the Hindu religion and subsequently became known as the Maharanee Shamista Davi Holkar. In 1946 Harry Winston bought the two pear-shaped diamonds; weighing 46.95 and 46.70 carats, which the Maharanee had worn on many occasions. Mr. Winston had the diamonds recut to 46.39 and 44.14 carats and shown in his famous Court of Jewels Exhibition, which also featured the Hope Diamond. In 1953 he sold them to a client from Philadelphia, repurchasing them in 1958 and selling them to another client in New York. In 1976 Mr. Winston bought the Indore Pears yet again before selling them to a member of a royal family. Finally Christie's auctioned them in Geneva, in November of 1980, and again in November of 1987. Robert Mouawad is the present owner of the diamonds. Different listings for the color and clarity grades have surfaced for the pair of diamonds. The Mouawad website simply says 'E-VVS2' but at the same time a reputable Japan-based website lists them both as D-color, and one Internally Flawless, the other VVS1. Sources: Famous Diamonds by Ian Balfour and Diamonds - Famous, Notable and Unique by GIA.
The Iranian Yellows
These African diamonds were acquired by Nasseridin Shah on his third trip to Europe in 1889, and are collectively known as the Iranian Yellows. There are a number of collections of large diamonds on display in the Iranian Treasury, however due to security concerns, the largest diamond in this collection, which is a 152.16-carat stone, is not pictured here. The next largest in the collection is the 135.45-carat stone in the center of the photo. This is rather amazing, considering the Regent Diamond, one of the world's most famous, weighs 140.50 carats. Three of the other diamonds shown here are between 114 and 120 carats each.
The center stone in the photo is listed in the GIA book Diamonds - Famous, Notable and Unique by GIA, as being #2 on a list of 23 diamonds known as the Iranians. The stones are numbered in order of largest to smallest. The list reads as follows:
1 — 152.16 carats; rectangular old brilliant; silver cape
2 — 135.45 carats; high (old) cushion brilliant; cape
3 — 123.93 carats; high (old) cushion brilliant; silver cape
4 — 121.90 carats; multi-faceted octahedron; cape
5 - 114.28 carats; high (old) cushion brilliant; silver cape
6 — 86.61 carats; rounded triangular brilliant; cape
7 — 86.28 carats; irregular Mogul cut; silver cape
8 — 78.96 carats; high (old) cushion brilliant; cape
10 — 75.00 carats (est.); pendeloque brilliant; silver cape
11 — 75.00 carats (est.); pendeloque brilliant; silver cape
12 — 72.84 carats; irregular pear shape; champagne
13 — 65.65 carats; rectangular (old) brilliant, cape
14 — 60.00 carats (est.); cushion brilliant; yellow
15 — 57.85 carats; round brilliant; silver cape
16 — 57.15 carats; cushion brilliant; silver cape
17 — 56.19 carats; cushion brilliant; silver cape
18 — 66.57 carats; cushion brilliant; silver cape
19 — 54.58 carats; irregular oval Mogul cut; colorless
20 — 54.35 carats; high (old) cushion brilliant; peach
21 — 53.50 carats; high (old) cushion brilliant; silver cape
22 — 51.90 carats; elliptical Mogul cut; colorless
23 — 38.18 carats; multi-faceted trapezoid cut; colorless.
None of the diamonds are a saturated yellow color, but rather a light yellow. If they were graded by GIA they would probably fall in the L-M-N range of the color scale. However, due to their immense size, their yellow color is more noticable than if they were smaller stones.
Photo © Debeers Archives
The job of a diamond digger is very different from that of a diamond miner. Whereas a miner may be exposed to a greater degree of physical risk - although the safety records of diamond mines is second to none - he or she will also enjoy all the benefits that a large company or corporation can offer him both during his active working life and his retirement.
On the other hand diamond digging is generally a very precarious line of work and even the most experienced diggers barely make enough to keep alive. However, hope springs eternal in the human heart and his or her faith alone is enough, it would seem, to spur diggers on to continue to work their claims, in spite of the great odds stacked against them.
Occasionally a lucky digger has struck it rich and made an exceptional find. One such person was 62-year-old Johannes Jacobus Jonker who had been trying his luck at various occupations for 18 years throughout South Africa. At the time of his momentous find he was working a claim at Elandsfontein, 4.8 kilometers south of the Premier Mine and about 40 kilometers east of Pretoria, South Africa's administrative capital. It was said that he was always on the brink of fortune but always poor -- and he had seven children (though, at 62, most of them were probably grown).
January 17th, 1934 dawned a cold, windy day. After the pouring rain had ploughed up the earth, Johannes decided to stay at home because he had been out of luck and was feeling discouraged. Instead, he sent his son Gert along with two of his native South African employees to direct operations on the claim. One of them, Johannes Makani, was washing a bucketful of gravel when he suddenly stopped dead in his tracks and picked up something. Without saying anything he walked to the cleaning camp and scrubbed the object which he had found, which had been caked with dirt. He then threw his hat in the air and shouted "Oh god, I have found it!" he rushed across to Gert Jonker who at first thought he was looking at a piece of glass, but when he realized it was a real diamond, he rushed to tell his father. When he found him, all he got was a parental scorn for riding wrecklesly...however, when Jacobus too realized it was a diamond, he went down on his knees and thanked god.
The object turned out to indeed be a diamond of an enlongated shape measuring about 63.5 by 31.75 mm, a fine ice-white color and weighing 726 carats. At the time of its discovery the Jonker was the fourth largest gem quality diamond ever unearthed; it was moved to fifth placed four years later when the President Vargas, weighing just 0.6 carats more, was found.
Understandably no one in the Jonker household had ever seen a diamond larger than a hen's egg abd some still doubted whether it could be a diamond. Mrs. Jonker, however, wasn't taking any chances; she put it down a stocking and tied the stocking around her neck. She went to bed but never managed to fall asleep, while men kept guard at the door of the poor hut with loaded revolvers.
The Jonker Diamond in its rough state.
The story of the Jonker Diamond includes the names of several men prominent in the diamond industry. One of them was Joseph Bastiaenen who had started his career in the London offices of the Diamond Syndicate, the precursor of the present Diamond Trading Company, after World War I. Ten years later he was sent by Sir Ernest Oppenheimer as head sorter of the Diamond Corporation's head office in Kimberley; then he was appointed a buyer for the Diamond Corporation in the alluvial fields and it was in that capacity that he bought the Jonker, up against severe competition from buyers representing famous diamond firms from all over the world.
About a week after the purchase of the Jonker Mr. Bastiaenen brought the diamond into to the Kimberley office where his colleagues proceeded to ask him questions, many of which had to do with the perilous state of the diamond industry at the time and the huge amount of money the stone has cost the company. In the middle of these conversations the Jonker fell off the sorting table and rolled, and in a light-hearted moment one or two of the more rambunctious members of the staff started kicking it around the room, much to the alarm of the man who had just paid a fortune for it.
Reports of the amount paid for the Jonker varied between £61,000 and £75,000. The transaction also involved another large crystal weighing 281 carats which had been found within 100 meters of the Jonker crystal a mere few days earlier. The stone was the Pohl, named after another diamond digger, J.M. Pohl. However, although of a fine white color, it contained several imperfections. Soon after the sale of the Jonker crystal to the Diamond Corporation, the South Africa government moved in quickly demanding about one-third of the stone's value for taxes -- the equivalent of 6 years' work -- in income tax, super-tax and provincial tax. The Minister o Mines agreed that certain sums of money spent in the discovery of the stone should be deducted from the purchase price and exempted from being taxed. The Jonker family would claim:
£14,755 ... Cost of digging operations for 18 years (the amount of time it took to actually find the stone)
£3600 ... 'Donations' (?)
£1000 ... Preliminary expenses
£1000 ... Cost of negotiating the sale
£755 ... Donations to churches (no sane court would have allowed this as a deduction, being a mere option of free will rather than necessity)
£200... Travelling expenses
The Receiver of Revenue didn't allow any items except for the first and last, but he cut the first from £14,755 to £2000 and the last from £200 to £100. So, faced with a reduction of the tax exemption from £21,310 to just £2100, the Jonkers petitioned the House of Assembly to grant them the exemption they claimed, but in vain. Jacobus Jonker must have thought of himself as a citizen of the Holy Roman Empire rather than of South Africa because he underlined in his bible, St. Luke, Chapter 2, Verse 1: "And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Ceasar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed."
This misfortune was only the first for Jonker. The diamond crystal he found may have brought him wealth but it destroyed his peace of mind -- for years he had led the life of a poverty-stricken digger, moving from one diamond field to another without a fixed abode. When his famous stone was found he was living in a prospector's shack. With the money he got from the diamond he bought a farm, some cattle and a limousine, but at heart he remained a simple countryman and was never able to cope with the realities of the commercial world that his great discovery had pushed him into. The effect this had on his finances was disasterous and within a few years all he had left were his memories and his good name....fame and fortune had forsaken him.
The fact the Jonker was discovered just 5 kilometers from the Premier Mine and since it was such a white, high-quality stone inevitably led to speculation as to whether it had once been part of the Cullinan crystal. This giant stone, found in the Premier Mine 29 years earlier, possessed a cleavage face on one side so smooth that it suggested it may have previously formed part of a much larger crystal. Indeed the "missing half of the Cullinan" has remained to this day a topic for debate in diamond specialist circles and among those who examined the question was Dr. J.R. Sutton, the author of Diamond, A Descriptive Treatise who wrote the following letter to a gemological publication on March 20th, 1934:
I have delayed answering your letter until I could see the newly found Jonker Diamond. This I have seen and compared it with a fine glass model of the Cullinan. Also I have discussed the matter of the latter stone with Mr. E. Weatherby, Valuator of Diamond Corporation, who had examined it carefully after it was found.
"The resemblance between the Cullinan and Jonker stones is remarkable. In fact if the latter were four times its actual size, the two would almost be twin brothers. Each stone has the same broad base (cleavage plane). Each has suffered damage by splintery fracture; and what is significant, the base on each is surrounded by a small rounded bevel mainly conforming to the dodecahedral plane both about 1/10 of an inch [2.5 mm] across. The chief difference is that whereas the base on the Cullinan is not exactly plane, though smooth, the base of the Jonker is not smooth and carries some small projections.
"Mr. Weatherby is empathetic that the Cullinan is not a cleavage piece in the mineralogical sense. He never had any doubts that it is a whole stone as nature made it, saving minor accidents. All this confirms me in my opinion.
"Of the authors you quote is there one that can be reguarded as an expert in the study of natural diamond, especially diamond and cleaving? Is there one whose knowledge is equal to, say, a week's work in a big diamond office? They have all been in museums and elsewhere, and Crookes experimented somewhat on the stone. But their united testimony only comes to this: that one copies what the other has said, all taking Corstorphine's 'technical description' as gospel!
"I have seen an unbroken diamond fresh from the mine which I would wager diamond to paste that every one of the same authors would have said had been roughly shaped by a cutter...My definition of cleavage would be 'the opened face of a split diamond'. Cleavage as a trade term includes both broken diamonds and unbroken misshapen lumps.
"Both the Cullinan and Jonker would be trade cleavages.
"I left Corstorphine's technical description behind in South Africa; but speaking from memory there was no suggestion in it of a proper examination of the 'cleavage faces'. With few exceptions octahedral faces of the diamond crystals carry triangular indentations [trigons]. But on 'occasional so-called glassies' one may look in vain for these markings: the surface being as mirror-like as a cleavage face... All things considered it seems to me that those who claim the Cullinan as a piece of a much bigger stone have a stuff proposition to prove.
"P.S. The Jonker and Cullinan clearly grew under identical conditions. Therefore, the Jonker not being a portion of a much bigger stone it is a fair argument that the Cullinan is also not a fragment."
Actress Shirley Temple holding the Jonker
rough. This is a good photo to show scale.
As well as being a historical event in itself, the discover of the Jonker Diamond marked several firsts in diamond lore. The stone became the first large one to be sold through the De Beers Central Selling Organization which under the guidance of Sir Ernest Oppenheimer, had superseded the old syndicate of diamond buying firms. The Jonker was shipped by ordinary registered mail to the group's London offices on Charterhouse Street.
At the same time Harry Winston became interested in buying the diamond. In 1935 he contacted Hugo Prins, then senior partner of the firm of I. Hennig & Co., who were already brokers to a number of different firms in the diamond cutting part of the industry. In the end, these contacts led to Mr. Winston's purchase of the Jonker and marked the first of many purchases of unique large diamonds which the company of Harry Winston Inc. was to make over the following years from the Central Selling Organization. In the case of the Jonker the negotiations understandably lasted several weeks, with Hennig's acting on behalf of Mr. Winston. It was thought that the Jonker was sold for an amount in excess of £150,000. The Pohl Diamond was again included in the sale.
The year 1935 was the year of the Royal Silver Jubilee celebrations and in order to accommodate the many important persons who had come to London for the even and who wished to inspect the Jonker, Mr. Winston consented to it been left in London for a while. The decision to let the gem remain there was also influenced by the suggestion coming from several influential areas that the Jonker would make an excellent gift to King George V and Queen Mary, both of whom had seen the diamond. It was thought that popular subscription from the public with the objective of buying the stone was considered but in the end it never happened. The Jonker eventually made its trans-Atlantic trip to Mr. Winston's offices in New York City. Unfortunately, the king died the following year, and Edward, his oldest son, was to be crowned Edward VIII, but abdicated. The king's second son became George VI.
A woman models the Hope Diamond and holds the Jonker Diamond (in her hands). This
was probably a Harry Winston employee or a model. Mr. Winston would donate the Hope
to the Smithsonian in 1958. This photo was probably taken in either 1948 or 1949 when
he owned the Hope and Jonker at the same time, having bought the Hope from the estate
of Evalyn Walsh McLean, but before having sold the Jonker to King Farouk of Egypt. The
necklace she holds in her hands is the same piece at the top of this page.
When the Jonker reached New York Harry Winston received numerous requests throughout the United States to place it on exhibition, so he consented to its display at the Natural History Museum. But there was the more immediate and important problem of cutting the diamond. No diamond of comparable size or value had been cut in the United States. Mr. Winston's choice of cutter fell on Lazare Kaplan, who was descended from three generations of jewelers and had learned the craft of diamond cutting in Belgium. Mr. Kaplan had established a reputation as an outstanding cleaver and cutter, known especially for his insistence on obtaining the maximum fire and brilliance in a gem even if doing so resulted in a slightly greater loss of caratweight. In 1914 Mr. Kaplan transferred his business to the North American continent aand he was the pioneer in establishing the diamond cutting industry in Puerto Rico.
An additional reason for choosing Lazare Kaplan to cut the Jonker was the fact that, not long before, he had successfully cut its constant companion, the Pohl Diamond. The yield had been fifteen gems, all flawless except for one, which nonetheless sold for $50,000. The largest diamond, an emerald cut weighing 38.10 metric carats, has retained the name Pohl and was once owned by art collector Bernice Chrysler Garbisch, daughter of the found of the Chrysler Motor Corporation (now Daimler-Chrysler).
But the task of cutting the Jonker confronted Lazare Kaplan with a far greater challenge -- the biggest he had ever encountered. Only two diamonds comparable to this stone had previously been found -- the 3,106-carat Cullinan and the 995.2-carat Excelsior, both cut by the Asscher firm -- and of the two, only the former had been cleaved. The task of cutting the Jonker was not made easier by the fact it possessed a degree of frostiness on its surface (visible in the above photos of the rough), thereby rendering its cutting and polishing an even more hazardous operation. In addition, the insurers refused to cover the cutting of the diamond -- even tohugh they had been prepared to let it travel to New York by ordinary registered mail!
Lazare Kaplan studied the Jonker for months: he made many models of it, precisely reconstucting the crystallization of the diamond. At the time it was said that he lived, ate and breathed the stone. His minute examination of the Jonker paid off, for he noticed a small ledge on the stone -- a fact which opened his eyes to the mistake that those European who had studied it and made suggestions about its cutting had earlier made. It took strong self-assurance to follow his conviction but Mr. Kaplan realized that there lay only one way in which the diamond could be cleaved. He calmly marked the cleavage lines with Indian ink, a device which he originated but which some reguarded as mere affection on his part. Afterwords he stated that the Jonker was a 'freak of nature'; what resembled the cleavage plane was not in fact the cleavage at all. At one point he had been about to split the stone when he notice a microscopic bend in a slight surface crack. At the crucial moment all his calculations therefore went awry.
A cubic zirconia replica of the Jonker Diamond which I got from NW Diamonds & Gems.
Finally the day came when the first cleavage took place. It was April 27th, 1936 when a 35-carat section was split off the stone: this piece yielded the single marquise among the gems. Two more cleavings took place; the rest of the division was done by sawing. The figures, below, indicate the course of the cutter and polishing of the Jonker; it is of especial interest to note how close the final weights of the 13 gems were to earlier estimates that Lazare Kaplan had given to Harry Winston.
Estimated (left section) and Actual Finished (right), MQ = Marquise, EC = Emerald cut
Rough Weight...Dimensions...Apprx. Weight......Dimensions(mm) ... Weight ... Rank
35.82 cts ... 30 × 12 ... 17 cts ............ 29.5 × 12.2 ... MQ, 15.77 cts ... VIII
79.65 cts ... 23 × 17 ... 42 cts ............ 23.2 × 18.3 ... EC, 41.29 cts ... II
43.30 cts ... 17 × 14 ... 20 cts ............ 17.3 × 14.6 ... EC, 19.76 cts ... VII
54.19 cts ... 21 × 16 ... 30 cts ............ 21.7 × 16.2 ... EC, 25.78 cts ... V
52.77 cts ... 22 × 16 ... 35 cts ............ 22.8 × 16.3 ... EC, 30.71 cts ... IV
65.28 cts ... 24 × 14 ... 35 cts ............ 24.8 × 16.5 ... EC, 35.45 cts ... III
13.57 cts ... 16 × 7.5 ... 6 cts ............ 15.5 × 8.8 .... EC, 5.70 cts .... XI
53.95 cts ... 20 x 15 ... 25 cts ............ 20.3 × 15.2 ... EC, 24.9l cts ... VI
10.98 cts ... 10.5 × 10 .. 5 cts ............ 10.8 × 10.3 ... EC, 5.30 cts .... XII
220.00 cts .. 33 × 31 ... 150 cts ........... 33.7 × 30.8 ... EC, 142.90 cts .. I
29.46 cts ... 15.25 × 12.25 .. 14 cts ....... 15.3 × 12.2 ... EC, 11.43 cts ... X
27.85 cts ... 16.5 × 12.5 .. 14 cts ......... 16.5 × 12.3 ... EC, 13.55 cts ... IX
8.28 cts .... Baguette ... 4 cts ............ 12.3 × 7.2 ........ 3.53 cts .... XIII
695.10 carats total
10.73 carats rough and miscellaneous fancies returned to Harry Winston Inc.
5.37 carats cleaving loss
13.22 carats sawing loss
1.57 carats opening loss
The largest diamond, which has retained the name Jonker, originally weighed 142.9 carats, cut with 66 facets. Later the proportions were changed, to impart to it a more oblong outline and greater brilliance. The stone was also flawed, apparently. It was thus reduced to a weight of 125.35 carats, cut with 58 facets. In the opinion of many who had inspected it, Jonker I is perhaps the most perfectly cut gem in existence. Whenever it was put on exhition in various parts of the United Statres it attracted even more attention than the rough stone had ever done.
In 1949 King Farouk of Egypt bought the gem, but following his deposition and subsequent exile in 1952 its whereabouts became a mystery. It reappeared, however, in the ownership of Queen Ratna of Nepal. In 1977 it changed hands again when it was sold privately in Hong Kong for a reported $2,259,400 US. So far as is known the 1977 buyer of the diamond still remains the owner today.
The Jonker II, left, and Jonker VIII.
The exact location of the remaining gems is not known for sure. It was reported that the Maharajah of Indore was the purchaser of the Jonkers V, VII, XI and XII, while John D. Rockefeller Jr. was rumored to have been the buyer of Jonker X. On October 16th, 1975 the Jonker IV, set in a platinum ring, came up for auction at Sotheby Parke-Bernet Inc. in New York and was sold to a South American private collector for £276,609. On that occasion the gem was given a superb gemological rating -- a tribute to both the quality of the original rough stone and to the skill of Lazare Kaplan, the master cutter who had fashioned it thirty years earlier. The same diamond came up for sale again in New York in December of 1987, when it fetched $1,705,000. Finally, Jonker II, with a slightly reduced weight of 40.26 carats, was sold by Sotheby's Geneva location, in May of 1994, for $1,974,830. Sources: Famous Diamonds by Ian Balfour, Diamonds - Famous, Notable and Unique by GIA, and various articles (will post them when I can find them again). AM DIAMONDS! STOP STEALING MY STUFF!
This glorious colorless, cushion-shaped diamond with a weight of 245.35 carats ranks as the sixth largest diamond in the world. The original rough stone, an irregular octahedron without definite faces or shape weighed 650.80 (metric) carats; it was found in the Jagersfontein Mine towards the end of 1895. A consortium of London diamond merchants comprising the firms of Wernher, Beit & Co., Barnato Bros. and Mosenthal Sons & Co. acquired the Jubilee together with the Excelsior. At first the stone was named the Reitz in honor of Francis William Reitz, then president of the Orange Free State in which Jagersfontein is located.
In 1896 the consortium sent the diamond to Amsterdam where it was polished by M.B. Barends, under the supervision of Messieurs Metz. First, a piece weighing 40 carats or so was cleaved; this yielded a fine clean pear shape of 13.34 carats which was bought by Dom Carlos I of Portugal as a present for his wife. The present whereabouts of this gem are unknown. The remaining large piece was then polished into the Jubilee. When during the cutting it became evident that a superb diamond of exceptional purity and size was being produced, it was planned to present it to Queen Victoria. In the end this did not happen and the diamond remained with its owners. The following year marked the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria (the 60th anniversary of her coronation) so the gem was renamed the Jubilee to commemorate the occasion. In the world of diamonds the event was also marked by the introduction of of the Jubilee cut; this has the characteristics of both the brilliant and rose cuts in that the table is replaced by eight facets, meeting in the center, the total number of facets being increased to 88. This cut was short-lived and is not often encountered today.
In 1900 the consortium displayed the Jubilee at the Paris Exhibition where it was one of the centers of attention. At the time it was valued at 7,000,000 francs. Shortly afterwards Sir Dorabji Jamsetji Tata bought the diamond. He was the Indian philanthropist and industrialist who laid the foundation of his country's steel and iron industry; these and cotton mills created by his father formed the cornerstone of modern India's economic development.
Sir Dorabji Jamsetji Tata died in 1932. In 1935 his heirs sent the Jubilee for sale at Cartier, who in December of that year mounted it in a display of historic diamonds. For a buyer the firm first looked to the Gaekwar of Baroda who in 1928 had appointed Cartier as his sole advisors on purchases of precious stones. Their representatives were prepared to sell the Jubilee for the price of £75,000. Having sought authorization from the treasury department in Baroda for the purchase, and despite encouragement from its officials, the Gaekwar opted not to buy the diamond. So in 1937 Cartier sold the Jubilee instead to M. Paul-Louis Weiller, the Paris industrialist and patron of the arts. The diamond's former setting was changed into a brooch with a number of diamond baguettes, resembling either a six-pointed star or a stylized turtle.
Mr. Weiller was always generous about loaning the Jubilee to exhibitions including one staged at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington in 1960 and another held in Geneva in December of the same year. In 1966 the Jubilee returned to South Africa where it was featured in the De Beers Diamond Pavilion in Johannesburg.
Mr. Robert Mouawad has since bought the Jubilee which is now the largest gem in his great collection. It has been graded as E-color, one grade away from completely colorless, and VVS2 clarity. He is quoted as saying: "If we refer to the human contribution brought to a diamond, my favorite would be the Jubilee for its outstanding cut for the period." Source: Famous Diamonds by Ian Balfour, and the Mouawad website, which is where I found the stone's color and clarity grade.
The Kahn Canary
Discovered in Crater of Diamonds State Park, near Murfreesboro, Arkansas in 1977, the Kahn Canary is considered to be an unnofficial symbol of the state. Bought and named by Stan Kahn of Kahn Jewlers in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, the Kahn Canary has been lent to Hillary Rodham Clinton to wear at her husband's inaugurals, both as Governor of Arkansas, and as President of the United States.
The Kahn Canary is very rare in comparison to other diamonds. Because of its flawless condition, fairly bright surface and pleasing natural triangular pillow shape (a macle crystal), the it has remained uncut. Its strong yellow color and brilliance impress all those who see it. Because of its natural, uncut form, the Kahn Canary is a perfect example to represent Arkansas, nicknamed "The Natural State". The diamond is presently mounted in a ring custom-designed for Mrs. Clinton for the January, 1993 Inaugural.
The diamond was discovered by George Stepp of Carthage, Arkansas. He later sold the stone to Kahn. Crater of Diamonds State Park is the world's only publicly-owned diamond site where visitors may search for diamonds and other gems and keep what they find, regardless of the value of the stone. It is one of the state's bigger tourist attractions. The park's 36½ acre search area is the eroded surface of a craton -- an ancient gem-bearing volcanic pipe. Besides diamonds, other precious and semi-precious stones are found within the volcanic matrix such as garnet, amethyst, jasper, agate and quartz.
A Flawless, 70-carat, step cut, champagne-colored diamond that was found in the Kimberley Mine, South Africa. It was recut into this modern shape in in 1921 from a large, flat stone that was once in the Russian Crown Jewels. In 1958, the stone was again recut by it's owners, Baumgold Bros., New York City, to improve the proportions and increase brilliancy. It now weighs 55.09 carats and is valued by the firm at $500,000, but is probably worth considerably more. Baumgold Bros. sold the stone in 1971 to an undisclosed collector. Source: Diamonds: Famous, Notable and Unique (GIA)
It has been said that whoever owned the Koh-I-Noor ruled the world, a suitable statement for this, the most famous of all diamonds and a veritable household name in many parts of the world. Legend has suggested that the stone may date from before the time of Christ; theory indicates the possibility of its appearance in the early years of the 1300s; history proves its existence for the past two and a half centuries. The first writer has stated:
"Reguarding its traditional history, which extends 5000 years further back, nothing need be said here; though it has afforded sundry imaginative writers with a subject for highly characteristic paragraphs we have no record of its having been at any time a cut stone."
The earliest authentic reference to a diamond which may have been the Koh-I-Noor is found in the Baburnama, the memoirs of Babur, the first Mogul ruler of India. Born in 1483, Babur (meaning 'lion' -- the name was not given to him at birth but appears to be a nickname, deriving from an Arabic or Persian word meaning 'lion' or 'tiger') was descended in the fifth generation from Tamerlane on the male side and in th fifteenth degree from Genghis Khan on the female side. With the blood in his veins of two of the greatest conquerors Asia has ever seen, it is not all that surprising that Babur himself should have become a great conqueror in his own right.
As a young man Babur owed his survival and success on the political and military battlefields to a combination of winning personal qualities and swift opportunism; these were to insure his conquest of the plains of northern India. But in addition to being a warrior, Babur was a cultured and civilized man - a writer and poet.
A miniature of Babur dating from the 1500s.
In the Baburnama, Babur alluded to the Sultan Al-ed-Din Khalji, the ruler of Delhi from 1295 to 1316. The year before his accession the Sultan had led an expidition to the Deccan or 'the South', the high and relatively cool plateau between the Narmada and the Tungabhadra-Krishna River, where he conquered Malwa and captured a large amount of booty. At that time, Al-ed-Din was just a prince serving under his uncle, Jalal-Ud-Din, but in 1295 he murdered his uncle in cold blood and became ruler himself. In 1297 Ala-ed-Din defeated the last king of Gujrat and secured more treasure. One account states that he got his hands on the diamond at Gujrat; another says that he obtained the stone from the Deccan. The second version is not impossible because after his defeat the king fled southwards where he was plundered for a second time, on this occasion by Al-ed-Din's generals.
More than two centuries later, at the time of Babur, northern India was divided among largely independent chiefs who were in no mood to resist a determined invader. After several probing raids into India, Babur was eventually invited by Daulat Khan, the ruler of Punjab, to help him with his fight against his nephew Ibrahim Lodi, Sultan of Delhi, who was proving to be a despotic ruler. In 1526 Babur defeated and killed Ibrahim Lodi, at the battle of Panipat; another who was slain was Vikramaditya, the former Rajah of Gwailor, who had fought on the side of Ibrahim Lodi. Before going into battle, Vikramaditya had sent all his jewels to the fort of Agra of which he was the Qilidar. Among these jewels was a notable diamond. It has been considered possible -- though, in view of his disposition, unlikely -- that originally Ala-ed-Din may have rewarded Vikramaditya's ancestors, two faithful brothers, not only with Gwailor but also with the diamond.
Babur came to Agra on May 4th, 1526, and the great diamond was most likely given to him there the next day. There is no reference to it recorded in the Baburnama which reads:
"When Humayun [Babur's son] arrived, Vikramaditya's people attempted to escape, but were taken by the parties which Humayun had placed upon the watch, and put in custody. Humayun did not permit them to be plundered. Of their own free will they presented to Humayun a peshkash, consisting of a quantity of jewels and precious stones. Among them was the famous diamond which had been acquired by Sultan Alaeddin [Ala-ed-Din]. It is so valuable that a judge of diamonds valued it at half the daily expense of the whole world. It is about eight mishquals. On my arrival, Humayun presented it to me as a peshkash, and I gave it back to him as a present."
There is another account which relates that the diamond was owned, not by Vikramaditya, but by Ibrahim Lodi. According to this version of the story, Ibrahim Lodi's mother was responsible for handing it over to Humayun, the son and successor of Babur; who had been assigned to take possession of all the jewels that had belonged to the slain Sultan of Delhi. After Humayun's men ransacked the Royal Treasury and failed to find the diamond, the servants and Treasury officials were questioned. They remained silent, and even after they had been threatened with dire punishments, none came forward with the information. In the end a servant pointed towards the royal palace.
When Humayun entered the palace the female members of Vikramaditya's family were weeping, so he assured them their honor would be safe in his hands and that he would treat them according to their high station. It was then that Ibrahim Lodi's mother went silently into a room and emerged with a gold box, which, with trembling hands, she handed to the young prince. Humayun opened the box and took out the diamond.
This version, however, is not considered to be the true one by most writers, and the recovery of the diamond from the fort of Agra is reguarded as the authentic one. There has also been much discussion and divergence of opinion about the method of calculating the weight of the diamond: its weight of around eight mishquals, as recorded by Babur, has given rise to a variety of mathematical equations. It is interesting and sifnificant to note, though, that a majority have arrived at a figure of around 186 (old) carats.
A miniature of Humayun, on ivory.
Four years after Babur's crucial victory at Panipat, Humayun fell ill. Doctors could do nothing for him; he continued to grow worse. Then someone suggested to Babur that he should sacrifice his dearest possession to save his son. Undoubtedly this individual was hoping that the emperor would consider the diamond met such a role. If so, he was disappointed, because Babur did not agree with this suggestion, saying that his most precious possession was his own life. The story goes that Babur moved around the bed of his ailing son, praying that Humayun's life would be spared and his own life be sacrificed instead. From then on Humayun's condition improved while Babur declined and died in December of 1530.
The reign of Humayun lasted for 26 years but it was the subject of much interruption. After an initial period of about 9½ years' rule he was driven out of India by the Afghan forces of Sher Khan. Humayun fled first to Sind, then to Persia, and did not return to India until after 15 years' exile. Having regained his throne his reign would last only six more months: one day, hearing the call to prayers, he hastily got up, but fell headlong down the stairs of his library, possibly under the effects of opium.
After his defeat by the Afghans and during his subsequent wanderings, there is evidence that Humayun carried with him the large diamond that his father had handed back to him at Agra. For the next 200 years or so, it came to be known as 'Babur's diamond'. Leaving behind his kingdom, his only daughter and numerous wives -- he even abandoned his son, Akbar, when feeling from Afghanistan -- Humayun clung to the diamond. His veneration for it is illustrated by one incident. The ruler of a domain where he had sought sancuary wanted to acquire the gem so, taking advantage of the refugee's plight, he sent one of his courtiers, disguised as a merchant, to bargain with him. When this man presented himself and explained the purpose of his visit, Humayun was furious and replied:
"Such precious gems cannot be bought; either they fall to one by arbitrament of the flashing sword, which is an expression of divine will, or else they come through the grace of mighty monarchs."
The emissary departed quietly.
Humayun's wanderings finally took him to Persia where the country's ruler, Shah Tahmasp, received him cordially. The exiled Mogul emperor was so kindly treated by the Shah that ultimately, as an expression of his gratitude, he gave him valuable jewels. One historian, Abdul Fazal, who later was to be employed as secretary to Akbar, Humayun's successor, has told in his Akbarnama that among the jewels which Shah Tahmasp received was the gem known as 'Babur's diamond', so valuable that it was worth the revenue of countries. Another writer referred to Humayun's gift of the diamond and other jewels and related that Shah Tahmasp was so astonished at seeing them that he sent for his jewelers to appraise them. They told him that they were 'above all price'. This was the way in which Babur's diamond was always spoken of - the value of other diamonds could be estimated, but Babur's diamond could not be appraised except by a fantastic reference to the expenditure of the world.
The presentation of this amazing diamond to the ruler of Persia by Humayun was confirmed by Khur Shah, the Ambassador of Ibrahim Qutb, King of Golconda, at the Persian court. he told of the gift of a diamond of six mishquals, that was requarded to be worth the expenditure of the whole universe for 2½ days. However, he also said that Shah Tahmasp didn't think so highly of it and that afterwards he sent it to India as a present to Burhan Nizam, the Shah of Ahmednagar. But the emissary trusted with the diamond, Mehtar Jamal, may have failed to deliver the stone because Shah Tahmasp later sent out orders for his arrest.
These events took place in 1547. From then on until the sack and plunder of Delhi in 1739 the diamond's history must be one of speculation and conjecture. In the mean time a series of happenings took place which have important bearing on the history of Babur's diamond.
In the early 1650s the reigning Mogul Emperor was Shah Jahan, the great-grandson of Humayun. He appointed his third son, Aurangzeb, to the governorship of the Deccan. Aurangzeb, in his own right, was keen to conquer the independent states in this region of India, one of which was Golconda, where the king's domain included the country's main diamond-mining area.
At that time the King of Golconda's First Minister was Mir Jumla, a diamond dealer with a considerable reputation in Persia who had travelled southwards, attracted by the lure and promise which the diamond fields held for him. Simultaneously with the administration of his master's state, Mir Jumla planned to do a lot of business on his own behalf, above all in diamonds. The King put him in charge of most affairs pertaining to the mines and trading, and not surprisingly the Persian compiled a fortune. But Mir Jumla overstepped the bounds of caution, being caught in a compromising situation with the mother of the King. He was obliged to leave Golconda immediately for his safety.
Mir Jumla met Aurangzeb early in 1656, then travelled to Delhi where he met Shah Jahan. According to an agent of the East India Company who happened to be the area at the time, Shah Jahan received Mir Jumla courteously and gifts were exchanged between the two -- Jumla's to the Emperor including a diamond weighing 160 ratis. Another account, by French traveller Francois Bernier, records that:
"Jumla, who by his address contrived to obtain frequent invitations to the Court of Shah Jahan, proceeded at length to Agra and carried the most magnificent presents in hope of inducing the Mogul Emperor to declare war against the Kings of Golconda and Bijapur and against the Portuguese. It was on this occasion that he presented Shah Jahan with that celebrated diamond which has been generally deemed unparalleled in size and beauty."
Yet a third writer has asserted that Mir Jumla gave one diamond to Shah Jahan and a second to Aurangzeb, the latter being an uncut specimen thought likely to have been cut later by the Venetian, Borgio.
Although the evidence is slender, the gift of a diamond by the wily Jumla to both father and son accords with his character and should not be dismissed out of hand: it would have been a means of insuring his future whichever way the wind was to blow. He chose to ally himself with Aurangzeb while Shah Jahan's last years were marked by his declining health and a struggle for power among his four sons. Aurangzeb emerged victorious and lost no time in ridding himself of his brothers and incarcerating his father in the fort at Agra. That the luckless Shah Jahan possessed some jewels during his imprisonment is confirmed by two sources. Bernier has stated that Shah Jahan, after he'd been imprisoned, became so reconciled to Aurangzeb that he sent him some of his jewels which at first he had refused to do. Apparently Aurangzeb got them only after his father's death. Jean Baptiste Tavernier's version of the story is different. He wrote:
"During his reign he [Shah Jahan] had begun to build the city of Jehanabad, though he had not quite finish'd it, and therefore he desir'd to see it once more before he dy'd: but Aurangzeb would not give him leave, unless he would be content to go and come back by water, or else to be confin'd to the Castle of Jehanabad, as he was at Agra, which refusal of his son did torment him, that it hasten'd his end. Which as soon as Aurangzeb heard of, he came to Agra and seiz'd upon all the jewels which he had not taken from his father while he liv'd. Begum Saheb had also a quantity of jewels, which he had not taken from her when he put her into the Castle. But now, because she had formerly taken her father's part, he found out a way to deprive her of them after a very plausible manner, making a show of bestowing very great Honours and Caresses upon his Sister, and taking her along with him to Jehanabad. But in a short time after we heard the news of her death; ... and all people suspected her to have been poisoned."
Left to right: Shuja, Aurangzeb, Murad Bakhsh, the three younger sons of Shah
Jahan. Miniature by Balchand, circa 1637. From the British Museum collection.
At this point in the story it is important to try and identify the large diamonds that figured among the jewels given to Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb. The big stone, said to have been uncut, must be the Great Mogul which Aurangzeb showed Tavernier in 1665. But which is the diamond mentioned by Bernier as the one which Shah Jahan receieved from Mir Jumla, described as "that celebrated diamond which has been generally deemed unparalleled in size and beauty"? Is it Babur's diamond? These and other questions were asked by several authorities following the arrival of the Koh-I-Noor in England in 1850. First there were people who believed that the Koh-I-Noor was the Great Mogul and that Babur's diamond was seperate; secondly, there were people who believed that the Koh-I-Noor was in fact Babur's diamond; thirdly, there were others who identified the Koh-I-Noor with both Babur's diamond and the Great Mogul.
One of the first to voice his views on the subject was the distinguished mineralogist James Tennant, who noted that in addition to its possessing flaws similar to those decribed by Tavernier as having been in the Mogul's diamond,
"...the Koh-I-Noor had a flaw near the summit which, being on a line of cleavage parallel to the upper surface, may very possibly have been produced when the upper portion was removed -- the weight of which, together with that of two portions removed from the sides, and the loss occasioned by the regrinding of four facets on the upper surface may very easily have represented the difference in teh weights of the two stones, namely 83 1/3 carats."
An illustration of Tavernier from The Six Voyages of Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, published in 1679.
Another writer who discussed the subject of the Koh-I-Noor's identity was Edwin Streeter, the 19th-century London jeweler and author of two famous books on diamonds and other gemstones. In his earlier book Precious Stones and Gems he stated that "any doubt as to the 'Mogul' and the 'Koh-I-Noor' being identical is but rarely entertained." But in his later book "The Great Diamonds of the World" he wrote that, "all are agreed that Babur's diamond and the Koh-I-Noor are identical and the Mogul's distinct." This contradiction was pointed out by Valentine Ball who published in 1889 a further translation of Tavernier's Six Voyages with extensive notes and appendices. Ball believed that the view which Streeter had expressed in his earlier book was the sounder of the two.
"It must be at once plainly stated that there is no direct evidence that a diamond of that weight (186 or 187 carats) [i.e. Babur's diamond] was in the possession of the Mogul Emperors at any subsequent period, up to the time of Nadir Shah's invasion. We know nothing as to the weight of the Koh-I-Noor, as such, till about the time it was brought to England, namely the year 1850...
"Tavernier did not see any stone of the weight above attributed to Babur's diamond in the possession of the Great Mogul, Aurangzeb, nor can we support that he heard of any such diamond being in the possession of Shah Jahan, who was confined in prison, where he retained a number of jewels in his own possession. If either he or Bernier had heard of such a stone he would surely have mentioned it...It is possible that Babur's diamond may have been seen in Shah Jahan's possession when Tavernier saw Aurangzeb's jewels and that Aurangzeb obtained possession of it when Shah Jahan died, and so ultimately it passed to Persia, with other jewels taken by Nadir Shah..."
"The necessary conclusion is that it is not the Mogul's diamond which, through failure of being historically traced as some authors assert, has disappeared, but it is Babur's diamond the history of which we are really left in doubt. The fixing of the weight of Babur's diamond at a figure identical, or nearly so, with that of the Koh-I-Noor when brought to England, though used as a link in a chain, has, as I think I have shown, effectively disposed of its claim to be identified with the Mogul's diamond in the first place, and secondly with the Koh-I-Noor."
In April of 1899 an article entitled Babur's Diamond, Was It the Koh-I-Noor? appeared in the Atlantic Quarterly Review; it was written by Henry Beveridge, the husband of the translator of the Baburnama. Although in the end he was unable to decide whether or not Babur's diamond was the Koh-I-Noor, Beveridge did make one relevant point: he drew attention to the unconscious conclusion caused by there being two diamonds, which led Tavernier to say on one page that the great diamond was presented to Shah Jahan and on another page to say it was presented to Aurangzeb. Hence the fact of there being two diamonds makes obvious many difficulties and may also explain the statement of a Persian nobleman, mentioned in Forbes's Oriental Memoirs, and quoted by Ball, about two large diamonds being carried off by Nadir Shah.
Just over a century later we are in the fortunate position of having information that was unavailable to earlier writers. In particular we now have details of the treasures amassed by the Czars, Shahs and miscellaneous monarchs. We know for sure that there are three diamonds in existence which have a direct bearing upon the questions raised concerning the identity of the Great Mogul and Babur's diamond. They are the Orlov, weighing 189.62 metric carats, now in the Kremlin; the Darya-I-Nur, with an estimated weight of between 175 and 195 metric carats and presumed to still be among the Iranian Crown Jewels; and the Koh-I-Noor, whose former weight before it was recut was 186 carats, equivalent to 190.3 metric carats.
Tavernier referred to the shape of the Great Mogul as "of the same form as if one cut an egg through the middle", and drew it. Both Tavernier's drawing and description of the Great Mogul are applicable to the Orlov Diamond as we know it today. There is, of course, an obvious difference between the weights of the two stones, the Great Mogul being about 100 carats more. But if the diamond seen by Tavernier had been ground down the resemblance would have become even more marked. The resulting loss of weight by the action of such grinding would bring the weight of the Great Mogul to approximately that of the Orlov. Ball's reference to the Orlov is as follows:
"Several writers, among them Professor Schrauf of Vienna (1869), have suggested that the Mogul's diamond is to be identified with the similarly shaped Orloff now belonging to Russia. Apart from the discrepancy in the weights and in the size, as shown by Tavernier's drawing, which was intended to represent the natural size of the former [the Mogul], it is tolerably certain that the Orloff was obtained from the temple of Srirangam on an island in the Cauvery river in Mysore. It was therefore a possession of the Hindus, and it is most improbably that it ever belonged to the Moguls."
This convenient dismissal of the Orlov by Professor Ball cannot be allowed to pass. Just as he alleges that Tavernier would have referred to the Koh-I-Noor as a seperate diamond if it had existed as such, equally would he not have referred to this huge diamond at Srirangam as a seperate diamond? This is a diamond which even today, following discoveries elsewhere, still ranks among the largest of undoubted authenticity. The temple at Srirangam is not situated too far from the diamondiferous regions of India that Tavernier, in his capacity both as a traveller and connoisseur of precious gems, could not have learned of the existence of such a massive stone.
But where Ball's theory on the identity of these two diamonds falls apart is in his reference to the Darya-I-Nur about which he wrote:
"It has already been intimated that the Darya-I-Nur, a flat stone which weighs 186 carats and is now in the Shah's Treasury, may very possibly be Babur's diamond...I have in vain sought for any well-authenticated fact which in the slightest degree controverts or even throws doubt on the suggestion that the Darya-I-Nur, the 'Ocean of Light', may very possibly be Babur's diamond."
In the light of the examination of the pieces in the Iranian Treasury undertaken in the 1960s, it has been conclusively proved that the Darya-I-Nur constitutes a major portion of the Great Table Diamond which Tavernier saw - and tried to buy - at Golconda. In all probably this diamond had been mined not long before his attempted purchase, thereby discounting it from having an earlier history, let alone one involving the Mogul Emperors. Furthermore the descriptions of Babur's diamond being "valued at half the daily expense of the whole world" and so forth are surely inapplicable to the flat rectangular-shaped Darya-I-Nur: one would think that a more appropriate metaphore would have been to describe it as the source of half the water needed for the world for a day. Interestingly the sole point that suggests that the Darya-I-Nur may be identified as Babur's diamond lies in a passage in a book on the life of Babur which reads:
"The gifts were on a grand scale, being precious jewels, among these the great diamond now identified as the Koh-I-Noor. This enormous rose-tinted stone weighed 320 ratis on Humayun's scales."
The Darya-I-Nur is indeed rose-tinted but there has to have been a mistranslation here: 'rose-tinted', when they meant 'rose-cut', the former shape of the Koh-I-Noor.
Finally on the topic of identifying these truly historic diamonds with gems that we know exist today, the suggestion that the Koh-I-Noor and the Great Mogul once formed parts of the same stone is impossible: the Koh-I-Noor is a white diamond where as the Orlov - if we assume it to be the Great Mogul (which it most likely is) - possesses a slight bluish-green tint. So, the Darya-I-Nur has been identified for sure as the largest fragment of the Great Table Diamond; a very strong case exists for identifying the Orlov as being cut from the 280-carat Great Mogul; and a less-strong, but nevertheless valid case can be made for identifying the Koh-I-Noor as Babur's diamond.
One of Jean-Baptiste Tavernier's illustrations from his Six Voyages
book. Diamond #1 is the Great Mogul; #2 is the Florentine; #3 is the Great Table;
#4 is probably the deep table cut mentioned in Herbert Tillander's
Diamond Cuts in Historic Jewelry - 1381 to 1910 as weighing 51 9/16 carats,
later recut to 42 10/16 carats (the crown being faceted, the block pavilion
left untouched. Finally, in 1786, it was cut into a 26¾-carat gem. It doesn't
mention where the stone is today.
After lasting for nearly fifty years the reign of the strong and ruthless Aurangzeb ended in 1707. It marked the zenith of the rule of the Moguls: there followed a decline with no less than six weak Emperors reigning within a space of 13 years, each of them dying in an unnatural way. About the same time with the sun setting on the Mogul Empire a new one was rising to the west in Persia. Nadir Kuli, or "the Slave to the Wonderful" as he was called, was a young shepherd who, when 18, was abducted together with his mother by a raiding party of Uzbegs to Khiva. Four years later the mother died in slavery, but the young Nadir succeeded in escaping to Khorasan where his first step up the ladder of power was his entry into the service of the Governor of Abivard (then the capitol of the district). Under Nadir Kuli, who in 1732 dethroned the weak ruler of Persia and usurped the throne for his stead four years later, Persia became a major power. After he had defeated the Afghans and the Turks and caused the Russians to evacuate the Caspian provinces, Nadir Shah turned his attention to the east, towards the declining empire of the Moguls. The reigning Emperor, Mohammed Shah, who had ascended the throne in 1719, was a pitiful descendant of the once omnipotent Moguls; he was described as "never without a mistress in his arms and a glass in his hand". Rich pickings awaited the Persians as the Emperor realized his predicament far too late. The decisive battle of Karnal in 1738 was over in 2 hours: the vast Indian army was defeated, more than 20,000 slain on the battlefield, a greater number taken prisoner and an immense hoard of spoils captured. In triumph Nadir Shah marched into Delhi where he was entertained sumptuously by the defeated Mohammed Shah. Among the treasures which the Emperor handed over to Nadir Shah was the famed Peacock Throne which Tavernier described:
"The largest throne, which is set up in the hall of the first court, is in form like one of our field beds, six feet long and four broad. The cushion at the base is round like a bolster: the cushions on the sides are flat. The underpart of the canopy is all embroidered with pearls and diamonds, with a fringe of pearls round about. Upon the top of the canopy, which is made like an arch with four panes, stands a peacock with his tail spread, consisting all of saphirs and other proper colored stones. The body is of beaten gold enchas'd with several jewels, and a great ruby upon his breast, at which hangs a pearl that weighs 50 carats. On each side of the peacock stand two nosegays as high as the bird, consisting of several sorts of flowers, all of beaten gold enamelled. When the king seats himself upon the throne there is a transparent jewel with a diamond appendant of eighty or ninety carats, encompass'd with rubies and emeralds, so hung that it is always in his eye. The twelve pillars also that uphold the canopy are set with rows of fair pearl, round, and of excellent water, that weigh from six to ten carats apiece. This is the famous throne which Tamerlane began and Cha Jehan finish'd, which is really reported to have cost 160 million and 500,000 livres of our money."
The identity of the large diamond set as a pendant has always been a matter for speculation: possibly it may have been the Shah Diamond. But nowhere in Tavernier's account is there a reference to the Koh-I-Noor; indeed the Mogul Emperor must have taken steps to insure that this treasured gem did not fall into the hands of his conqueror. However, Nadir Shah was fully able to the task of finding the gem. There are two stories of how he procured it. One says that Mohammed Shah gave it to Nadir Shah, possibly in gratitude for sparing either his life or his empire. This seems unlikely, and anyway, the second, which has come to be accepted as the true version of the story, is both more plausible and more colorful. Whenever stories are told about the Koh-I-Noor, this particular one tends to pop up more than others.
The disclosure of the secret hiding place of the Koh-I-Noor was made by one of the Emperor's harem; she told Nadir Shah that Mohammed always kept it hidden in his turban. So the shrewd Nadir Shah had recourse to a clever trick. He ordered a grand feast to be celebrated a few days later to coincide with the restoration of Mohammed Shah to his throne. During the course of it Nadir Shah suddenly proposed an exchange of turbans, which is a well-known oriental custom signifying the creation of brotherly ties, sincerity and eternal friendship. Mohammed Shah was taken aback by his quick-thinking rival but at the same time was hardly in a position to resist such a request. With as much grace as he could summon - in fact his composure was such that Nadir Shah thought he had been hoaxed - he accepted. Eventually when Nadir Shah had gone to his private apartment for the night, he unfolded the turban and found the diamond concealed within. It was when he set his eyes on it that he exclaimed "Koh-I-Noor", meaning "Mountain of Light". The most famous diamond in history now had a name.
A drawing I made of the Koh-I-Noor's original 186-carat form,
based directly on various illustrations I've seen of it.
One observation must be made about Nadir Shah's obtainment of the diamond. Clearly he must have known of its existence before the banquet, and probably before he reached Delhi, and must have eagerly sought it. This suggests that it was known in Persia for generations, probably from the time of Humayun's period of exile in that land, and adds weight to the theory that it is a different stone from the Great Mogul Diamond.
A peaceful end to Nadir Shah's stay in Delhi was shattered by an outbreak of rioting, followed by the sacking and pillaging of the city in 1739. The loot included the Koh-I-Noor, which thus left India for Persia for the second time, and one other exceptional diamond which must have been the Great Table. Further victories were made by the Persians in battle, but Nadir Shah became corrupted by his success and the remaining years of his life were marked by growing greed and cruelty, to the point where he was detested by the very people whom he had freed from the foreign yoke. In 1747 he was murdered while asleep in his tent. With the murder of Nadir Shah the unity of Persia collapsed and the army broke up.
The next sixty years or so were the most violent and blood-stained in the history of the Koh-I-Noor. The same pattern of events occured after the demise of Nadir Shah as after that of Aurangzeb: a strong ruler was followed by a series of weak ones. Nadir Shah's successor was Ali Kuli who ascended the throne as Adil Shah, meaning "the Just". His first act was to rid himself of all possible claimants to the throne of Persia with the solitary exception of Shah Rukh Mirza, the 14-year-old grandson of Nadir Shah. But after a short and disgraceful reign, Adil Shah was dethroned and blinded by his brother Ibrahim, who, in turn, suffered the same fate before being captured and put to death by his own troops. Then Shah Rukh took the throne, but another pretender soon appeared and the young king was defeated, also having his eyes put out. Shah Rukh reigned in name, if not in fact, for almost 50 years; his supporter was Ahmed Abdali, an Afghan who had been one of Nadir Shah's most capable generals before he returned to Afghanistan, subdued it, and established himself as its ruler. For the help which he had received from him, Shah Rukh gave Ahmad Abdali important jewels, one of which was the Koh-I-Noor Diamond.
Shah Rukh paid dearly for his gift to Ahmad Shah of the Koh-I-Noor because Aga Mohammed Khan was convinced that the unfortunate man was still in possession of the stone. Deserted by his son, who was unaware of the jewels that he had once owned, Shah Rukh, now blind, was forced to endure the most horrific torture by the cruel ruler, who had an insatiable appetite for gems. As the torturing continued, jewels previously hidden were given up one by one. The final torture which Shah Rukh suffered at the hands of Aga Mohammed Shah was to have his head closely shaved and covered with a thick paste on which boiling water was poured. The last gem he gave up was a large ruby which had once belonged to Aurangzeb. The torture then stopped, but Shah Rukh died from its effects soon afterwards.
In the mean time in Afghanistan, the country where the Koh-I-Noor was being held, Ahmad Shah had been succeeded by his son Timur, a weak ruler but nevertheless a potent one since he left 23 sons to contest his succession. Civil warfare broke out, with the eldest son, Zaman Shah, becoming king in 1793. His brother Mahmud blinded him six years later and seized the throne; then in 1803 another brother, Shuja, imprisoned Mahmud and took the throne. Seven years after that, Mahmud escaped and resumed his reign, but he never obtained the Koh-I-Noor because Zaman Shah had taken it with him and had it embedded in the plaster of his prison cell's walls. Next Shah Shuja regained the throne and the Koh-I-Noor -- the Koh-I-Noor's place of hiding having been pointed out to him by Zaman Shah. Finally, in 1810, the Saddozai of Afghanistan, founded by Ahmad Shah, broke up and the two ill-fated brothers, Zaman Shah and Shah Shuja, sought refuge with the Sikh leader Ranjit Singh, known as the "Lion of Punjab".
Shah Shuja had the Koh-I-Noor with him and the ruler of Punjab must hav known about the famous gem because he showed his desire to own it. He aimed to extort it from Shah Shuja as the price of giving him and his family sancuary. However, Shah Shuja tried by every means to prevent Ranjit Singh from getting hold of it. Once he told him that the stone had been pawned with a money-lender. On another occasion he said that it had been lost with some other jewels. On a third occasion Shah Shuja sent Ranjit Singh a large white topaz, saying it was the diamond; and when his court jewelers examined it and told him that it wasn't a diamond, Ranjit Singh was furious. He posted a guard around Shah Shuja's residence with orders that he was not to receive food or water for two days. In the end Shah Shuja realizing his hopeless situation, agreed to give the diamond to Ranjit Singh, on the condition that he arrive in person to receive it from him.
Ranjit Singh accepted Shah Shuja's proposal and on June 1st, 1813 went to his residence to claim the diamond. The customary greetings took place, then the two kings sat opposite of each other in silence for some time before Ranjit Singh reminded Shah Shuja of the reason for his visit. A servant was then ordered to bring the gem from another room and when he returned with a bundle Ranjit Singh unwrapped it and found the Koh-I-Noor inside. He left the room without saying a word.
Ranjit Singh was the first and last powerful Sikh king; he was followed by three weaker kings, each of whom died prematurely. In 1843 Dhulip Singh, the last of Ranjit Singh's sons, then a minor, became the recognized ruler of Punjab. The two Sikh Wars were fought during his reign, leading to the annexation of the Punjab by the British. On March 29th, 1849, the British flag was hoisted on the citadel of Lahore and the Punjab was formally proclaimed to be part of the British Empire in India. One of the terms of the Treaty of Lahore was as follows:
"The gem called the Koh-I-Noor which was taken from Shah Shuja-ul-Mulk by Maharajah Ranjit Singh shall be surrendered by the Maharajah of Lahore to the Queen of England."
The Governor-General in charge for the ratification of this treaty was Lord Dalhousie who on his arrival at Calcutta in January of 1848, at the age of 35, had become the youngest holder of this office to set foot in India. More than anyone, Dalhousie was also responsible for the British acquiring the Koh-I-Noor, which he continued to show great interest in for the rest of his life. Not long after the signing of the Treaty of Lahore Dalhousie was to become embroiled in the controversy that raged in England about the acquisition of the diamond. Writing to his friend Sir George Cooper in August of 1849, he stated this:
"The Court [of the East India Company] you say, are ruffled by my having caused the Maharajah to cede to the Queen the Koh-i-noor; while the 'Daily News' and my Lord Ellenborough [Governor-General of India, 1841-44] are indignant because I did not confiscate everything to her Majesty, and censure me for leaving a Roman Pearl in the Court... I was fully prepared to hear that the Court chafed at my not sending the diamond to them, and letting them present it to Her Majesty, They ought not to do so -- they ought to enter into and cordially approve the sentiment on which I acted thus. The motive was simply this: that it was more for the honor of the Queen that the Koh-i-noor should be surrendered directly from the hand of the conquered prince into the hands of the sovereign who was his conqueror, than it should be presented to her as a gift -- which is always a favour -- by any joint-stock company among her subjects. So the Court ough to feel. As for their fretting and censuring, that I do not mind -- so long as they do not disallow the article. I know I have acted best for the Sovereign, and for their honour, too."
The British citizen, Dr. (later Sir) John Login, was entrusted with two charges: the responsibility for taking the Koh-I-Noor out of the Toshakhana (the jewel house), and the guardsmanship of the young Dhulip Singh. A cousin of Lady Login wrote to her that the old treaserur, Misr Maharajah, had given every assistance with reguard to the former task and said it was a great relief to be free of responsibility for the diamond, adding that it had been the cause of so many deaths to so many of his own family that he never expected to be spared. The old man gave Login some advice on showing the jewel to visitors: he should not let it fall out of his own hand, and that he should twist the ribbons that tied it as an armlet around his fingers. It was still set in the armlet from the time of Ranjit Singh.
The Koh-I-Noor was formally handed over to the Punjab government made up of three members: Sir Henry Lawrence (1806-1857), his younger brother John Lawrence (afterwards Lord Lawrence, the man who in February of 1859 would break ground on the future Lahore railroad station), and C.C. Mausel. The two other members entrusted the safe-keeping of the gem to John Lawrence, believing him to be the most practical and business-minded of the trio. In their belief they were proved to be totally wrong because the nearest the diamond came to being lost was while it was in John Lawrence's custody. He put the small box containing the diamond into his coat pocket and continued about his day. Then when changing for dinner he threw his coat aside and thought no more about the gem.
Left to right: A painting of Sir Henry Lawrence, founder of the Lawrence School in what is now Sanawar,
Himachal Pradesh, India. A bronze statue of Lord John Lawrence located at Waterloo Place in London. The
inscription at the base reads "John, First Lord Lawrence, ruler of the Punjaub during the Sepoy mutiny
of 1857. Viceroy of India from 1865 to 1868." Sir Henry (1806-1857) was killed in the Sepoy mutiny.
About six weeks later a message came from Dalhousie saying that the Queen had ordered the Koh-I-Noor to be transmitted to her. Henry Lawrence mentioned the subject at a board meeting. When John Lawrence said quietly, "Send for it at once", his brother replied, "Why? You've got it." In a flash John Lawrence remembered: he was horrified and, as he used to describe his feelings later when telling the story, he said quietly to himself, "Well, this is the worst trouble I have ever got into." But his composure was so good that he gave no sign of alarm. "Oh yes, of course, I forgot about it," he said, and the meeting went on as if nothing happened. As soon as he had an opportunity to slip away to his private room, he did, with his heart in his mouth, sent for his old servant, saying to him, "Have you got a small box which was in my waistcoat pocket sometime ago?" The man replied, "Yes, Sahib, I found it and put it in one of your boxes." "Bring it here," replied Lawrence, whereipon the old man went over to a tin box and removed the little one from it. "Open it," said Lawrence, "and see what is inside."
He watched the old man anxiously as fold after fold of small rags was taken off and was very relieved when the precious gem appeared. The servant seemed to be unaware of the treasure which he had in his keeping and remarked, "There is nothing here, Sahib, but a bit of glass."
The Koh-I-Noor was brough back to the meeting and immediately shown to the board, who then who prepared for it to be sent to the Queen. But first it had to travel from Lahore to Bombay, at the time a dangerous route swarming with robbers and other criminals. No less a person than the Governor-General, who when he had first set eyes on the diamond remarked "It is a superb gem," was responsible for its transportation out of India. On May 16th, 1850, Dalhousie wrote:
"The Koh-i-noor sailed from Bombay in H.M.S. Medea on the 6th of April. I could not tell you at the time, for strict secrecy was observed, but I brought it from Lahore myself. I undertook the charge of it in a funk, and never was so happy in all my life as when I got it into the Treasury in Bombay. It was sewn and double sewn into a belt secured around my waist, one end of the belt fastened to a chain around my neck. It never left me day or night, except when I went to Ghazee Khan when I left it with Captain Ramsay (who now has joint charge of it) locked in a treasure chest until I came back. My stars! What a relief to get rid of it. It was detained at Bombay for two months for want of a ship, and I hope, please God, will now arrive safe in July. You had better say nothing about it, however, in your spheres, till you hear others announce it. I have reported it officially to the Court, and to her sacred Majesty by this mail."
The Koh-I-Noor was put in an iron box which itself was kept in a despatch box and deposited in the Government Treasury. For security reasons, this piece of news was understandably suppressed, even among officers of the Treasury - and witheld from Commander Lockyer, the ship's captain. The only individuals who knew about it were the officers entrusted with the custody of the despatch, Lieutenant Colonel Mackeson and Captain Ramsay. Either way, HMS Medea's voyage turned out to be a perilous one and there were two occasions on which disaster was narrowly averted. When the ship reached Mauritius, off the east coast of Madagascar, cholera broke out on board and the local people refused to sell the necessary supplies to its crew, requesting the ships immediate departure. When the Medea didn't move, they asked their governor to open fire and destory the vessel. A few days later after it had left Mauritius the Medea faced a new danger, a severe gale which lasted for about twelve hours before subsiding. Eventually the Medea reached Plymouth, England where the passengers and mail were unloaded but not the Koh-I-Noor, which was forwarded to to Portsmouth. From there the two officers took the diamond to the East India House, handing it over to the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the company. The Deputy Chairman delivered it to the Queen at Buckingham Palace on July 3rd, 1850.
Lord Dalhousie, James Andrew Broun Ramsey (b. April 22nd, 1812 - d. December 19th, 1860).
Dalhousie was born and died inside Dalhousie Castle in Edinburgh, Scotland, which is now a hotel.
In addition to giving rise to both gemological and historical arguments, the Koh-I-Noor's arrival in England was accompanied by unease on the part of some, who were aware of superstitions attached to the diamond. Unfortunately such people were presented with an early chance of voicing their feelings when a retired officers of the 10th Hussars lost his reasoning and struck Queen Victoria. Some promptly assigned the blame for this on Dalhousie who, in a letter dated September 1st, 1850, was equally quick to reply:
"I received your letter of 16th July yesterday. The several sad or foul events in England on which it touches have been mentioned by me heretofore, and they are too sad to refer to you. You add that you knew this mishaps lie at my door, as I have sent the Koh-i-noor which always brings misfortune to its possessor. Whoever was the exquisite person from whom you heard this...he was rather lame both on his history and tradition...As for tradition, when Shah Shoojah [Shuja], from whom it was taken, was afterwards asked by Runjeat's [Ranjit Singh's] desire, 'What was the value of the Koh-i-noor?' he replied, 'Its value is Good Fortune, for whoever possesses it has been superior to all his enemies.' Perhaps your friend would favour you with his authority, after this, for his opposite statement. I sent the Queen a narrative of this conversation with Shah Shoojah, taken from the mouth of the messenger."
The directors of the British Museum wanted to have a model made of the Koh-I-Noor, so on April 19th of 1851, removal of the diamond from its setting in which it had arrived from India was authorized. The jewelrywork was performed by William Chapman (goldsmith) in the presence of Lord Breadalbane (the Lord Chamberlain), Lord Cawdor (the Trustee of the British Museum), and Sebastian Garrard (Keeper of Her Majesty's Jewels and the namesake of the Garrard jewelry firm). After its removal Sebastian Garrard found it to weigh 186 1/10 carats instead of 279 as stated by Tavernier. This was probably the reason for an amazing passage which appeared in The Times and read:
"Some conversation took place respecting the doubts imputed to have been cast by Sir David Brewster upon the identity of the Koh-i-noor, but the general opinion among those best acquainted with the subject appeared to be that it was impossible for Dhulip Singh to have palmed off a fictitious diamond, when the constant habit of wearing it upon State occasions must have rendered it perfectly familiar to thousands who would have instantly detected any attempt at substitution. The more probably assumption was stated to be that the weight of 'The Mountain of Light' had been somewhat exaggerated."
Sir David Brewster (1781-1868) was principal of the United College in St. Andrews from 1838 until 1859 when he left
it to become principal of Edinburgh University. He learned to make photographs from William Henry Fox Talbot, the
inventor of the calotype photography process. Brewster brought photography to Scotland in the 1840s, making the country
one of the early experimental centers for the budding art. Photo is circa 1843-1844, making it one of a handful of
the earliest photos ever taken. Brewster is also credited with inventing the kaleidoscope.
The public were given a chance to see the Koh-I-Noor when the Great Exhibition was staged in Hyde Park. The correspondent of The Times reported:
"The Koh-i-noor is at present decidedly the lion of the Exhibition. A mysterious interest appears to be attached to it, and now that so many precautions have been restored to, and so much difficulty attends its inspection, the crowd is enormously enhanced, and the policemen at either end of the covered entrance have much trouble in restraining the struggling and impatient multitude. For some hours yesterday there were never less than a couple of hundred persons waiting their turn of admission, and yet, after all, the diamond does not satisfy. Either from the imperfect cutting or the difficulty of placing the lights advantageously, or the immovability of the stone itself, which should be made to revolve on its axis, few catch any of the brilliant rays it reflects when viewed at a particular angle."
Queen Victoria opening of the Exhibition, inside the Crystal Palace.
An aerial view of the Crystal Palace, built for the 1851 exhibition. The building was
1848 feet long, 408 feet wide and 108 feet tall at its highest point. It burned down in 1939.
The Governor-General in India was continuing to take an interest in the diamond. On July 13th he wrote:
"I see all sorts of sketches and pictures of the contents of the Exhibition. If you can get me anything presenting the Koh-I-Noor well in its cage, coloured, I shall be much obliged."
The next month Dalhousie wrote:
"The Koh-i-noor is badly cut: it is rose-not-brilliant-cut, and of course won't sparkle like the latter. But it should not have been shown in a huge space. In the Toshakam at Lahore Dr. Login used to show it on a table covered with a black velvet cloth, and relieved by the dark colour all round."
A drawing (engraving?) of the Koh-I-Noor sitting in its display
cage at the exhibition. There appears to be a smaller stone on either
side of it. These were likely the other two diamonds in the armband.
Another person who was disappointed with the lack of brilliance of the Koh-I-Noor was Prince Albert, the Prince Consort. He contacted Sir David Brewster, the scientist mainly known for his investigation into phenomenom of polarized light, as to how the diamond might best be recut. Brewster found several small caves (inclusions) within the stone which, in his view, were the result of the expansive force of condensed gases. Together with other flaws he thought would cause the recutting, without a serious reduction in weight, to be a very difficult task. Professor Tennant and Reverend W. Mitchell, Lecturer in Mineralogy at King's College, London, were also consulted. Accordingly they wrote a report in which they admitted the improvement which the proposed recutting would have upon the stone, but at the same time they expressed fears that any cutting could endanger its integrity.
In the end it was decided to seek the advice of practical and experienced diamond cutters, so Messrs Garrard (the Crown Jewelers) were instructed to get a report from such persons. Their choice was Messrs Coster of Amsterdam who, while noting the validity of the fears expressed in the Tennant report, nevertheless stated that the dangers were not so formidable as to prevent as to prevent the intended recutting to be carried out. And so a small steam engine was set up at Garrard's shop while two gentlemen from Messrs Coster, Mr. Voorzanger and Mr. Fedder, travelled to London to undertake the recutting of the diamond.
On the afternoon of Friday, July 17th, 1852, the Duke of Wellington, who had shown great interest in the proposed recutting and attended several meetings during the course of the preparations, rode up on his favorite gray charger to Garrard's at Panton Street. The Koh-I-Noor was embedded in lead, with the exception of a small piece of the stone that was intended to be the first to be submitted to the cutting operation. The Times reported:
"His Grace placed the gem upon the scaife, an horizontal wheel revolving with almost incalculable velocity, whereby the exposed angle was removed by friction, and the first facet of the new cutting was effected...The Koh-i-noor is intended to be converted into an oval brilliant, and the two smaller diamonds which accompany it are to be similarly treated as pendants. The present weight of the principal gem is 186 carats, and the process now in course of progress will not, it is anticipated, diminish in any material degree its weight, while it will largely increase its value and develop its beauties."
A day-by-day account of the recutting that has been preserved discloses that on July 19th the cutters turned their attention to the flaws described by Tennant and Mitchell as having been made for the purpose of holding the stone more firmly in its setting and noted by them still to have particles of gold adhearing to it. Not being certain as to whether the groove, or inclusion, was natural, the cutters decided to investigate it, so they altered the position of the stone to cut directly into it. It was revealed to be a natural inclusion of a yellow tinge, common in smaller stones. The two experts decided that the part of where the flaw was situated, near the flat base of the diamond, was probably part of the external plane of the stone's octahedral crystal. Two weeks later, after examining the stone, Mitchell thought that it had lost nearly all its yellow coloring and become much whiter.
The recutting of the Koh-I-Noor took a mere 38 days and cost £8000 ($40,000). The final result was an oval brilliant weighing 108.93 metric carats, which meant a loss of weight of just under 43 per cent. There is no doubt that such a substantial reduction of the gem's weight came as a disappointment to many, not least to Prince Albert who voiced his views on the matter in no uncertain terms. One authority wrote that owing to the flattened oval shape of the stone, the brilliant pattern selected by the Queen's advisors 'entailed the greatest possible waste', adding that Mr. Coster himself would have preferred the drop form. There was also comment in the press that the recutting of the Koh-I-Noor revealed the painful fact that the art of diamond cutting was extinct in England (at least, for the time being) while even the cutters from Amsterdam and Paris had lost much of their skill. (Antwerp is presently considered the diamond cutting capitol of Europe.) The Koh-I-Noor's form is a stellar brilliant cut: the crown possesses the regular 33 facets, including the table, while he pavilion has eight more facets than the regular 25 (counting a culet facet, which would have been applied to prettymuch any diamond that size at the time) bringing the total number of facets to 66. A number of famous diamonds are stellar brilliants: the Tiffany Yellow, the Red Cross, the Star of South Africa and the Wittelsbach, among others.
One of the first people to see the Koh-I-Noor in its new shape was Dhulip Singh, who at the time was living in London under the guardsmanship of Lady Login: she had been appointed to this post on the death of her husband. Since his arrival in England no one had broached the subject with the young Maharaja; it was thought that the diamond must have a special meaning for him, something beyond a mere gem of great value. But a chance of raising the subject presented itself. Lady Login was present at the sittings for a portrait of the young prince that took place at Buckingham Palace. At one of them the Queen asked Lady Login whether the Maharaja ever spoke of the Koh-I-Noor and, if so, whether he regretted its loss. Lady Login replied that he had never spoken of it since his arrival in England although he had in India; at the same time he had been greatly interested in the descriptions of the operation of recutting it. The Queen then said that she hoped that before the next portrait sitting Lady Login would ask Dhulip Singh's feelings on the subject and whether he would care to see it in its recut oval form. The Queen was told that the prince would very much like to see the famed stone.
During the portrait session the following day, the Queen, who had heard Dhulip Singh's response, walked to the dais on which the Maharaja was posing, with the Koh-I-Noor in her hand. She asked if he thought it had been improved and whether he would have recognized it. After he had finished in his inspection, Dhulip Singh walked across the room, and with a low bow expressed in a few graceful words the pleasure it gave him to have the opportunity of placing the stone in her hands.
The unease about the acquistion of the Koh-I-Noor continued in the United Kingdom: some people considered that it had not been the property of the state, rather the personal possession of Dhulip Singh which he was cornered into giving away. This may have arisen from the news of Dhulip Singh's presentation of the diamond to the Queen. The news reached Dalhousie who on August 26th, 1854 wrote from Government House saying:
"L-'s talk about the Koh-i-noor being a present from Dhuleep Singh to the Queen is arrant humbug. He knew as well as I did that it was nothing of the sort: and if I had been within a thousand miles of him he would not have dared to utter such a piece of trickery. Those 'beautiful eyes', with which Dhuleep has taken captive the court, are his mother's eyes - those with which she capivated and controlled the old lion of Punjab. The officer who had charge of her from Lahore to Benares told me this. He said that hers were splendid orbs."
However, worries over the supposed bad luck which the Koh-I-Noor was supposed to bring to its owner refused to die down and they ultimately led to Dalhousie writing his most extended and emphasized letter on the subject of the diamond. He wrote on his way home from Malta on January 7th, 1858 as follows:
"The rumour you mention as to the Koh-i-noor I have seen in former years in an English paper, but never anywhere else. It is not only contrary to fact but contrary to native statements also. Did the Koh-i-noor bring ill luck to the great Akbar, who got it from Golconda, or to his own son or grandson? Or to Aurangzeb, who rose to be the Great Mogul? And when that race of Emperors fell (not from the ill-fortune of the Koh-i-noor, but from their feeble hand) did it bring ill-fortune to Nadir Shah, who lived and died the greatest Eastern conqueror of modern times? Or to Ahmed Shah Doorani who got it at Nadir's death and founded the Afghan Empire? Or did it bring ill-fortune to Runjeet Singh, who got it from the Dooranis, and who rose from being a sower on twenty rupees a month at Goojeranwalla to be the Maharaja of the Punjab, swaying the greatest force in India next to ourselves? And has it brought ill-luck to the Queen? Especially representing the Punjab, has it shown that State an enemy to us? Has it not, on the contrary, shown it our fastest friend, by whose aid we have just put down the traitors of our own household? So much for the facts of history as to the Koh-i-noor. Now for the estimation in which its former owners hold it. When Runjeet Singh seized it from Shah Shoojah [the Doorani Emperor] he was very anxious to ascertain its real value. He sent to merchants at Umritsir, but they said its value could not be estimated in money. He sent it to the Begum Shah, Shoojah's wife. Her answer was thus, 'If a strong man should take five stones, and should cast them, one east, one west, one north, and one south, and the last straight up in the air, and if all the space between those points were filled with gold and gems, that would not equal the value of the Koh-i-noor.' Runjeet (thinking this a rather vague estimate, I suppose) thus applied to Shah Shoojah. The old man's answer was: 'The value of the Koh-i-noor is that whoever holds it is victorious over all his enemies.' And so it is. The Koh-i-noor has been of ill-fortune to the few who have lost it. To the long line of Emperors, Conquerors and potentates who through successive centuries have possessed it, it has been the symbol of victory and empire. And sure never more than to our Queen, ever since she wore it, and at this moment...However, if her Majesty thinks it brings bad luck to her let her give it back to me. I will take it and its ill-luck as speculation."
A painting of Queen Victoria by Francis Xavier Winterhalter, painted in 1842.
Winterhalter was famous for his paintings of royalty, Empress Eugenie, Empress
Elisabeth of Austria and Empress Maria Alexandrovna being among his portraits.
Queen Victoria did not return the Koh-I-Noor to Lord Dalhousie. Instead, in 1853 Garrards mounted it in a magnificent tiara for the Queen which contained more than two thousand diamonds. Five years later Queen Victoria ordered a new regal circlet for the Koh-I-Noor which they delivered the following year. Then in 1911 Garrards made a new crown which Queen Mary wore for the coronation: it contained only diamonds, among them the Koh-I-Noor. In 1937 the diamond was transfered to the crown made for Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, which was based on Queen Victoria's regal circlet. The Koh-I-Noor is set in the Maltese Cross at the front of the crown.
In the 20th century there was further controversy surrounding the Koh-I-Noor, namely the question of its rightful ownership. It wouldn't be uncharitable to suggest that on the majority of occasions which the subject has been raised on, it has been due to the efforts of politicians anxious to score poll points off one another rather than to any initiative on the part of those who may harbor deep-seated feelings about the gem.
In 1947 the government of India asked for the return of the Koh-I-Noor: at the same time the Congress Ministry of Orissa claimed that the stone actually belonged to the god Jaganath, despite the opinion of Ranjit Singh's treasurer that it was property of the state. Another request followed in 1953, the year of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. But the really fight erupted in 1976 when the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, in a letter to the British Prime Minister, James Callaghan, submitted a formal request for the return of the diamond to Pakistan. This was refused but was accompanied by an assurance by Callaghan to Bhutto that there was no question that Britain would have handed it over to any other country. The view of the British government was reported at the time to have been that the history of the diamond is so confused and that Britain has a clear title, in that the diamond was not seized in war but formally presented -- the last statement being a somewhat curious interpretation of the events of the 19th century. Remember, the Koh-I-Noor being handed over was one of the terms of the Treaty of Lahore. They did not have much choice in the matter. Pakistan's claim to the Koh-I-Noor was disputed by India, which made another formal request for its restoration. Shortly after, a major newspaper in Teheran stated that the gem ought to be returned to Iran.
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (1928-1979)
The debate in the British media and press provided evidence of the keen interest which the topic rose. People and special interest groups hastened to put pen to paper. Lord Ballatrae, the great-grandson of Lord Dalhousie, submitted his own claim on the grounds that for just over a year his relative had been the stone's owner. A second person wrote that if the Koh-I-Noor was to be handed back, then the marble statues must be restored to Greece or Lord Elgin, the Isle of Man to Lord Delby and the Channel Islands to France -- he was not sure to whom the Isle of Wight belonged but felt sure there would be a long and acrimonious dispute with the British Isles themselves. A third writer suggested that the solution to the problem was to partition the gem... (!)
An authoritative and thoughtful addition to the debate that raged in the press was in a letter to The Times by Sir Olaf Caroe, a distinguished British administrator who had spent a lifetime's service in the east, including time in the post of Foreign Secretary to the Government of India from 1939 to 1945. Sir Olaf pointed out that the Koh-I-Noor had been in Mogul possession in Delhi for 213 years, in Afghan possession in Kandahar and Kabul for 66 years and (at the time of writing the letter) in British possession for 127 years. He remarked that it is true that when it was acquired by the British it was at Lahore (now a part of Pakistan), but other and previous claimants also existed. The Moguls in Delhi were Turkish in origin and the rulers in Lahore, by the time the stone came into British hands, were Sikhs. Finally, he said he felt that the word "return" was barely applicable.
Historically, it is difficult to pass judgement on the validity of the various claims. On the other hand, from a gemological aspect, the Indian claim must be the most valid because it was in that country that the Koh-I-Noor was mined. However, this country's claim to the diamond was renounced by a man who was a statesman, not only a politician; Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India once said, "Diamonds are for the Emperors and India does not need Emperors."
In 1992 a new HM Stationary Office publication on the British Crown Jewels and regalia gave the revised weight of 105.602 metric carats for the Koh-I-Noor and not the 108.93 metric carat conversion figure previously published. The stone was found to measure 36.00 × 31.90 × 13.04 mm. The stone is set in the Maltese Cross at the front of the crown made for Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and because of uncertainty as to the precise weight in the HMSO publication, the opportunity was taken in 1988 to have the stone removed during the maintenance and cleaning of the crown by the Crown Jeweller, Mr. Bill Summers, at Garrard & Co. It was weighed in the presences of witnesses on a modern certified electronic balance.
Herbert Tillander's drawing of the Koh-I-Noor's facet pattern. This cut is
called a 'stellar brilliant' because of the extra facets on the stone's pavilion.
I doubt it would get better than the grade "Fair" in symmetry.
Sources: The Great Diamonds of the World by Edwin Streeter, The Baburnama by Babur, translated into English by Annette Beveridge 1922, Akbarnama by Abul Fazal, translated into English by Henry Beveridge, Travels in India by Jean Baptiste Tavernier, translated into English by Valentine Ball and William Crooke in 1925 (the price an original copy from the 1600s starts at about $2100...!), the archives of the London Times.
The Krupp last sold at Sotheby's on May 16th, 1968, for $305,000, to Elizabeth Taylor. The stone weighs 33.19 carats and is mounted in a ring. She wears it nearly every day and in every film since acquiring it; it was even animated into her special guest appearance on The Simpsons. Taylor is seen polishing her Academy Awards, we see her eye reflect, blinking, on the stone's facets.
Elizabeth Taylor wearing the Krupp ring.
Elizabeth Taylor also owned a 69.4-carat pear shaped, D-color, Interally Flawless diamond. It came up for auction at Sotheby's on October 23, 1969. At the sale, Cartier outbid Richard Burton who was bidding over the phone, but he later negotiated with them to the record breaking tune of $1,050,000 for the stone. When the stone changed hands, it was set in a ring. It was named the Taylor-Burton Diamond and mounted as a pendent on a $25,000 necklace by Harry Winston. There also was unprecedented publicity around this sale. In 1978, Elizabeth Taylor sold the stone, and the proceeds went to help build a hospital in Botswana, Africa. Sometime later that year Robert Mouawad purchased it.
Elizabeth Taylor flashes the Krupp Diamond to a group of reporters.
This is what it says in my volume of ART AT AUCTION The Year at Sotheby's and Parke-Barnett 1967-68: "A diamond ring, by Harry Winston. New York $305,000. From the collection of the late Vera Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach. The highest price ever paid [at the time] at auction for a diamond ring."
The La Favorite
The La Favorite, a 50.15-carat D-color, VVS-2 clarity, with the potential for being flawless if it were to be slightly recut. It is set in a ring by Bulgari. The La Favorite was mined in South Africa and made its debut at the Chicago World's Fair in 1933, when it was owned by a Persian and valued at $1 million. The diamond was a sensation during the Depression; people waited in lines to see the rock. In the 1960's, it was sold to a Frenchman. The piece was purchased by Laurence Graff for $3,636,000 in April, 2001, at Christies Auction House, New York.
The La Favorite, with the Star of America (right), 50 and 100 carats, respectively. Both are owned by Laurence Graff.
The Millennium Star
De Beers and the Steinmetz Group has unveiled the world's rarest and arguably the most valuable set of diamonds ever put together to mark the year 2000. Stressing that 'millennia come and go, but diamonds are forever,' the diamond giant's Chairman Nicky Oppenheimer presented the De Beers Millennium Star, a D-color, internally and externally flawless pear-shape, cut to perfect proportions, weighing a hefty 203.04 carats. It is the second largest faceted D-Flawless diamond in the world, the 273.15 carat Centenary Diamond is the first.
The Millennium Star is the centerpiece of the company's Limited Edition Millennium Diamonds collection which further consists of 11 highly unusual blue diamonds cut into a variety of shapes, having a total weight of 118 carats. The diamonds were presented to the world with great theater during an impressive ceremony at the top floor of the CSO's Charterhouse Street complex in London: the Millennium Star was lovingly caressed by the latest James Bond girl, French actress Sophie Marceau, under the approving eyes of De Beers top executives and principals of the worldwide Steinmetz Group of Companies - the craftsmen that designed, planned, and manufactured these exceptional and unique stones.
The team of cutters, who labored in polishing the collection for some three years around the clock, was headed by Israeli-born Nir Livnat, managing director of Johannesburg-based Ascot Diamonds, a member of the Steinmetz Group of Diamond Companies. The Steinmetz Group is known as 'the master' in the field of diamonds and is one the leading customers of De Beers. The Steinmetz Group has several sources of independent mines which supply the rough diamonds. Whenever a large sale, auction or event appears in the diamond business, you can be sure that the Stieinmetz Group is part of it. The Steinmetz Group supports Diamond.com as the Jeweler of the Millennium Diamonds.
Though the general press coverage focused understandably on the Millennium Star and actress Sophie Marceau (who played in the James Bond movie aptly called "The World is Not Enough"), the trade is rightfully excited also about the eleven exceptionally rare blue diamonds, which orbit as sparkling blue satellites around the Millennium Star. Steinmetz explains that each one of these stones came from the famous Premier Mine in South Africa. But blue diamonds of this quality and size are extremely rare and to discover one on any year is an incredible accomplishment, let alone discovering the entire collection. In addition to the pear-shaped Millennium Star, the collection consists of 11 beautiful blue diamonds of different shapes and carat weights, ranging in size from 5.16 carats to a phenomenal 27.64 carat heart-shaped stone, the Heart of Eternity. Each of these 11 blue diamonds will be specially inscribed with a De Beers Millennium number, using De Beers' proprietary branding technique. Livnat explains that the Millennium Star will not be branded, as "it is externally flawless. There is not even a single scratch or burn mark on any of the facets. This is extremely exceptional - and a tribute to the cutters' expertise - and De Beers is therefore rightfully presenting the stone as externally flawless." Thus branding is out for the Millennium Star.
It is expected that some 12-million people will visit the De Beers Millennium Jewels Exhibition at the new Millennium Dome in London. There they will remain on view in a specially designed exhibit for the entire year. It is worth it to pause a moment and reflect on the rarity of blue diamonds. Pre-20th century accounts of great blue diamonds reinforce the trade's historical links with India, the only known early source of diamonds. These accounts tell of diamonds such as Tavernier Blue (now known as the Hope Diamond; 45.52 carats) and the 30.82-carat Blue Heart, which today are valued for their history and mystique as much as for their rare color. These diamonds are famous because of their incredible rarity - only red diamonds are rarer - and the De Beers collection of blues is something that will never be seen again.
Actress Sophie Marceau holding the Millennium Star.
Nicky Oppenheimer was careful not to put a value on the Millennium Star, saying that any figure he would give would be purely academic. The London Evening Star was not as conservative as Mr. Oppenheimer and insured the Star for 100 million English pounds. This is believed to be a fraction of its true worth. Beny Steinmetz, Co-Chairman of the Steinmetz Diamond Group, echoed the cautious approach of Oppenheimer, but pointed out that the previous record price paid for any polished diamond was $16.5 million for a 100.10 carat D-Flawless stone, the Star of the Season, that was auctioned by Sotheby's in May, 1995, thus selling for about $165,000 per carat. According to market sources, that stone was also manufactured and sold by the Steinmetz group. To the two senior principals of the Steinmetz Group, brothers Beny and Danny Steinmetz, it is rather symbolic that they were chosen to cut the De Beers Limited Edition Millennium Diamond. It is exactly 50 years ago, almost to the day, that the Steinmetz Diamond Company was established by the late Ruben Steinmetz, father of the present principals. "Ruben Steinmetz was known for manufacturing high quality goods," recalls his son, and, without saying so, one could sense that the sons are truly moved by their ability to continue family tradition. Nobody will ever "accuse" the hard and successful businessmen, what the Steinmetzes are, of being sentimental. But in the presence of the Millennium stones times stands still and one must reflect on one's past, one's roots and on the future.
Dakov and AM Diamonds! Stop stealing my stuff!
Chairman Nicky Oppenheimer, who tends to be emotional about diamonds, summed it up by recalling that these incredible diamonds have been collected at the end of this millennium and presented to the world to celebrate the beginning of the next. Nature gives us so few blue diamonds that most people will not see one in their lifetime. "As we come together to celebrate the new Millennium, De Beers is giving the world a chance to see this unique collection - truly a once in a Millennium experience", reflects Oppenheimer. "To be able, therefore, to unveil a truly spectacular new diamond on the threshold of the new millennium is surely a uniquely opposite combination of two very rare events. To be able to unveil not only one diamond, but a collection of such rarity that most of us will not see its like again is, I think, the only adequate way to mark the passage of 2000 years of man's history," concludes Oppenheimer. Article by Chaim Even-Zohar of Diamond.com.
The Millennium Star was part of the Splendour of Diamonds Exhibition at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC over the summer of 2003. Other diamonds in the exhibition were the Allnatt, the Pumpkin, the Steinmetz Pink, the Ocean Dream, the Heart of Eternity and the Moussaieff Red. When I first saw this photo, I was struck by the the gray human eye reflecting inside the Millennium Star, underneath the table at a 2 o'clock angle from the culet, but no image like that would ever reflect inside a diamond in this manner. I don't know what that is.
The Mouawad Lilac
This is a 24.44-carat emerald cut owned by Robert Mouawad. It's current estimated value is over $20 million. The exact color grade and clarity has not been published, but it due to its name and the photo, it is safe to say the stone has a higher color saturation than the Mouawad Pink Diamond. On June 5th, 1976 the stone was offered at auction at Sotheby Parke Bernet's Zurich location. Featured on page 476 of Art at Auction: the Year at Sotheby Parke Bernet 1975-76, it had an estimate of 2,700,000 Swiss francs, equal to £600,000, or $1,088,710 US.
The Mouawad Magic
Lebanese diamond dealer Robert Mouawad first appeared on the diamond scene in the 1970s. Soon his very presence in the sale or auction room was enough to send pulses racing when it was realized that a new, significiant player had appeared. Along with his two contemporaries, Sheikh Ahmed Fitaihi of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and Laurence Graff of London, he has been responsible for sone of the most astonishing record diamond prices achieved in recent years.
The Mouawad family business dates from 1890 when Daoud Mouawad, Robert's grandfather, established a small jewelry workshop in Beirut, Lebanon, after learning the craft in New York and Mexico. Later, Doaud's son, Fayez, broadened the scope of the business by moving to Saudi Arabia in 1950. The timing proved to be excellent and it enabled the family to capitalize on the country's growing wealth and to benefit from the increasing oil revenues in the Persian Gulf. Once Fayez handed the reins of the business over to his son, Robert Mouawad was to expand to Europe, development North American and Far Eastern connections, and to transform his family's jewelry business into the global empire it has become today.
Robert Mouawad has purchased a number of the world's greatest diamonds including the Nassak, the Indore Pears, the Premier Rose, the Jubilee, the Queen of Holland, the Tereschenko and the Taylor-Burton, plus numerous other fine stones which he has named.
"Each diamond is unique and has personality traits, some more appealing than others. The whiteness or fancy color, the size, the clarity, the cut, the immortal character, are all factors that contribute to the overall beauty of a stone. But it is the human touch that unveils its beauty. In its rough state it hides its true potential value. Also, the true historical value of a gem, from its formation to its birth on the earth's surface, and the many lives it has affected, are all intangibles that add to its mystique," Robert Mouawad once said, in relfecting on this amazing collection.
Not all of Mr. Mouawad's diamond acquisitions have been made at auctions. In March of 1991, in Antwerp, he purchased a 284.6-carat rough diamond that had been found in the Aredor Mine in Guinea, Africa. Through his own company's office in Belgium, it was faceted into the largest diamond in his collection bearing his name: a magnificent emerald cut later named the Mouawad Magic, with a weight of 108.81 carats. It measures 32.91 by 20.73 by 16.83 mm. The D-color, Internally Flawless gem is considered a collection item and as a result is "not for sale" at this present time.
The Mouawad Mondera
This 60.19-carat D-color Flawless diamond is owned by Robert Mouawad and was named to represent both the traditional world of the family jeweler and the new face represented by Mondera.com, the jewelry e-tailers founded by his sons. The stone was set as the center of a bra, pictured below, modeled by Karolina Kurkova. The green and pink floral pattern is actually emeralds and rubies and the total caratweight of the piece is about 320 carats.
Mouawad bought the stone at auction at Christies on November 16th, 2000 for 7,159,750 swiss francs, or about US $5,358,838.
The Mouawad Pink
A radiant cut pink diamond of 21.06 carats owned by Robert Mouawad. It has an estimated value of over $12,000,000. Its exact color grade is unpublished, but it has a clarity of VS1. More details lacking.
The Mouawad Splendour
This diamond is unusual because it has an 11-sided girdle, but also because it is a D-color and Flawless clarity stone. It weighs 101.84 carats, and is valued at $13,970,000. It is owned by Robert Mouawad.
At the end of 2006 the diamond was offered as the principal stone in a Victoria's Secret diamond bra, making it among several other notable Mouawad diamonds to be offered as such.
The Mouna Diamond weighs 112.53 carats and is VS1 clarity. When it was submitted to the Gemological Institute of America on November 9th, 1995, they stated that up until this date it was the largest Fancy Intense Yellow diamond that they had ever graded. The cushion-shaped stone is 26 mm in diameter set in a baguette-cut mount by Bulgari, which with it the diamond has a height of 36 mm. It was sold by Christie's in Geneva on November 16th, 1998, lot 161, and fetched $3,258,000 (about $28,773 per carat).
Michael Hing, a gemologist in Great Britain, told me about this stone. I think I had already heard a murmur about it here and there, but just the name, not a description or photo. Mr. Hing personally handled the stone at an exhibition in Paris around 2000. Here is what he had to say about it:
"The Mouna was the largest Fancy Intense Yellow diamond at one time: I'm not sure if it still is, the GIA certificate was issued a few years ago. It was owned by Mouna Ayoub. Her former husband must be a man of some considerable wealth: apparently she once told him that she enjoyed jogging, and the next day a team of workmen began building her a running track around the perimeter of their estate in Saudi Arabia. The gem was part of her divorce settlement - along with a rather impressive collection of other items. It was sold at auction (Christie's), I believe in 1996. It's a lovely stone. Very, very well-cut indeed. We put it next to the Tiffany: not only is it a few carats bigger looking, the colour was also noticeably better. It was set in a Bulgari pendant: extremely good-quality jewelry work. Unfortunately, we didn't get the matching necklace (also very impressive, judging from the photos)."
The Moussaieff Red
The William Goldberg Diamond Corporation, famous for outstanding stones like the Premier Rose and the Guinea Star, cut this gem from a 13.90-carat rough. They transformed the piece into a spectacular red diamond weighing 5.11 carats. The GIA states, "It is the largest Fancy Red, natural color diamond that we have graded as of the date the report was issued." The stone is a triangular brilliant, sometimes refered to as a trillion or a trilliant cut. It was cut sometime in the mid-1990s, so its history is still relatively uneventful. Sometime around 2001 or 2002 the stone was purchased by Moussaieff Jewellers Ltd. The firm, while it has no website as of yet, is renowned for multi-million dollar pieces of jewelry and has locations in the United States as well as abroad.
The Moussaieff Red paid a visit to the Smithsonian Museum in 2003, being part of an exhibit titled The Splendour of Diamonds (above photo). The exhibit lasted from June 27th to September 30th and featured a number of other unusual colored diamonds, namely the Millennium Star, the Heart of Eternity, the Pumpkin Diamond, the Allnatt Diamond, the Ocean Dream, and the Steinmetz Pink.
Michael Hing, a gemologist in Great Britain, was shown the stone in person in London sometime around 2002. "It’s a really suprising cranberry colour, quite unlike any other diamond I’ve ever seen," he writes. "The actual color of the stone is much more like the top photo [on this page] than the bottom photo."
"The Ageless Diamond" exhibition sponsored by Christie's and De Beers in London in 1959 showed few exhibits as breath-taking as this pear-shaped diamond, weighing 79.41 metric carats, mounted as a pendant with a diamond chain. Little is known about its early history, though it is believed to have been found in the in the alluvial diamond fields in the vicinity of Golconda. Certainly both the color and quality of the gem are worthy of the source. Unlike so many fine Indian diamonds this one did not travel westwards but instead went to Nepal, situated on the north-eastern border of India, where it remained for several generations, passing from one ruler and potentate to another.
In 1957 Harry Winston purchased the Nepal from an Indian dealer, and had it slightly recut from its original weight of 79.50 carats. In 1958 the stone was featured in an issue of National Geographic magazine which quoted that Harry Winston wanted $500,000 for the stone, set in the pendant in the above photo. After "The Ageless Diamond" exhibition he sold the diamond to a European client. It was set as a pendant to a V-shaped diamond necklace that also contained 145 round diamonds weighing a total of 71.44 carats.
Unlike the proverbial cat, one may expect the Premier Mine to enjoy only four lives. The first lasted from the discovery of the diamond pipe just before 1902 - and the formation of the Premier (Transvaal) Diamond Mining Company - until the outbreak of World War I when the mine was shut down and operated on a caretaker basis. By January of 1916 it was working again and production continued up to 1932 when mining operations ceased due to the depressed state of the diamond industry.
Working resumed in 1945, but its fourth life really began in 1979 with the opening up of the mine below the 'Gabbro' sill, a 70-meter geologic intrusion of barren rock which cuts right through the pipe some 400 meters below the surface. Production from this new source has not only given the mine its longest life, but one that should enable production to continue for another fifteen years.
In the early years of its existence, the Premier Mine produced many large diamonds, including, of course the Cullinan in 1905, and since working was restarded in 1945 the mine has continued to yield some exceptional stones. One of the most exciting moments early on the morning of Sunday, May 22nd, 1954, when a diamond measuring just under 51 mm long, just over 25 mm wide and 19 mm thick unexpectedly appeared on the grease tables at the recovery plant. It was immediately apparent to the officials present that this was an exceptional find.
The diamond weighed 426.5 carats, was internally flawless, but was slightly chipped, probably due to contact with the mine's underground crusher. Sir Ernest Oppenheimer considered that it possessed the most perfect color of any diamond he had seen, an opinion shared by others who were fortunate enough to view it.
In due course the unnamed diamond was shipped to London and in February of 1956 it was announced by the Diamond Trading Company that a sale of rough diamonds totalling £3,000,000 had been made to the firm of Harry Winston Inc. of New York. At the time this transaction represented the largest single sale ever made to one of its clients.
On February 1st, 1956 the diamond was brought from Ildewild Airport by a messenger for a customs broker and duly delivered to its purchaser in a brown paper bag. Accompanying him and, like him, unattended by any special guard, was a postman with three cardboard boxes containing the rest of the diamonds under his arm. The shipment had been made to New York by registered post and the actual postal charges ammounted to the princely sum of about £1.75.
Harry Winston and his cutting staff spent weeks debating whether to fasion one large gem or several smaller stones from the rough. In the end they decided on a single diamond, Mr. Winston stating that while it would have proved easier to sell the smaller stones, he felt that the historical value of creating one fine gem was more important.
Once this had been determined, plans were laid to ensure the cutting of a perfect final gem. The cutters made more than three hundred lead models of the proposed finished gem to guide them in their task. The actual operation was performed by Winston's chief cleaver, Bernard de Haan, who spent the entire year working on the project. The first severance took five weeks: from the 70-carat piece removed, a 27.62-carat marquise was later polished. The second took equally long and produced another 70 carats from which a very significant emerald cut of 39.99 carats was obtained. Thus a rough piece weighing about 270 carats remained. For some 58 days, master diamond cutter Bernard de Haan first ground then polished the great gem. Ultimately it yielded a pear shape weighing 128.25 carats, possessing 58 facets, plus 86 facets around the girdle, totalling 144. On February 27th, 1957, the 'Ice Queen', as de Haan had nicknamed it, was unveiled to the world. The April, 1958 edition of National Geographic magazine featured an article on diamonds, in which the Niarchos' cutting process was shown.
The Niarchos in its preform shape. This photo is from the April, 1958 issue of
National Geographic. You can already see the pear shape of the stone beginning to appear.
The caption under the above photo read: "Winston's Chief Cutter, Bernard de Haan, Studies His Ice Queen." Son, grandson and great-grandson of Amsterdam diamond cutters, Mr. de Haan met his greatest challenge in New York while fashioning the Niarchos. "I called it the Ice Queen," he says, "because the rough stone would have been hard to spot in a bucket of ice cubes."
Soon after, the late Stavros Niarchos, the Greek shipping magnate, bought the gem for his then wife, formerly Charlotte Ford, for a reported $2,000,000. Members of the Ford family were not polite, refering to the diamond as 'the Skating Rink', but Niarchos remained unperturbed, having also bought the two other gems that had been fashioned from the original 426-carat rough. For that amount - and after they were divorced - he was surely entitled to bestow his name upon the diamond which he generously lent to many exhibitions. In 1966 the Niarchos returned to South Africa for the famous centennial 'Jewel Box 1966' exhibition. Since his death in April of 1996, no further information about the Niarchos Diamond has been forthcoming.
However, the 39.99-carat emerald cut, known today as the Ice Queen, was auctioned by Sotheby's of New York in October of 1991. Having earlier been graded by the Gemological Institute of America as D-color and VVS1 clarity, it was sold for $1,870,000 to Sheik Ahmed Hassan Fitaihi. Sources: Famous Diamonds by Ian Balfour, Diamonds - Famous, Notable and Unique by GIA, and National Geographic magazine.
The centerpiece of this tiara is the Nur-Ul-Ain Diamond, one of the largest pink diamonds in the world. The diamond is thought to have been brought from India, along with the Darya-I-Nur Diamond. The diamond is set in platinum, and is surrounded by diamonds in shades of pink, yellow, and colorless, with a row of colorless baguette diamonds in tapering sizes lining the base of the tiara. The Nur-Ul-Ain is an oval brilliant cut of around 60 carats and measures approximately 30 × 26 × 11 mm. The other diamonds range from 14 to 19 carats each. The tiara contains 324 diamonds total.
The tiara was designed by Harry Winston for the occasion of the Empress Farah's wedding to the the last Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, in 1958.
Click here to view an up-close phot of the Sceptre
Legend, fact, supposition and theory each must be accorded its place in any historical account of this celebrated diamond. Nowadays the Orlov is one of the most important items in one of the greatest collections of gems and jewelry, the Treasures of the Diamond Fund, Gokran, cromprises of many historical jewels that were amassed by the rulers of Russia before the 1917 Revolution, as well as some of the exceptional diamonds unearthed during the past three decades that testify to Russia's current position as a leading world diamond producer.
The Orlov is mounted in the Imperial Sceptre, made during the reign of Catherine the Great (1762-96). Its weight has been recorded as 189.62 metric carats and it measures 47.6 mm in height, 31.75 mm in width, and 34.92 mm in length. The clarity is typical of the finest Indian diamonds and its color possesses a slight bluish-green tint. The shape of the diamond has been described as resembling half a pigeon's egg and its upper surface is marked by concentrated rows of triangular facets, with corresponding four-sided facets appearing on the lower surface. The total number of facets is roughly 180. On one side of the diamond there exists a slight indentation.
The unusual shape of the Orlov, the pattern of its facets and the presence of this blemish intriguingly suggest that this diamond can be indentified with a long-lost legendary stone.
Among the first Europeans who were permitted to examine the gems of the Mogul rulers of India was Jean Baptiste Tavernier, who provided illustrations of several stones he had seen in his work Six Voyages of Jean Baptiste Tavernier.
Tavernier's drawing of the diamond which has come to be known as the Great Mogul is of particular interest and importance, because it is the only one of this legendary stone known to have survived. According to all the available accountds of its history the Great Mogul was found about the middle of the 17th century in the Kollur diamond deposits situated by the Kristna (or Krishna) River in Hyderabad, and weighed no less than 787½ carats. In due course it found its way into the Mogul treasury and was shown to Tavernier by Aurangzeb (1658-1707), the third son of Shah Jahan, who had successfully fought off the challenge of his three brothers and usurped his father's throne. The cutting of the Great Mogul was entrusted to an Italian, Hortensio Borgio, who reduced the weight of the stone to 279 and 9/16 carats. The results of the efforts of the cutter, however, so displeased Aurangzeb that instead if rewarding him for his services, he fined him 10,000 rupees and would have extracted more had the wretched man possessed it. Tavernier makes several references to the Great Mogul, which are included under that entry.
A drawing of the Orlov Diamond from the book Precious Stones by Max Bauer,
published in 1904. The stone's outline is somewhat irregular, rather than the oval
stone that Tom R. Barbour's cutting instructions call for, which appeared in his
famous diamond replica series in Lapidary Journal in the early-1960's. The drawing
of the diamond matches Ian Balfour's description very closely, with triangular facets
towards the top of the diamond and four-sided facets toward the bottom. The bottom
of the diamond appears to have three large facets, one the middle one either curved
off or horizontal, and a diagonal one on either side.
It is clear that the Great Mogul was the leviathan of all old Indian diamonds and that it was appreciated as such. But the mystery remains: what fate could have befallen such a great gem of which all trace appears to have been lost. Some have suggested that it was cut into smaller gems. Others suggest that it does exist today in the guise of another diamond, and the names of three in particular have been put forward: the Darya-I-Nur, the Koh-I-Noor, and the Orlov.
The contents of the Iranian Treasury were opened up in the 1960s for examination and cataloguing by three Canadian experts, among them V.B. Meen, who wrote a book about them titled The Crown Jewels of Iran. Their researches demonstrated that the Darya-I-Nur, the most important gem in the whole collection, bears no resemblance whatsoever to the Great Mogul. The Darya-I-Nur is light pink in color, while its flat, oblong shape has been demonstrably proved by the Candians to have been fashioned from the so-called Great Table Diamond which figured as No. 3 in Tavernier's set of drawings.
The evidence for indentifying the Koh-I-Noor with the Great Mogul is stronger. When the diamond was brought to England in 1850, drawings were made that showed its diameter approximated to that of the Great Mogul. The gem was considerably flatter but it showed the surfaces wence portions had been removed by cleavage. On the other hand, some authorities have always maintained that the existence of of the Koh-I-Noor had been known long before the advent of the Great Mogul and have identified it as the great diamond owned by Babur (1483-1530), the first of the Mogul dynasty. Babur reigned about a century and a half before Aurangzeb. It us unlikely that anyone will ever know for certain one way or the other the truth about the earliest history of the Koh-I-Noor.
There remains the Orlov. When a comparison is made between Tavernier's drawing of the Great Mogul and the photographs of the diamond in the Kremlin, it immediately becomes apparent there are similarities. The first lies in the shape. It will be recalled that the Orlov has been described as resembling half a pigeon's egg and that Tavernier refered to the Great Mogul as presenting 'the form of an egg cut in half.' Throughout history there cannot have been many diamonds of such an unusual form. Secondly, the pattern of facets of the two stones is not disimilar. Thirdly, the previously-mentioned slight indentiation that exists in the Orlov must correspond to Tavernier's note to that effect that 'there is a slight crack and a little flaw in it.' In addition, as will be shortly shown, the story of the Great Mogul would appear to have no known ending and that of the Orlov has no clear beginning - further historical evidence that they are probably one and the same diamond.
On the other hand, there is the discrepancy between the weights of the two stones. After being cut by the Venetian, Borgio, the Great Mogul's weight was reduced to around 280 carats, whereas the Orlov is estimated to be less than 200 carats. In this connection two points must be made. First, it has been shown by others that Tavernier may not always have recorded with accuracy the weights of the various stones he examined; for example, it is almost certain that he erred in the weight he gave for the Great Table Diamond. Secondly, it is not at all unlikely that at some point in its complicated history a further attempt may have been made to alter the state of the Orlov - to improve upon the efforts of Hortensio Borgio, by grinding away a portion of the top of Tavernier's diamond to resemble the shape of the Orlov today.
Finally, the Soviet authority on gems, Academician Alexander E. Fersman, who examined all the former Crown Jewels from a gemological point of view, was in no doubt that the Orlov was the same diamond as the Great Mogul. Personally, I also believe they are the same stone, recut.
The Imperial Sceptre, viewed from straight-on. The Orlov is surrounded
by a row of small Old Mine cut diamonds. The setting around the diamond
is relatively simple and could very likely be replicated, but despite it, it is
sadly unlikely the GIA will ever be able to fully examine the great diamond.
According to one account, the earliest known fact about the Orlov is that it was set as one of the eyes of an idol in a sacred temple in the south of India. This temple is stated to have been situated at a site alternatively spelled by past authors as 'Srirangen', 'Sherigan', 'Scheringham', and ' Sheringham'. But its true location is Srirangam, a town in the Tiruchirapalli (Trichinopoly) district of Madras which stands on an island formed by the tranching of the Cauvery River, about 3.2 km north of Tiruchirapalli city. The island, measuring 27 km long and 1.5 to 2 km wide, was strategically important as a base during the struggle between the English and French forces for Trichinopoly in the 18th century.
The great temple at Srirangem, dating from the 17th century, is dedicated to Vishnu and is reguarded as one of the most sacred shrines in southern India. It is composed of seven rectangular enclosures, one within another, the outermost having a perimeter exceeding 11.25 km in length. A remarkable feature is the Hall of a Thousand Pillars, with its colonnade of rearing horses.
A French soldier, who deserted and found employment in the neighborhood of Srirangem, learned that the temple contained the celebrated idol of a Hindu god, the eyes of which formed by two large diamonds of inestimable value. Thereupon he made a plan to seize the gems, a feat which necessitated years rather than months of planning, since no Christian was ever admitted beyond the fourth of the seven enclosures. So in order to effect his evil purpose, he embraced the Hindu faith and eventually obtained employment within the walls of the temple. By degrees he gained the confidence of the unsuspecting Brahmins and was allowed in as a frequent worshipper at the inner shrine, because of his apparent veneration for this particular divinity. Ultimately, he secured the appointment of guardian to the innermost shrine within which lay the object of his attention.
Then came the moment for which the Frenchman had waited so long, a stormy night that masked the idol in fitful shadows. He laid his sacrilegious hands upon the diety entrusted to his care and prized one of the diamond eyes out of its socket. Losing courage, he then fled the scene leaving the other diamond behind. He scaled the walls of the temple, swam the river and escaped into the surrounding jungle to the comparative safety of the English army encamped at Trichinopoly, and all the while the tempest raged. Finally, he made his way to Madras, where he sold the diamond for £2000 to an English sea captain who brought it to London and sold it to a Jewish merchant for £12,000. The merchant, in turn, is said to have sold it to an Armenian by the name of Khojeh Raphael, who had left Persia as a young man, sailed to Surat and then travelled by sea to England and then to Russia, passing through Amsterdam. Apparently, his travels had taken him to most European countries before he decided to settle as a merchant in the Italian port of Leghorn. According to a Persian traveller, Khojeh was 'a complete old scoundral, who had seen a great deal of this world and understood a number of languages.'
This colorful account of the Orlov cannot be relied upon as authorative. The real point of interest concerns the identity of the second diamond in the idol. Which diamond could possibly have been set as the eye? The candidates are few, with the Koh-I-Noor being foremost amongst them, but we know that this historic gem had been taken from Delhi in 1739 by the Persian Nadir Shah. Perhaps the second eye of the idol had filled by some other precious stone or had the idol itself at some time suffered the same fate as Nelson at Calvi?
Another version of the Orlov's journey to Europe is even more lurid. This account begins with the diamond belonging to the Mogul rulers and being amongst the loot carried off from Delhi by the Persians under Nadir Shah. Shortly after Nadir Shah had been murdered in 1747, an Afghan soldier, formerly in his service, appeared in Bassorah, a large town situated on the Shatt-el-Arab, some 112 km north of the Persian Gulf. The original city of Bassorah, of Thousand and One Nights fame, was founded by Caliph Omar I in AD 636, some 13 km from the modern city of Basra, which, like its predecessor, is an important port and trading center for produce from the east.
As well as the diamond, the Afghan brought with him many other expensive jewels, all of which he offered to an Armenian merchant named Grigori Safras, then residing with his two brothers in Bassorah. Safras was astonished at such a valuable hoard in the hands of a poor soldier who was obviously unaware of its true value. He was obliged to postpone the chance of doing business with the soldier in order to find sufficient funds. In the mean time, the Afghan became suspicious of the merchant's delay and, believing that a trap was being laid for him, disappeared from the city as mysteriously as he had entered.
The soldier made his way to Baghdad where he met a Jewish trader to whom he sold his treasures for 65,000 piastres (then about £500) and two fine Arab horses. But instead of returning home, he proceeded to squander his newly acquired riches in a bout of dissipation. Unfortunately, in the middle of his revels he met up again with Safras who this time determined not to lose site of the man. Disappointed to learn that the Afghan had sold his treasure, however, he was able to learn the whereabouts of the trader's residence, and lost no time in calling on him. Safras offered the merchant twice the amount he had paid for the diamond but the trader was unwilling to part with it. Thereupon Safras had consulted his two brothers who had joined him in Baghdad; they decided to acquire the diamond by foul means. Having successfully accomplished this, it became obvious that the Afghan would also need to be disposed of, because his evidence would incriminate the brothers. So, taking advantage of his liking for riotous living, they induced him to join them the next day for a bout of drinking during the course of which they administered poison. The bodies of the Jewish trader and Afghan soldier were placed together in a sack and thrown by night into the River Tigris.
The slaughter had not yet finished. Events had run smoothly for the murderers up to that point, but when it came time to the distribution of the plunder, each of the three brothers insisted on having the diamond. As it was impossible to divide the gem into three equal parts, and as neither of his brothers was prepared to waive his claim, the wily Safras treated them in exactly the same way that they had treated their unfortunate victims. So Safras perpetuated a double fratricide and another sack was dumped into the Tigris. After such a spate of killings, the Armenian wisely considered it prudent to move on; accordingly he made his way to Constantinople, then through Hungary to Silesia, before arriving in Amsterdam. Here he set himself up as a dealer in precious stones. One can only hope that the city's pre-eminence as a trading center was what attracted him, rather than its aqueous situation.
Now according to Edwin Streeter's book The Great Diamonds of the World, this second version of the history of the Orlov Diamond does not refer to the Orlov at all, but to a totally different diamond called the Moon of the Mountains, which weighed 120 carats. However, no trace of such a diamond exists today, least of all in the Russian Diamond Fund. In addition the Russian authorities have brought to light records which indicate that around 1768 their great diamond had indeed passed into the hands of an individual named Safras. Moreover they have also refered to the city of Astrakhan in their account of Orlov, a reference which is possibly explained by Streeter.
He states that after setting up in Amsterdam as a dealer, Safras drew the attention of certain European rulers, among them Catherine the Great of Russia, to his jewels. The Empress was apparently much taken by the description of the Armenian's great diamond, and invited Safras to her capital, St. Petersburg, where she put him in touch with the Court jeweler, I.L. Lazarev. Negotiations broke down over an agreed price for the gem, the amount being requested by Safras considered exorbitant. However, Count Panin, the favorite minister of the Empress at the time, proved equal to the occasion and ultimately showed himself more than a match for the astute Armenian. The demands of Safras were neither agreed to nor rejected; instead he was gradually led into a style of living with proved beyond his means, with the result that he ran heavily into debt. When his means were exhausted, Panin abruptly terminated the negotiations and informed Safras that he could not leave Russia, or even St. Petersburg, until all his creditors had been paid. Safras was thus at the mercy of the minister; nevertheless he was determined not to sacrifice his diamondand he succeded in raising enough money to settle his outstanding debts by selling other gems among the Armenian community in St. Petersburg. Thereupon he withdrew from the Russian capital.
A few years later the Russian Court learned that Safras was residing in Astrakhan and negotiations were reopened for the sale of the diamond, which he was induced to part with, apparently on the original terms. However, at this point in the diamond's history there is yet more confusion. It has always been thought that the diamond's much travelled purchaser bought the gem in Amsterdam; there were reports in the London press to that effect. So the conclusion to be drawn is that the business was not successfully completed in Astrakhan - Count Orlov had to travel to Amsterdam to finalize the arrangements. By this time the gem had become known as the Amsterdam Diamond.
Count Grigorievich Orlov (1723-83) was a Russian nobleman and an army officer of great distinction. He was wounded no less than three times during the various campaigns of the Seven Years War. On one occasion he was detailed to escort an important Prussian officer as a prisoner-of-war to St. Petersburg where in 1759 he was presented to the Grand Duke Peter and his consort, Catherine. Leading a riotous life in the capital, he caught the fancy of the Grand Duchess and became her lover. After the accession of Catherine's husband to the throne as Peter III, Orlov and his younger brother, Count Aleksei Grigorievich, organized the coup of July, 1762 whereby the weak Peter III was dethroned in favor of Catherine and then murdered.
Alexei Petrovich Antropov's portrait of Catherine the Great.
Catherine appointed her lover adjutant-general, director-general of engineers and general-in-chief, but Count Panin, who was her political mentor, frustrated the intention of the Empress to marry Orlov. Continuing to serve Catherine in various capacities, Orlov became deeply resently when she took Aleksander Vassilchikov, then Grigori Potemkin, as lovers in his place. He left Russia in 1775.
Two years earlier Orlov had visited Amsterdam where he came to learn of the existence of Safras' great diamond. He bought it for a sum reputed to have been 1,400,000 florins, equivalent to 400,000 roubles. Such a purchase, doubtless, would have been made both to remind Catherine of the role which Orlov had played in her accession to the throne and hopefully to restore himself in her favor. This possibility appeared even stronger at the time, because Catherine herself had refused to accept Safras' original asking price for the diamond to the Empress on her Saint's Day; she accepted it and had it set in the Imperial Sceptre, designed by Troitnoki, immediately beneath the golden eagle. The Empress gave Orlov a marble palace at St. Petersburg, but she never rewarded him with his former position as her favorite. In 1777 Count Orlov married his cousin, but following her death in Lausanne in 1782, he became mentally deranged and returned to Russia to die the following year.
Interestingly, there is supposed to exist a document signed by both Orlov and Lazarev, the court jeweler at St. Petersburg, which places an entirely different interpretation upon the circumstances surrounding the former's purchase of the diamond. The Russian author suggest that the role of Count Orlov was merely that of a go-between in the transaction and that it was Catherine the Great who purchased the diamond. The Empress employed intermediaries for two reason: first, she wished to contrast her own alleged 'German frugality' (she had been born a German princess) with the reckless spending habits of her predecessors, and secondly, she considered that it would not have been proper for a monarch to bargain over the purchase price - something which Orlov himself could do. And it was for this service to the Empress that Orlov earned the honor of giving his name to the diamond.
There is a legend concerning the diamond, dating from the time of Napoleon. As the Emperor of France's forces were approaching Moscow during the campaign of 1812, the Orlov was secreted in the tomb of a priest in the Kremlin. When Napoleon entered Moscow he gave orders that the gem be sought. After he learned of its whereabouts, Napoleon in person, accompanied by his bodyguards, proceeded to the Kremlin to secure the diamond. The tomb was opened to reveal the great gem. One of the bodyguards stretched out a hand to take the diamond, but before he had touched it the ghost of the priest rose up and cursed the invaders. Napoleon and his bodyguards are then suppose to have fled empty-handed from the Kremlin. Now, on almost all counts this would appear to be nothing more than legend, but it adds yet one more detail to this already complex and most colorful story. Sources: Famous Diamonds by Ian Balfour, The Nature of Diamonds by George E. Harlow, Precious Stones by Max Bauer, Diamonds - Myth, Magic, and Reality by Ronne Peltsman, Neil Grant and about 22 contributing specialists/authors.
This very unusual 7-sided diamond is known as the Paragon, and weighs 137.82 carats. The Graff Diamond Co. of London cut the gem, and is its current owner. The necklace has a diamond carat weight of 190.27 carats, and separates to both necklace and bracelet lengths. The piece features Fancy Intense blue, yellow and pink diamonds along with the Paragon Diamond, a 137.82-carat D-color Flawless diamond, evolved unmistakably into Graff's creation for the Millennium. If you know more about it, email me and I'll credit you. :)
Graff was running this ad around Christmas
of 1999. With a hand in the photo for scale,
it gives you a good idea how large the stone is.
The Paragon Diamond, set in a necklace with round brilliants. I don't know if this is the necklace the Paragon is presently set in -- the stone could have been inserted into the photo with a computer to look like its attached to the necklace. I wish I knew which stone that pink diamond in the ring is. Looks around 25 carats or so. The yellow diamond in the bracelet is interesting as well.
With the purchase of this unusual, 20.65-carat Fancy Intense Yellow, IF clarity (internally flawless) diamond by C.D.Peacock, Chicago's premier jewelry store plans to try to change the way people in America think about fancy colored diamonds -- many people still don't even know there is such a thing as a fancy colored diamond.
According to Ray Perlman, a consultant to C.D. Peacock and former Chairman of the Board of the New York Diamond Dealers Club, most people have no idea that diamonds occur in a color other than colorless (white). Yet, notes Perlman, when asked to identify the world's most famous diamonds, most people will name the Hope Diamond, which is Fancy Dark grayish-blue, and the Tiffany Yellow Diamond, which is golden yellow. It is also true that some fancy colored diamonds have been valued higher than colorless diamonds of the same size. Take for instance the 0.95-carat fancy red round brilliant that set the world record, price-per-carat for diamonds. It went for $880,000 at Christies NYC. That comes to about $926,000 per carat. But then again, red and purple diamonds are the two rarest colors. The stone is now called the Hancock Red.
The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) has graded the Peacock Diamond as Fancy Intense Yellow, a designation limited to a very small percentage of the yellow diamonds. The natural, internally flawless stone is radiant cut, which is similar to princess cut, but rectangular with cut corners, and slightly more sparkle. The stone measures 15.62 × 14.49 × 9.37 mm, and weighs 20.65 carats. This unique diamond is flanked on each side by modified triangular-cut diamonds mounted in platinum and 18K gold.
"Diamonds like this one are extremely rare and when these gems change hands, the sales are often veiled in secrecy," says Perlman. "It is estimated that nature creates so few fancy diamonds that they account for less than 1% of the diamonds offered for sale at any given time."
When these exceptional diamonds do change hands, the sale often becomes international news. In March 1997, jewelry from the estate of Hollywood legend Claudette Colbert was auctioned at Christie's, Los Angeles. An important fancy intense yellow and near clear colorless diamond pendant, originally estimated at $60,000 - $80,000 was sold for $277,500. Two months later, in May 1997 a 13.83-carat fancy yellow vivid diamond was sold at Sotheby's, New York, for an auction record for fine yellow diamonds of $3.3 million ($3,300,000.00), or approximately $239,000.00 per carat. The previous record of $202,000 per carat had been set in London in 1990 for an intense yellow diamond.
Although most jewelers never have the opportunity to offer fancy colored diamonds to their customers, the chic, jet set seeks them out. For example, Jerry Seinfeld selected a 4-carat yellow diamond (which was said to have carried a $200,000 price tag) for his fiancee. Fancy colored diamonds are frequently the choice for 'encore brides', special anniversary celebrations, and, of course, just because they are so unique. Most people still prefer colorless diamonds, and often, as strange as it may seem, this is because they don't know that colored diamonds even exist.
Perlman adds, "Fancy colored diamonds, while extremely rare, are still attractively priced because they are so new to the market. Only a very select group of people have ever had the chance to see one and few are aware of their value."
Colored diamonds have traditionally been more popular with astute consumers and investors outside of the United States. In recent years, however, they have come to the attention of knowledgeable jewelers, collectors, and trend spotters in the United States who have watched these stones continue to increase in value.
The Peacock Diamond will be on display at C.D. Peacock, Northbrook Court, Chicago, along with other rare fancy colored diamonds, fine and antique jewelry and unique accessories. C.D. Peacock also features a prized Norman Rockwell original oil, The Jeweler, which was originally commissioned by the Swiss Watch Association in the 1930's, and a private collection of Tiffany glass and decorative arts.
The Pink Orchid
This purplish-pink marquise cut diamond weighs 22.84 carats and is known as the Pink Orchid. Graff Diamonds of London owns the stone. I wish they would go into more detail on their site about their unusual gems, if they did, I would post it here. Pink diamonds, especially ones of this size, are extremely rare. This diamond is most likely a naturally colored one, as well. Robert Mouawad, a collector of large and unusual diamonds has a 21.06-carat pink diamond known as the Mouawad Pink, which he values at $12 million, and a purplish-pink diamond weighing 24.44 carats called the Mouawad Lilac, valued at $20 million. So you can imagine the Pink Orchid would be at least $12 million.
The Pink Sun Rise
Famed diamond cutter Gabi Tolkowsky pays homage to his 273.85-carat Centenary Diamond with the Pink Sun Rise, a 29.78-carat diamond with a design similar to the Centenary's. The diamond is a rare, flawless pink and was cut by Tolkowsky and his team of master craftsmen. Tolkowsky is also famed for cutting the largest diamond in the world, the Golden Jubilee Diamond.
photos © Christies
The Porges Diamond is a Fancy Yellow diamond weighing 78.53 carats and was bought by Harry Winston in 1962 who named it, as a tribute to the French diamond mining pioneer, Jules Porges. Winston mounted the stone so that it may be worn either as a brooch, within a frame set with cabochon-cut emeralds and rubies or as a single stone, set within a simple ring mount. The current owner purchased it from Harry Winston directly in 1968 and as record books indicate, the whereabouts were unknown until now.
Jules Porges (1839-1921), descended from a prominent Austro-Hungarian family, was born in Vienna and was raised in Prague, where his father was a master jeweler. By the 1860s he had settled in Paris where he quickly established himself as a principal force in the diamond trade and founded Jules Porges & Company. Just outside Paris, he built a spectacular château in Rochefort-en-Yvelines for his wife and daughter and his residence in Paris was located on the Avenue Montaigne, where he housed an important art collection, focusing on Dutch masters such as Hals and van Dyck. By the time diamonds were discovered in South Africa, he had amassed a tremendous fortune and was considered the leading diamond merchant in the world. Quickly realizing the potential of these newly discovered mines, he dispatched Alfred Beit and Julius Wernher in 1873 to act as his representatives in this new venture and in 1876, Porges himself arrived in Kimberley, playing the unusual role as both consumer and producer of diamonds. Although he had invested in the mining rights of the four major mines (De Beers, Bultfontein, Dutoitspan, and Kimberley), by 1879 he was almost completely focused on Kimberley and had become a close associate of Cecil Rhodes. Rhodes eventually convinced the French investors to sell their shares to the newly formed De Beers firm. Jules Porges quietly retired in 1890.
AM DIAMONDS! STOP STEALING MY STUFF!
The Porges is an Asscher-cut Fancy Yellow diamond, SI1 clarity, and it figured as Christie's Magnificent Jewels sale (sale 1362) of April 19th and 20th, 2004. It figured as lot 473 in Sale 1362, with an estimate of $600,000 to $800,000 US. The brooch in the photo, created by Harry Winston, is set with Old Mine and Old European cut diamonds in a freeform design around the Porges itself. These are enhanced by scattered cabochon-cut rubies and emerald with a total approximate weight of 23.90 and 15.00 carats, respectively. They are mounted in platinum and yellow gold. According to the text of the auction the piece is accompanied by a gold ring mounting and a screwdriver to transfer the Porges Diamond back and forth. Also included was a Harry Winston black suede case. The lot ultimately sold for $769,100 (£423,005 UK).
The Porter Rhodes
Considered to be the finest American diamond found up to that time (1880), the 153.50-carat rough this stone was cut from came from the claim of Mr. Porter-Rhodes in the Kimberly Mine. It was valued at $200,000. In 1881, Mr. Porter Rhodes visited the Osborne House on the Isle of Wight and showed it to Queen Victoria, who exclaimed over its great purity and beauty. Empress Eugénie, who also saw the great diamond at the same time, remarked that it was "simply perfection," not knowing what to compare it with. At that time, it was the general belief that South Africa diamonds were inferior. Victoria asked, "Is it really from Cape?" Eugénie remarked, "Are you sure the diamond is from South Africa, and have you not had it polished a little? I have always been under the impression that diamonds from the Cape were very yellow and worth but little."
The Porter Rhodes, out of its ring setting, circa late-1980's.
A replica of the Porter Rhodes, cut from colorless cubic zirconium. I bought it from NW Diamonds & Gems.
The diamond was faceted into a 73-carat Old Mine cut, but eventually was sold to the London jewelry firm of Jerwood & Ward, who had it recut in Amsterdam down to a 56.60-carat Asscher cut. It was sold to the Maharaja of Indore, a man of great wealth who abdicated in 1926 in favor of his son after a scandal had erupted over his fancy for a certain dancing girl. In 1930 the second Duke of Westminster bought the gem, the first of a long line of collectors. It later came into the possession of an influential American family who treasured the diamond for three decades before selling the diamond to Lawrence Graff in 1987. Graff repolished the Porter Rhodes into the 54.04-carat gem which you see here. The gem has been graded as being D-color.
One could argue the Porter Rhodes would be too large for a ring, but here it is.
This stone was difficult to find information on. There's really only been a couple major owners of the Portuguese. This is what the Smithsonian Institute had to say about it, and they had more information than any other source I found. The stone resides in the Smithsonian Institute on permanent display, Washington DC.
The Portuguese Diamond at 127.01 carats is the largest faceted diamond in the Nation Gem Collection. It's near flawless clarity and unusual octagonal emerald cut make it one of the world's most magnificent diamond gems. It is perhaps more than a little surprising, then, that so little documented information exists about it's origin and early history. The lack of an authoritative provenance, however, has given rise to considerable conjecture and legend. The diamond owes its current name to one such legend, according to which the diamond was found in Brazil in the eighteenth century and became part of the Portuguese Crown Jewels. There is no documentation, however, that substantiates a Brazilian origin or connection to Portuguese royalty, nor is it clear where or from whom this story originated. As it is discussed below, the diamond most likely was found at the Premier Mine in Kimberly, South Africa, early in the 20th century.
The Portuguese Diamond amoung other notable diamonds in the Smithsonian's collection:
The Victoria-Transvaal, the 16-carat Pearson (the white round brilliant), the De Young Pink and the
Blue Heart, an unnamed oval-shaped diamond, and the yellow Oppenheimer Diamond Crystal in the back.
Interestingly, the extensive media coverage that followed exhibitions of the diamond around the country during 1946-47 made no referece to the diamond by its current name or to a Portuguese or Brazilian connection. Instead other, sometimes conflicting, versions of the history of the diamond were presented. Most accounts indicate that the diamond, which was owned at the time by a syndicate of American diamond dealers, had mysteriously appeared in Amsterdam some years earlier as a rough cut, cushion-shaped stone weighing 187 carats, which was recut into its present form.
(An earlier figure I saw for this original cushion shape was not 187 carats, but rather, 150, which has been quoted by several different sources. I'd trust the Smithsonian's word for it, though. If anybody could research it, its them.) They also state that diamond dealers all over the world were puzzled by the diamond's lack of history and had tried to trace its origin without success. One article, on the other hand, indicated that the diamond had originally belonged to an Indian potentate who had pawned it in London. During this period when the diamond was exhibited at jewelry stores across the country it was suspended as a pendant from a platinum band set with 380 small diamonds.
One part of the diamond's history that is well-documented is that in February 1928 Peggy Hopkins Joyce acquired the diamond from Black, Starr & Frost. She traded a $350,000 pearl necklace for the diamond and $23,000 in cash. According to New York newspaper accounts, it was mounted on a diamond-studded platinum choker to be worn close around the throat (probably the same necklace described above). The jewelry firm's spokesperson at the time indicated that the diamond was found at the Premier Mine, Kimberly, South Africa, in 1910, and that the firm had obtained it shortly after its discovery. Miss Joyce was dazzling blonde who performed in the Ziegfeld Follies, a true glamour girl of the 1920s. She had six husbands, at least five of whom were men of wealth, and claimed to have been engaged fifty times. She was said to be almost as fond of jewels as of men. Sometime prior to 1946 Miss Joyce placed the diamond on consignment to the group of jewelers menionted above, in an unsuccessul attempt to sell it.
Harry Winston acquired the Portuguese Diamond from Miss Joyce in 1951, and for the next several years it traveled the country as part of his "Court of Jewels" exhibition. In 1957, Winston sold the diamond to an international industrialist, who then traded it back in 1962. In 1963, the Smithsonian acquired the Portuguese Diamond from Mr. Winston in exchange for 2,400 carats of small diamonds.
The Portuguese Diamond strongly fluoresces blue under ultraviolet light. A soft fluoresence is visible even in daylight or artificial light and gives the stone a slight bluish haze, enough so that it was once advertised as the "largest blue diamond in the world." In fact, if not for the fluorescence, the diamond would appear slightly yellowish. SOURCE: The National Gem Collection by Jeffrey E. Post.
After reading this, it makes me remember that some books list the Queen of Holland as being the largest blue diamond in the world, when it fact, it is a D-color stone. It may have a bluish overtone like the Idol's Eye, which was graded as being Faint Blue.
The Premier Rose
This stone weighs 137.02 carats and is one of the largest D-color Flawless diamonds in the world. In March 1978 the Premier Mine in South Africa, the mine that produced the 3106-carat Cullinan Diamond, yielded yet another remarkable diamond, a triangular-shaped cleavage of the finest color, weighing 353.9 carats. Like an earlier gem found at the Premier, the Niarchos, this one too travelled right through the various stages of mining recovery only to emerge at the final one, the grease table in the recovery plant.
For reasons of security, the news of the finding of the diamond was not released for two months. After it had been disclosed, the press quickly began speculating about possible destinations for the eventual polished gem. Prince Rainier of Monaco was obliged to deny reports that he was planning to buy it as a wedding present for his daughter, Princess Caroline, who was getting married soon; another European royal family was rumored to be interested; Emperor Bokassa of the Central African Empire, who had already spent £20,000,000 on his coronation, was said to have made an offer. In the end the Johannesburg firm Mouw Diamond Cutting Works purchased it, naming it after Mrs. Rose Mouw.
Another photo of the Premier Rose
The Mouws then contacted their American partner, William Goldberg, who promptly purchased a share in the diamond. When he set eyes upon it, Mr. Goldberg exclaimed, "A lot of people are going to be interested -- this is an unusually exciting diamond."
The cutting was carried out in South Africa and produced three gems which became known as members of the Premier Rose family. The largest, which has retained the name Premier Rose, is a pear shape weighing 137.02 carats, cut with 189 facets (most of which I believe are around the edge of the stone -- I think it is a standard pear shape with a faceted girdle) and measuring approximately 43.40 by 23.20 by 18.93 mm. It was submitted to the Gemological Institute of America for certification where it received a D-color and Flawless clarity grade. It took 385 hours to cut, which due to the size of the finished stone is fairly quick -- the time amounts to about 16 straight days. At the time it was then the largest stone of this caliber to have been certified by the GIA. The weight of the Premier Rose makes it the fifth largest pear-shaped diamond in existence: the Star of Africa being the first at 530.20 carats, the Millennium Star being the second at 203.04 carats, William Goldberg's unnamed 200.87-carat golden yellow pear being third, and the brownish-yellow Star of Peace at 170.49 carats being the fourth.
The William Goldberg Diamond Corporation of New York handled the sale of the gems. The Premier Rose was sold in 1979 to an anonymous buyer for about $10,000,000; the sale of the two smaller diamonds followed shortly after. Recently, Robert Mouawad has added the Premier Rose to his great collection of important diamonds. The stone is now valued at over $10,000,000.
The President Vargas
Harry Winston bought the president Vargas diamond in 1938 a year after its discovery in the San Antonio River in Minas Gerais Brazil. It weighed 726.60 carats and named for Getulio Vargas who was then the president of Brazil. Winston cut it into several gems in 1942, the largest retained the formal title of President Vargas, it was a 48.26-carat emerald cut which he sold in 1944 to Mrs. Robert Windfohr. Winston bought it back in 1958 and recut it to a flawless 44.17-carat stone which he sold in 1961 to an undisclosed buyer. It is apparently still in this private collection.
Sotheby's has auctioned a few of the smaller diamonds cut from the crystal: The Vargas IV, in April 1989. It appeared at Sotheby's again in October 1997, having been recut from 28.03 carats earlier that year, now weighing 27.33-carats, G color, Internally Flawless clarity. It finally appeared at Christie's auction house on May 19th, 2005 at their Hotel Richemond, Geneva location where it sold for 1,140,000 Swiss francs ($938,014 US). The Vargas VI appeared at auction in October 1992. Sources: Famous Diamonds by Ian Balfour, Diamonds - Famous, Notable and Unique by Lawrence Copeland of GIA, and DeeDee Cunningham BA, FCGmA, FGA, DGA.
It was William Goldberg who cut and polished the famous Pumpkin Diamond, a Fancy Vivid Orange diamond with a finished weight of 5.54 carats, bought by Harry Winston for $1.3 million. Ronald Winston, along with Phillip Bloch, designed the now-famous ring which it is set in for Best Actress winner Halle Berry, who wore the ring to the 2002 Academy Awards. It is the world's largest known Fancy Vivid Orange diamond, valued at just over $3 million. It was rumored to have been sold in March of 2005.
Actress Halle Berry at the 2002 Academy Awards. The Pumpkin Diamond ring is on the pinky finger of her left hand.
The Pumpkin Diamond out of its setting.
The Queen of Holland
There are differening opinions concerning the history of of this 135.92-carat cushion-cut diamond. The Dutch firm of F. Friedman & Co. cut it into its present shape in 1904. They onwned it for a number of years, exhibiting it at the 1925 Paris Exhibition of Arts & Industry. The Dutch sovereign for whom this stone is named was Queen Wilhelmina, who reigned from 1890 to 1948.
This suggests the possibility that the Queen of Holland was mined in South Africa. Nothing is known of the diamond's earlier history until it arrived in Amsterdam at a time when numberous South African diamonds were finding their way there. Yet there are experts that think the Queen of Holland is a typical Golconda stone. Although it is a white diamond it does possess a definite blue tint. The Gemological Institute of America has graded the stone as Internally Flawless and D color, one of the largest of that quality known.
Whatever the truth may be, the diamond does have an Indian connection. In 1930 it attracted the attention of Shri Kumar Ranjitsinhji Vibhaji, the Maharaja of Nawanagar (September 10th, 1872 - April 2nd, 1933). He made his name as a great cricketer, playing for England and Sussex between 1895 and 1912, then as an enlightened ruler. It was recorded that whenever he batted "he evoked an atmosphere of magic by the effortless grace and speed at which he scored runs." After Ranjitsinhji succeeded as Maharaja of Nawanagar in 1906, he become a progressive ruler and statesmen. He represented the Indian States at the League of Nations Assembly in 1920 and, ten years later, he attended the first Round Table Conference to consider the constitution of India.
Shri Kumar Ranjitsinhji Vibhaji, the Maharaja of Nawanagar
The Maharaja's interests in the Queen of Holland Diamond was aroused in 1930. In his book The Magic of Diamonds Albert Monnickendam writes how he received a phone call from the Prince's Court Jeweller asking him to visit the Maharaja at his magnificent house at Staines, outside London. After lunch he accompanied the Maharaja to a large room flooded with north light from a bay window. As well as the Maharaja, ADC and the Court Jeweller were present:
The reason for my attendance was soon explained. A very important diamond had been offered to Ranji Singh for purchase; and although he was a keen judge himself, and had already consulted several experts, he wished to have a final opinion before making a decision... His Highness asked me to sit near him and to my amazement opened the lid of a box and took out a magnificent diamond of about 130 carats set in a pendant. He placed it in my hands asking, 'What do you think of this?'
On examination I found the stone to be absolutely perfect, of the finest color and quality. In fact it resembled the famous Regent Diamond in every way. Whilst I was examining the diamond, I felt the Maharaja's eyes continually watching me, and when I looked up there was an expression of please and hope on his face. It was obvious that he was greatly facinated by the stone, he told me that it came from the Russian crown jewels, but did not mention its name. When I was asked its value I put it at approximately £250,000, though no true market price can be given for such a stone.
The Maharaja of Nawanagar did purchase the Queen of Holland and Cartier set it as the centerpiece of the pendant to a magnificent ceremonial necklace of the Prince. Jacques Cartier, who assembled the necklace, refered to it as "a really superb realization of a connoisseur's dream." Cartier eventually bought the diamond from the Maharaja's family and sent it to their London branch in 1960 where it was put on offer. In 1978 William Goldberg of New York purchased the diamond and it was recut, with minor alterations, from 136.25 carats to its present weight. Later that year it was sold for a reputed $7 million. The gem is now owned by Robert Mouawad.
The Red Cross
This canary yellow cushion-shaped diamond weighs 205.07 (metric) carats. It is said to have weighed 375 carats in the rough and to have come from one of the Kimberly mines in 1901. The largest rough found that year weighed only 307 carats, but two more weighing 337½ and 363 carats, had been discovered at the De Beers Mine in 1899. Whichever may be correct - the date of the discovery or the rough weight - ther is no doubting that the Red Cross Diamond is a typical South African stone.
The original group of dealing firms who bought the output of the De Beers presented the diamond as a gift to the art sale held in London by Christies in 1918, on behalf of the British Red Cross Society and the Order of St. John. The gem had been cut in Amsterdam, The Times wrote:
"Large and square-shaped, it has been cut with many facets and is of that pale canary yellow colour which is so sought after by Indian Princes. The play of the stone is very vivid. In artificial light it is much more luminous than a white stone. After exposure to brilliant light it emits the rays it has absorbed, and thus becomes self-luminous in the dark. Another rare feature is that a Maltese Cross is distinctly visible in the top facet. Hence the double appropriateness of its name, the Red Cross Diamond."
The Red Cross brough £35,575 and was the highlight of the third day of the sale. The total proceeds were £52,238. It was reported that:
"The hope expressed by the auctioneer that this jewel would fetch 'a price worthy of its name' was fulfilled. The first bid was £3000, from which a quick advance was made to £6000. Thence by two hundreds, to £9000; and at £10,000 it was knocked down to S.J. Phillips. On behalf of the anonymous purchaser they state that he is willing to hold the diamond for one month at the purchase price of £10,000, at the disposal of any buyer who will guarantee to hand it back to the British Red Cross Society and the Order of St. John to be used as the societies think best for the benefit of their funds."
Sometime later it was stated that a member of a European royal family had bought the Red Cross; however, it was an undisclosed American businessman who put it up for sale half a century later. In June of 1973 the stone was auctioned in Tokyo, but the highest bid reached just £820,000, so it was withdrawn from sale. The auctioneers had expected it to sell for £2,000,000. Since then the diamond has had a number of owners all over the world, and most of the diamond trade has been aware that it was on the market and many have viewed it. In November of 1973 Christie's put it up for sale in Geneva, the same year as the attempted Tokyo auction. It was then deposited in Switzerland before again being put up for sale in 1977. The identity of the present owner remains unknown. Sources: Famous Diamonds by Ian Balfour, Diamond Cuts in Historic Jewelry - 1381 to 1910 by Herbert Tillander, and Diamonds - Famous, Notable and Unique by GIA.
The cutting style is what is known as a 'Stellar Brilliant' due to the eight needle-like facets on the pavilion of the stone, pointing outward from its culet facet. The Regent, the Tiffany Yellow, the Polar Star, the Koh-I-Noor and the Wittelsbach, among others are all examples of 'Stellar Brilliant' cuts, and all of them (save for the Koh-I-Noor and Wittelsbach which are slightly oval in shape) are cushion-shaped diamonds.
The adventurous history of the Regent is very much like that of several other great diamonds. Greed, murder and remorse play a part in the opening chapter. Trouble - political, social, and personal - accompanies this gem to it's last resting place. Originally known as the Pitt, this 410-carat stone was one of the last large diamonds to be found in India. It is said to have been discovered by a slave in the Parteal Mines (also spelled 'Partial') on the Kistna River about 1701. The slave stole the enormous rough concealing it in bandages of a self-inflicted leg wound, and fled to the seacoast. There, he divulged his secret to an English sea captain, offering him half the value of the stone in return for safe passage to a free country. But during the voyage to Bombay, temptation overcame this seafaring man and he murdered the slave took th diamond. After selling it to an Indian diamond merchant named Jamchund for about $5000, the captain squandered the proceeds in dissipation and, in a fit of remorse and delirium tremens, hanged himself.
In 1702, Jamchund sold the stone for about $100,000 to Governor Thomas Pitt of Ft. George, Madras, who was the grandfather of William Pitt of American Revolutionary fame. Known to historians as the "Elder Pitt," William was the British Prime Minister for whom Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was named. He sent it to England and had it fashioned into a 140.50 carat cushion-shaped brilliant cut, measuring approximately 32mm × 34mm × 25mm. The cutting took two years and cost about $25,000, but a number of smaller stones brought more than $35,000; some of these were rose-cut stones that were sold to Peter the Great of Russia. The principal gem, which has but one very small imperfection, is today considered one of the finest and most brilliant of the known large diamonds.
The Regent Diamond's facet pattern, from Gemcad. This design was originally
created by R.H., Long & Steele, but was missing the 'needle' pavilion facets
as well as the vertically split star facets on the crown. British gemologist
Michael Hing altered the design to be more accurate, adding the missing facets.
This image is a few screengrabs from the stone's Gemcad file. If you'd like a
copy of the Gemcad file, please email me. Mr. Hing has personally handled a number
of large diamonds, among them the Hortensia, Sancy, Mouna and Tiffany Yellow.
If you'd like a Gemcad file of this stone, please visit the United States Faceters Guild Yahoo Group.
It takes about 1 minute to join if you already have a Yahoo screen name.
In 1717, the gem was sold to Philip II, Duke of Orleans, then Regent of France, for about $650,000; since that time, it has been known as the Regent Diamond. It was set in the Crown of Louis XV and worn at his coronation in February, 1723. Removed from the crown, it was worn by Queen Marie Leczinska in her hair. Two generations later, when the French Crown Jewels adorned the Royal Family in many different kinds of personal ornaments, Marie Antoinette used the Regent to adorn a large black-velvet hat.
The coveted gem disappeared, together with the equally famous Sancy and French Blue (from which the Hope was cut), when the Garde Meuble (Royal Treasury) was robbed of it's fabulous jewels in 1792, during the early part of the Revolution. Some of the gems were soon recovered, but the Regent could not at first be traced. After fifteen months, however, it was found, having been secreted in a hole under the timberwork of a Paris garret.
In 1797, the great gem was pledged for money that helped Napolean in his ride to power. He had in mounted in the hilt of his sword that he carried at his coronation in 1804. When Napolean went into exile in Elba in 1814, Marie Louisa, his second wife, carried the Regent to the Chateau of Blois. Later, however, her father, Emperor Francis I of Austria, returned it to France and it again became part of the French Crown Jewels.
In 1825, Charles X wore the Regent at his coronation; it remained in the Royal Crown until the time of Napolean III. Then, a place was made for it in a Greek diadem designed for Empress Eugenie.
Many of the French Crown Jewels were sold at auction in 1887, but the Regent was reserved from the sale and exhibited at the Louvre amoung the national treasures. In 1940, when the Germans invaded Paris, it was sent to the chateau country, this time to Chambord, where it was secreted behind a stone panel. After the War, it was returned to Paris and put on display in the Apollon Gallery of the Louvre Museum. It was one of the features of the Ten Centuries of French Jewelry exhibition at the Museum in 1962. An alternate name sometimes used is the Millionaire Diamond. Source: DIAMONDS - Famous, Notable and Unique (GIA)
The Rob Red
Photo by Stephen Hofer
The 0.59-carat diamond known as the Rob Red after its owner, Mr. Robert Bogel, is an extremely rare and unique collector's item. It was presumably found in one of the alluvial (i.e. ancient river) deposits located within the remote interior of Brazil.
The most famous Brazilian red diamond (also the most famous red diamond, period) is a 0.95-carat round brilliant known as the Hancock Red, named after Mr. Warren Hancock, a notable colored diamond connoisseur, who began collecting these rarities in the early 1950s until his death in 1981 at the age of 65. While he also owned several other notable colored diamonds it was his 0.95-carat red stone that made news when it was sold at Christie's in 1987 for $880,000. A 5.05-carat red diamond known as the De Young Red resides in the Smithsonian Institute. This diamond is quite large but has a brown overtone. Brownish-red diamonds notably more common than ruby-like pure reds.
As a unique coincidence, Mr. Robert Bogel who is an astute dealer of colored diamonds in New York City for more than 30 years had spent many of his early years in the various diamond mining districts throughout Brazil searching for rough colored diamonds, is now reunited with a fragment of the past.
"The Rob Red Diamond is the most saturated and purest red diamond measured visually and instrumentally to date in the world," says Stephen Hofer, the renowned gemologist, color scientist, and author of Collecting and Classifying Fancy Color Diamonds. Hofer reports that the 0.59-carat pear-shape Rob Red deserves the title of Fancy Intense Red, exceeding the purity and saturation of red in the famous Hancock Red Diamond.
One interesting note reguarding the Hancock Red Diamond is that the recorded strength of color for the stone, which is Fancy Purplish-Red, was the highest level ever recorded for a natural red diamond. Since that time, a handful of other pure red or purplish-red diamonds have come to light—the Moussaieff Red, for example—but all have received color grades of simply Fancy, rather than the more saturated Fancy Intense. This was all prior to the measurements of the 0.59-carat stone shown above. Hence the Rob Red is the most saturated red diamond ever recorded with a modern instrument. This diamond is also quite unique because it is relatively free of inclusions, being VS1 clarity, hence it is one of the 'cleanest' red diamonds in existence.
After careful examination by other diamond experts, this stone has the potential to be labled by the world's colored diamond collectors and connoissures as the most important red diamond in the world.
The Royal Purple Heart
This is a diamond I am still in the process of researching. The article I found with the stone reads "The Royal Purple Heart Diamond is the largest fancy vivid purple diamond known to exist, weighing 7.34 carats. This unique stone has been expertly cut and polished into a perfect heart shape to allow the striking natural purple color to dazzle to maximum effect. Natural purple diamonds are among the rarest and most highly sought after color in which diamonds occur. Large pure purple diamonds (i.e. stones over 5 carats) are especially prized. The Royal Purple Heart Diamond was cut by and is a joint venture with the Julius Klein Diamond Corporation." The gem has a clarity of I1.
British gemologist Michael Hing was able to examine the stone in person sometime around 2002. It is among a series of famous diamonds he has been fortunate to examine. "The stone has diagonal surface graining that is clearly visible to the naked eye on the table facet if you look at it under a glancing light," Mr. Hing writes, describing the stone. "It is not as blue as in your photo [shown above], it’s more purple than lilac. The girdle is very thick in parts, they were obviously trying to retain weight. It was mined in Russia."
The Russian Crown Jewels
I recently moved the Orlov diamond to its own section.
The Great Imperial Crown was made by a skilled court jeweller Jeremia Posier for the Empress Catherine II the Great's Coronation in 1762. It has a traditional shape and is made up of the two open hemispheres divided by a foliate garland and fastened with a low hoop. The crown is set with 5,000 selected Indian diamonds (some Russian sources state this number as 4,836) and and number fine, large white pearls. The crown is also decorated with one of the seven historic stones of the Russia's Diamond Collection - a large precious red spinel weighing 398.72 carats which was brought to Russia by Nicholas Spafary, the Russian envoy to China from 1675 to 1678.
The Shah is an 88.70-carat, bar-shaped, partially polished diamond bearing three engraved markings. It was probably found in Golconda, India. The first engraving reads "Bourhan-Nizam-Shah-II, 1000" (Mohammedan calender), which places the stone in the hands of the ruler of the Indian province of Achmednager in 1591.
The next one reads, "Son of Jehangir Shah-Jehan Shah, 1051." This refers to Shah Jehan, who completed the bejeweled Peacock Throne and built the Taj Mahal (meaning "Elect of the Palace") for his beloved Queen, Mumtaz Mahal; the date corresponds to 1641.
He and Mumtaz had a beautiful romance. They met while the Emperor was still young Prince Khurrum. Mumtaz was the daughter of a high-ranking palace official and was of Persian extraction. She had white skin and curling black hair that fell on her shoulders. Persian miniatures show her wearing a flaring crownlike headdress, thickly jeweled, and earrings that fell to her shoulders. She was married to the Prince in 1615 and shared all his campaigns throughout India, meanwhile bearing fourteen children.
The Shah's shape, similar to a quartz crystal, is one of the most unusual in the world of famous diamonds.
Jehan ascended the throne in 1627 and was proclaimed Shah of Agra, near Delhi, the following year. The coronation festivities are said to have cost more than seven million dollars. The Shah was weighed and a like amount of gold, silver and gems distributed to the people. But poor Mumtaz lived only a short time after. She died in 1631 in the Deccan, the region of Golconda, while on another expidition with her husband. Jehan then made the construction of the edifice, requiring fourteen years, a major effort of his life.
The Shah is believed to be the stone that Tavernier, the French jeweler and traveler, saw dangling before the throne at the Court of Aurungzeb, Jehan's son, in 1665. (Before the completion of Shah Jehan's reign, Aurungzeb rose against his father, imprisoned him and usurped his throne.) How the gem was later carried to Persia is not definately known; it is possible, however, that Nadir Shah, the Persian conqueror of India, took it in 1739 when he seized the Great Mogul's treasures during the sack of Delhi.
It was during this time that the great diamond was in the possession of the Persian rulers that the third inscription, "Kadjar Fath Ali Shah," who was the Shah of Persia in 1824, was engraved on it. A tiny furrow was also cut on the diamond, possibly to take the cord on which it was suspended.
In 1829, the Shah was given to Czar Nicholas I of Russia by the Persian Government in appeasement for the assassination of the Russian Ambassador, Alexander Griboyedoff, in Teheren; thus, it became part of the Crown Jewels of that country.
In 1914, when World War I broke out, the diamond was sent to St. Petersburg to Moscow for safekeeping. After the Revolution, when the strong boxes were opened in 1922 by the new regime, the Shah was amoung the treasures. It is now one of the prize possessions in the Russian Treasury of Diamonds & Precious Stones in the Kremlin.
The Imperial Orb was made of the so called "red gold" for the Empress Catherine II the Great's Coronation in 1762. It is a polished hollow ball with with a cross and is encircled with the two rows of the large diamonds, and the sapphire on the top weighs about 47 carats.
The Sancy Diamond has one of the most interesting, colorful, confused and involved histories of all the famous diamonds in Europe. It is a pale yellow 55.23-carat shield-shaped stone, apparently of Indian origin, and is said to be one of the first large diamonds to be cut with symmetrical facets. The stone is also unusual because it has no pavilion - just a pair of crowns, one on the other.
In 1570, the stone was purchased in Constantinople by the French Ambassador to Turkey, Nicholas Harlai, the Seigneur de Sancy, who was an avid collector of gems and jewelry. This passion for personal adornment was more in evidence during the 1500's and 1600's in Europe than any other time and any other place, except in the East. He brought it to France, where Henry III, who was very sensitive about being bald, borrowed it to decorate a small cap he always wore to conceal his baldness. Sancy was a prominate figure in the French Court at the time. Henry was the vicious, vain, weak son of Catherine de Medici.
During the next reign, when Sancy was made Superintendent of Finance, Henry IV borrowed the gem as security for substantial loan to hire soldiers. A messenger was dispatched with the jewel but never reached his destination; thieves had followed him. Knowing that the man was loyal, Sancy made a search of him and his body was discovered, disinterred, and in the stomach of the servant the diamond was found!
Sancy sold the diamond to James I, and in 1605 Inventory of Jewels in the Tower of London, the jewel in described in the unusual language of the period: "...and one fayre dyamonde, cut in fawcetts, bought of Sauncy."
It remained in England until 1669. Charles I, son of James I, was beheaded and his widow, Henrietta Maria, presented the jewel to Somerset, the Earl of Worcester, from whom it passed once again to the English Crown. James II later owned it, but he lost it in the disastrous battle of the Boyne and fled to France. Although Louis XIV was a pleasant and generous host to James, shabby, mournful, exiled kings bored him. James, in desperation, sold the stone to the greedy king, who was known for his love of diamonds. Louis gave him $25,000, which did much to impress James with the security value of gems in time of need.
According to another gem historian, the Sancy was sold under different circumstances. During the Civil War, Queen Henrietta Maria took it to the Continent and pledged it, together with other diamonds, to Duke of Epernon for 460,000 livres. In 1657, Cardinal Mazarin paid off the Duke and, with the Queen's consent, took possession of the gems and bequeathed them with other fine stones to Louis XIV.
In 1792, at the beginning of the French Revolution, the Sancy and other famous gems were stolen from the Garde Meuble (Royal Treasury) in Paris. It reappeared in 1828 and was sold by a French merchant to Prince Anatole Demidoff of Russia; the prince, in turn, is recorded as selling it in 1865 for $100,000. Two years later, it was displayed by the French jeweler, G. Bapst, at the Paris Exposition, bearing a price tag of FR 1,000,000 (one million francs).
In 1906, the sancy was purchased by William Waldorf Astor (1st Visount Astor) as a wedding present when his son (later 2nd Viscount Astor) married Nancy Langhorne of Virginia. Lady Astor often wore the big shield-shaped gem in a tiara on state occasions. In 1962, it was one of the features of the Ten Centuries of French Jewelry exhibition at the Louvre Museum. After Lady Astor's death in 1964, the celebrated stone was inherited by her son, the 3rd Viscount Astor. The gem is set in a mounting that permits it to be affixed to the head ornament.
The Maharajah of Patalia also claimed ownership of a 'Sancy Diamond.' Although this stone is similar in shape, it weighs 60.40 carats, or about ten percent more more than the Sancy of the Astor Family. The Sancy now resides in the Louvre Museum, Paris. Source: Diamonds - Famous, Notable and Unique by GIA.
Michael Hing, a jeweler from Great Britain whom I've corresponded with a number of times, has handled the Sancy Diamond, and writes, "It is currently set in a sort of bezel, like a plain border of white gold (possibly platinum?) around the girdle. No prongs, and a visible gap (they haven't even soldered the edges of the girdle together). It is on a pin. It's almost colourless, but there is a very faint pale greenish-yellow tint to it. The colour is far less noticeable than the photo, you'd think it was colourless unless you knew what to look for. Mind you, I didn't examine it under ideal circumstances: a dark blue vault under the yellowish light of an almost worn-out penlight, with about fifteen French museum people trying to tell me not to touch the stone because only people with the rank of 'Head Curator' or above were allowed to handle it."
Many incredibly valuable and historical diamonds have been discovered in South Africa, where Graff has the largest facilities for polishing gem quality diamonds. A magnificent rough diamond weighing 218 carats was acquired from local South African diggings.
Its beauty even in the raw state was astonishing. The light glowed warmly from within its octahedral shape, reflecting softly off the crystal facets, hinting at the fire and brilliance hidden within its unexplored depths. Nature had provided the raw material, man's skill and expertise transformed and burnished this noble treasure from the earth into its final glorious splendour.
Its metamorphosis from a rough crystal to a gem of magnificent grandeur is also a story of people who recognized the alchemy of this living organic crystal and captured its magic in a jewel of timeless beauty.
The rarity and value of this rough diamond required the most experienced and skillful craftsmen whose intuitive feeling for the stone created the magical synergy allowing them to discover the secrets within.
The Sarah's rough lemondrop-like form, the cutting process, and the finished stone.
A cushion shape was created from the rough stone to retain as much carat weight
as possible, with great results. The pavilion of the stone is radiant cut, giving it explosive brilliance.
Diamond cutting is a stressful, time consuming and precise operation. The responsibility of cutting a stone of this calibre is enormous and it was decided that genius master cutter, Jean Chandesais, was the man to provide the mastery cutting skills to obtain such perfection, together with a high 70% yield. The high yield isn't too uncommon in the world of diamond cutting, but because the rough amd resulting stone was so large, it is definitely notable. Moreover, since 70% of 218 carats is 153.60 carats (with the weight of the Sarah being 132 carats), it is probable that one or two smaller stones were also cut from the rough.
It was estimated that the rough stone would take approximately 16 weeks to polish. Finally the polishing wheel was prepared for the closing steps in the metamorphosis of this exceptional stone.
A mixture of oil and diamond dust, gathered from the mother stone during the polishing process, was spread onto the wheel and like a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis this magnificent Vivid Yellow Diamond was burnished by its own discarded skin. For the last time the stone was gently cleaned and carefully placed on the scale. Its finished weight 132.43 carats. The anxious hours of watching and trepidation as the diamond unfolded its secrets were swept away in a wave of relief and jubilation. Finally with great pride, the name GRAFF was inscribed on its girdle, together with its GIA indentification number.
A close-up of the Sarah.
The lustrous beauty of "The Sarah," transcended the most profound imagination. At last the fiery spirit of the diamond revealed a glittering brilliant gem, scattering sparks of iridescent fire from deep within its heart, encapsulating the earth's very sole in a tribute to man's consumate skill.
It was not however until December 12th, 2000, when the Gemological Institute of America finally granted its coveted Certificate: 132.43 carats, Natural Fancy Vivid Yellow, VS1, Very Good polish, Very Good symmetry, together with a report stating that it is the largest Natural color Fancy Vivid Yellow Diamond ever graded by them, that its magnificence could be revealed to the world. Laurence Graff has set an unsurpassed standard of excellence and innovation in the world of diamonds and fine jewelry and it has already been said that more important gem quality diamonds have pased through his hands than any other living dealer. Source: graffdiamonds.com and various articles on the internet and in magazines.
Amoung the famous diamonds that Graff has handled over the years are the Idol's Eye, the Porter Rhodes, the Emperor Maximillian, the Windsor Diamonds, the Golconda 'D', and the Paragon.
The Shah Jahan Table Cut
This table-cut or taviz diamond, measuring 44.6 × 33 × 3.6 mm and weighing 56.71 carats, is one of several that have been credited as a match for the Great Table Diamond viewed by Jean-Baptiste Tavernier at Golconda in 1642. However, the attribution is probably an error, the Darya-I-Nur, also a taviz cut, and the Nur-Ul-Ain diamonds in the Iranian Crown Jewels are much more likely matches. Nevertheless, the Shah Jahan Table Cut strongly resembles the diamond of octagonal outline in a turban ornament in a portrait of Shah Jahan, and the stone correlates reasonably well with a description by Tavernier of a table cut weighing 60 ratis (about 54 carats) shown to him by Aurangzeb, Shah Jahan's son, in 1665. Like other Mogul teasures, the table cut appears to have departed India with the Persian invasion in the mid-eighteenth century, after which it may have found its way into the Russian Treasury. The Shah Jahan was offered at auction by Christies in Geneva in 1985 but was not sold. The diamond exhibits a feature common in gems shaped for Mogul use, a pair of drilled holes by which a stone could be sewn to a turban or garment to impart both pomp and courtly fashion. Sources: Diamonds - Famous, Notable and Unique by GIA, The Nature of Diamonds by George E. Harlow.
The Shepard Diamond
The 18.30-carat Shepard Diamond is from South Africa, it was acquired by the Smithsonian Museum by exchange for a collection of small diamonds that had been seized as smuggled goods by the United States Customs Service and is named for the Smithsonian employee who helped facilitate the transaction.
The Shepard Diamond amoung other diamonds in the Smithsonian's collection. The round yellow diamond in the back weighs about 12 carats. The blue heart-shaped stone is the Blue Heart Diamond, weighing 30.82 carats. The round brilliant white diamond is the Pearson Diamond, weighing 16.72 carats. The pink pear shape, named the De Young Pink, weighs 2.86 carats, and the two uncut green diamonds weigh 2.05 and 0.97 carats.
The Spirit of de Grisogono
The Spirit of de Grisogono at 312.24 carats is the world's largest cut black diamond, and the world's 5th largest diamond, period. In a white gold mouting, it is set with 702 white diamonds totalling 36.69 carats.
There are not many black stones in the world of famous diamonds, mainly the Black Orlov and the Amsterdam Diamond, which weigh 67 and 33 carats, respectively. (A 205-carat black diamond called the 'Black Star of Africa' is rumored to exist, being sold to a buyer in Asia during the 1980's, but this has never been substantiated.) The man behind this fascination is famous Swiss jeweler de Grisogono. He was the first major jeweler to create eye-catching collections of black diamond jewelry and watches. He is also responsible for cutting the Gruosi Diamond, the largest heart-shaped black diamond in the world. The diamond weighs 312.24 carats.
This diamond originally had a rough weight of 587 carats and was mined several decades ago in west Central Africa before being imported into Switzerland. It was then cut using the Mogul diamond cutting technique. This historic cutting method was developed centuries ago in India and can be seen in a number of historic diamonds, such as the Orlov Diamond in the Russian Diamond Treasury in Moscow, and several diamonds in the Crown Jewels of Iran, amoung them the Taj-I-Mah Diamond. The Great Mogul, a 279-carat diamond, is another famous Mogul cut diamond, but sadly, its whereabouts are unknown. The more modern rose cut is a variation on the old Mogul cut. The entire process from studying the cut design to executing it on the de Grisogono rough involved more than a year's work.
Fawaz Gruosi, left, at a function with former French tennis player
Henri Leconte and his wife, who is wearing the Spirit of de Grisogono ring.
The Spirit of de Grisogono is described in the report of the Gubelin Gem Lab as a rare specimen for this type of diamond in view of its great size. It is the largest natural black diamond which the GGL laboratory has ever tested. The stone is reported to have since been sold by Fawaz Gruosi to a private client.
The Spoonmaker's Diamond (aka the Kasikci)
The pride of the Topkapi Palace Museum and its most valuable single exhibit is the 86-carat pear-shaped Spoonmaker Diamond, also known as the Kasikci. Surrounded by a double-row of 49 Old Mine cut diamonds and well spotlighted, it hangs in a glass case on the wall of one of the rooms of the Treasury.
Its origin is not clear. Like many other historic diamonds, it is difficult to seperate fact from fancy. Rasid, the official historian of the Ottoman court, describes it as thus:
"In the year 1669, a very poor man found a pretty stone in the rubbish heap of Egrikapi in Istanbul. He bartered it to a spoonmaker for three wooden spoons. The spoonmaker sold the stone to a jeweler for ten silver coins.
"The jeweler consulted another jeweler who knew immediately that the pretty stone was really a precious diamond. When the second jeweler threatened to disclose the whole matter, the two men quarreled bitterly. Another jeweler heard the story and bought the diamond, giving a purse full of money to each of the angry jewelers. But now the Grand Vizier, Kopruluzade Ahmed Pasha, has heard of the gem. When Sultan Mehmed IV is told of the affair, he orders the stone be brought to the palace, and he takes possession of it. Whether he paid for it is not revealed. And, of course, no one knows what history preceded it being thrown into the garbage heap."
A more probable story is that in 1774 a French officer named Pikot bought the diamond from the Maharajah of Madras in India and then took it to France. Somehow thieves got wind of the gem and robbed Pikot.
Sometime later a large diamond about the size of the stone taken from Pikot, appeared at an auction, and the notorious Casanova made a bid for it. The diamond thus became known for a time as the Casanova Lottery Diamond. It was finally bought by Napoleon's mother, Letizia Ramolino, who later sold her jewels to help her son escape from Elba in 1815.
An officer of Tepedelenli Ali Pasha bought the great diamond for 150,000 pieces of gold and put it in Tepedelenli's Treasury. When he was killed in the revolt against Sultan Mahmut II, his entire treasury came to the Palace of Turkey. It is probable that the stone now called the Kasicki, is the long lost Pikot (aka Spoonmaker's) Diamond. Source: "Diamonds Eternal" by Victor Argenzio. Printed by the David McKay Company Inc., New York. 1974.
The Star of America
The Star of America is the largest Asscher cut D-color Flawless diamond in the world. The Portuguese Diamond, also an Asscher cut, is larger at 127 carats, but it is somewhat yellowish in color. It was discovered near the Orange River, originally a rough stone of 225 carats. After nine months of cutting and polishing by the Graff company's craftsmen, into the 100.57-carat stone you see here, to commemorate the launch of Graff USA.
The Star of America, on the right, and the La Favorite, on the left, weighing 100 and 50 carats, respectively. Both diamonds are D-color and both owned by Laurence Graff.
The Star of South Africa
The Star of South Africa, a 47.69-carat old style pear-shaped diamond, was cut from a crystal of 83.50 carats, and is credited with being the diamond that turned the tides of fortune in South Africa. In 1869, it was picked up by a Griqua shepherd boy on the Zandfontein Farm near the Orange River. Schalk van Niekerk, who three years earlier had had a stroke of luck with a "pebble" that proved to be a 21.25-carat diamond (the Eureka Diamond), traded the young native for the stone, giving him five hundred sheep, ten oxen, and a horse. It was practically all of Niekerk's possessions, but a few days later in Hopetown he sold the rough crystal for $56,000.
I made this drawing of the Star of South Africa's facet layout after I was told the stone
is a 'stellar brilliant' cut. This drawing is an educated guess at its facet arrangement.
Later, the stone was purchased by Louis Hond, a diamond cutter, and fashioned to what was described as an "oval, three-sided brilliant" and was sold to the Earl of Dudley for $125,000 (or about £25,000). The Countess Dudley wore it as a hair ornament, surrounded by 95 smaller diamonds. The diamond resided Natural History Museum in London for a period of time in the early 2000s and was also part of the "Cartier In America" traveling exhibit in 2009 - 2010.
Sources: Diamonds - Famous, Notable and Unique by Lawrence Copeland
Famous Diamonds by Ian Balfour
The Star of the East
After their marriage in 1908, Edward B. McLean and his bride Evalyn travelled to Europe for their honeymoon. Each had received $100,000 from their respective fathers as a wedding present. Among the countries they visited was Turkey where Evalyn McLean expressed a wish to see the treasures of the jewelry-loving Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Abd al-Hamid II. When the American ambassador heard of her wish he told her: "He may tap you for his harem," to which she replied: "The way they tap a boy for some society at Yale? Is that the way he gets them?"
When the couple reached Paris Mrs. McLean was able to buy the wedding present which her father had told her to get. Pierre Cartier showed her the Star of the East, a fine 94.80-carat pear-shaped diamond, mounted on a chain below a hexagonal emerald of 34 carats and a pearl of 32 grains, which may have belonged to the Sultan Abd al-Hamid. "Ned," she said to her husband, "its got me. I'll never get away from the spell of this." Her husband - who was unimpressed by jewels - replied "A shock may break the spell. Suppose you ask the price of this magnificence." But Evalyn refused to listen to him and purchased the Star of the East for $120,000, in the process using up some of his wedding gift money. Mrs. McLean pointed out the diamond's merits as an investment and that she could tell her own father that it represented a double gift to cover both her wedding and Christmas presents.
On her return home the following exchange between Thomas Walsh and his daughter Evalyn took place:
Thomas: "Did you buy a wedding present?"
Thomas: "Did you pay the duty?"
Evalyn: "No, I smuggled it."
Thomas: "You take the cake."
The Star of the East in its original necklace
setting with the hexagonal emerald and pearl.
Later Thomas Walsh said: "Don't worry. I'll send my lawyer down tomorrow and let him declare the trinket. Hell, I'm glad to buy it for Evalyn. There won't be a bit of trouble. I'll send the word to the Customs that she is not all there."
The Star of the East remained in Evalyn Walsh McLean's ownership for 40 years or so. On one occasion she was photographed wearing the diamond as an aigrette with what appeared to be a feather from some exotic bird in a diamond bandeau. The Hope lay somewhat lower lower as a pendant to a pearl necklace. After her death, Harry Winston bought both diamonds and in 1951 he sold the Star of the East and a fancy colored oval cut diamond to King Farouk of Egypt. By the time of the King's overthrow in 1952, Mr. Winston had still not received payment for the two gems, but three years later an Egyptian government legal board entrusted with the disposal of the former royal assets, ruled in his favor. Nevertheless, several years of litigation were needed before he was able to reclaim the Star of the East from a safe-deposit box in Switzerland.
In 1969 Harry Winston sold the Star of the East, the new owner asking him to remount the gem as a pendant to a V-shaped diamond necklace to which two flawless matching pear shapes could be attahced. The Star of the East was displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, in 1978, at a reception marking the 50th anniversary of Harry Winston Inc. Six years later the diamond came back into the ownership of Harry Winston Inc. Its present whereabouts are unknown.
Sometime after the V-shaped necklace was assembled with a pair of matching pear-shaped diamonds, apparently a pair of matching pear-shaped emerald attachments were also made. They are each surrounded by white diamonds and are visible in the top photo.
The Star of the Season
In recent years Sheikh Ahmed Hassan Fitaihi has been a major force at international jewelry auctions. The Sheikh's family business dates from 1907 when he grandfather opened a jewelry shop in Mecca in what is now Saudi Arabia. At that time, Abdul Aziz Al-Saud (known in the West as Ibn Saud) was battling to reconquer and reunite the numerous different tribes of the Arabian peninsula. The family of Al-Saud had in fact reigned over a large part of Arabia in the early 19th century but later lost much of its territory to Turkey. Eventually in 1927, Abdul Aziz Al-Saud was proclaimed king and the country was named Saudi Arabia in 1932.
During that period, Sheikh Fitaihi's father moved both his family and business to Jeddah where initially he opened a small trading shop. Known affectionately as the 'Red Sea Bride', Jeddah is the main Saudi port and through the centuries has maintained its tradition as a trading city. Ahmed Hassan Fitaihi began working in his father's shop at an early age; before long he was compelled to manage the shop alone. The Sheikh recalls one occasion where he sold almost all his stock. His father returned surprised, if not pained, to see all the windows empty. Then and there his father taught him his first lesson: "Before selling, think of buying." Jeddah has remained the base for Sheikh Fitaihi's activities: the Fitaihi Center was opened in April of 1984 and a new Fitaihi Center was added in 1993 at Riyadh, the capitol of Saudi Arabia.
Applying his father's advice in recent years, Sheikh Fitaihi has bought more than two thousand pieces of jewelry, as well as many large diamonds, at international auctions. These include an 80.02-carat emerald cut fashioned by Harry Winston Inc. from a rough diamond weighing 416 carats that had been recently found in South Africa. The diamond measures 30.86 by 21.53 by 13.51 mm and was graded as being D-color and Internally Flawless by the GIA. Purchased in New York for $7,150,000 in October of 1991 it was named by Sheikh Fitaihi the 'Jeddah Bride' in honor of his beloved city. The first of his important acquisitions, it retains a special place in his affections.
Sheikh Ahmed Fitaihi
Other purchases have included the Ice Queen in October, 1991, the second gem that was cut from the 426-carat rough stone that yielded the Niarchos Diamond; the Red Sea Star in November of 1992; an emerald cut of 50.83 carats; the Star of the Desert in April of 1993; a pear shape of 66.29 carats; the larger of the celebrated pear-shaped Arcots Diamonds in November of 1993; the Heart of the Desert in November of 1994, a heart shape of 62.42 carats.
The largest diamond which Sheikh Fitaihi has bought is a radiant cut (or as GIA calls them, Cut-Cornered Rectangular Modified Brilliant, or Square, depending) D-color and Internally Flawless stone which weighs 100.36 carats and measures 28.50 by 25.96 by 16.35 mm. The Sheikh paid $11,882,333 for this gem in Geneva in November, 1993, and shortly after named it the Star of Happiness.
His most expensive purchase has been the Star of the Season: a pear-shaped stone of 100.10 carats, bought at Sotheby's in Geneva during May, 1995. A final price of US $16,548,750 was paid for this D-color, Internally Flawless diamond turned out to the highest amount paid for a single piece of jewelry in the auction world. This world record price stands intact as of now, reached after a very hard-fought competition among the numerous international bidders present in the packed auction hall. The electrifying atmosphere of that night added to the intensity of the bidding for this piece -- the buyers attending the auction knew it was a very rare and unusual stone. Just after its acquisition by Sheikh Fitaihi, he received an instant offer to sell it with a sizable mark-up added to its final price. As an international collector, fond of such great rarities, he turned down the offer.
The Star of the South
The 128.48-carat Star of the South is one of the world's most famous diamonds. Discovered in 1853, it became the first Brazilian diamond to receive international acclaim. The stone was graded as VS-2 in clarity and Fancy Light Pinkish-Brown in color. It was also determined to be a type IIa diamond.
It was the custom in the Bagagem Diamond Mines in Brazil for a slave worker who found a stone of mentionable size to be rewarded with his freedom which offered him the opportunity to work for a salary. In addition he might be given clothes, tools and in some cases a procession in his honor and during the ceremony might be crowned with flowers. All depending on the value of the stone found. This was done to encourage honesty amoung the workers. There were also several punishments established for those who were caught smuggling diamonds out.
In 1853 a slave woman while working in the mine discovered a 261.88-carat diamond. For this she was reward not only her freedom but in addition a life income. Yet apparently not aware of its true value, her master was induced to sell it for the modest sum of £3000, after which the purchaser disposed of it in Rio de Janeiro for $30,000.
The rough stone passed through many hands before it was sold to Costers of Amsterdam for $35,000 and cut to a 128.48-carat stone losing over half its original weight. The cutting cost was $2500. It was cut into a cushion-shaped stone with a faint pinkish-brown hue.
It was purchased by Halphen & Associates of Paris and was given the name the Star of the South. They displayed the stone at the London Exhibition in 1862, and in Paris in 1867 making it quite famous. At this time, the syndicate was offered £110,000 by an unknown Indian rajah, but the offer was declined. Later, for reasons not divulged, it was sold to Mulhar Rao, the Gaekwar of Baroda, for £80,000, or about $400,000.
In Baroda, India, at her husband's birthday in 1948, Sita Devi, the Maharani of Baroda, was photographed wearing a slightly
modified version of the necklace where more diamonds had been added around the bottom portion of the English Dresden.
The Gaekwar gave the commission for this transaction to E.H. Dresden, who made the original purchase of the well-known English Dresden Diamond. In 1934, the potentate's son told Robert M. Shipley, the American gemologist, that both the Star of the South and the English Dresden were mounted in a necklace amoung his family's jewels.
Khande Roe, Gaekwar of Baroda, had this necklace made to display both the
Star of the South and the 78.5-carat English Dresden below it. Photo circa 1880.
Sometime around 1999, GIA was allowed to examine, grade and photograph the large diamond. Cartier bought the stone from Rustomjee Jamsetjee of Bombay, India around 2002.
Special thanks to James Butcher for sending me the article that contained this photo of the Star of the South! Up til then, I had never seen a photograph of the actual diamond, just Tom R. Barbour's quartz replica in a xerox of an old Lapidary Journal, and a photo of a glass copy of the stone in GIA's book "Diamonds - Famous, Notable and Unique."
The Steinmetz Pink
The Steinmetz Pink is probably the finest pink diamond in the world presently. It was first unveiled in Monaco in May, 2003, and briefly worn around the neck of supermodel Helena Christensen, the gem was discovered in southern Africa and is the largest Fancy Vivid Pink diamond known in the world. Pink diamonds are extremely rare and usually found in much, much smaller sizes. The Steinmetz Pink weighs 59.60 carats and has been graded as Internally Flawless, an extremely rare and coveted clarity grade. Given its extraordinary importance, the Steinmetz Group took approximately 20 months to cut the diamond. A team of eight people worked on fashioning the gem from the 100-carat rough stone. Fifty models were worked on before the cutting even began. One wrong move and the priceless diamond would have shattered. The gem's facet pattern is very unique: it is an oval mixed cut with a step-cut crown and a brilliant cut pavilion.
Actress Jenna Elfman wearing the Steinmetz Pink, set in a pendant.
In the summer of 2003 the stone featured in an exhibition at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC titled The Splendor of Diamonds, which also included the Millennium Star, the Heart of Eternity, the Allnatt, the Pumpkin, the Moussaieff Red and the Ocean Dream. Remarking on the size and weight of this extraordinary diamond, TV star Jenna Elfman said, "I can feel the beauty on my chest. You can feel the physical vibrations."
Actress Jenna Elfman opens the Splendour of Diamonds Exhibit at the Smithsonian,
the Allnatt Diamond being the large yellow stone in front of her on the pad. The
Millennium Star, at the left, is set in a diamond necklace.
Dakov and AM Diamonds! Stop stealing my stuff!
The Steinmetz Sirius
This 103.83-carat diamond was offered for auction at Sotheby's Geneva location in November 20th, 2003 with an estimate of $8 to $10 million. It is described by gemologists as Type IIa, D-color and Internally Flawless – adding even further to its rarity. It was discovered in South Africa's legendary Premier mine. Some news articles on the diamond have mentioned it was cut in a cushion shape in tribute to the famous Hope Diamond.
The cushion-shaped stone is one of the largest Internally Flawless diamonds of D-color grade to ever appear at auction, was discovered at South Africa's Premier Mine, is only the fourth diamond of perfect color and clarity weighing over 100 carats to be sold at auction, Sotheby's said. In May 1995, the Star of the Season sold for a record $16.7 million. Alexandra Rhodes, head of jewelry at Sotheby's Geneva, said the estimated price of the latest gem reflected the current market. "I think for a stone of this caliber it's a rarity for the market and that's the right (estimated price) for today’s market," she said. "The person who buys it will also have the privilege of naming it." The process of planning, designing and cutting the rough crystal, which took place in Johannesburg and New York, took over eighteen months to complete and was done by the Steinmetz Group. During the summer of 2003 the stone was exhibited at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC along with a handful of other rare diamonds as part of the Splendor of Diamonds Exhibit. It was not initially featured in the exhibit, but rather added during its last month as a gesture of thanks the public for making the exhibit so popular.
It ultimately failed to sell at the auction and is owned by Steinmetz to this day. Sometime during 2006 or 2007 Steinmetz named the stone the Steinmetz Sirius.
The Sultan of Morocco
A 35.27-carat cushion cut grayish-blue diamond. Not much is known about it. In 1969, Cartier lent this diamond to the New York State Museum for their World of Gems Exposition. In 1972 it was sold to a private American collector. It is the fourth largest blue diamond in the world after the Hope Diamond. The 35.56-carat Wittelsbach Diamond is one of the others, so is a 42.92-carat blue pear shape known as the Mouawad Blue.
The Supreme Purple Star
According to British Press reports, this rare cranberry-colored diamond surfaced in London sometime in 2002. The diamond was graded by the British Gemological Institute in London. It is believed to be one of its kind and originated in the Amazon basin. It is being called 'The Supreme Purple Star'. Reports say the color goes from a deep purple to a deep to vivid purplish red. The weight is reported to be between two and five carats. Some speculate it is more likely between four and five carats and it is believed that the collector was unaware of the rarity of the stone when he took it to a London appraiser. The owner will have the stone graded by a major laboratory with plans to sell the stone. The clarity appears imperfect from photographs. Some speculate this diamond may be rarer than a red diamond and might sell for more on a per carat basis. Others contend it is worth less than a red diamond. The owners are hoping the diamond will fetch about $4 million per carat. Whatever became of the stone is unknown.
The Taj-E-Mah Diamond (lower left stone). The other four loose diamonds weigh
72.50 carats, 54.50 carats, 47.50 carats, and 54.35 carats. The cushion-shaped
one on the top left was probably cut from an even larger diamond.
When the contents of the Iranian Treasury were opened up in the 1960s, the existence of three legendary Indian diamonds was revealed. They are the Darya-I-Nur, the Nur-Ul-Ain and the Taj-I-Mah. It has been conclusively proven that the first two diamonds had been cut from the same stone: the Great Table Diamond. The Taj-I-Mah, meaning 'Crown of the Moon', is an imposing stone and the largest unmounted Indian diamond in the collection. Most certainly of Golconda origin, it is irregular, Mogul cut, colorless and of the finest quality, slightly worn on top. The diamond weighs 115.06 (metric) carats and measures 32.0 × 24.3 × 14.7 mm.
The presence of the Taj-I-Mah among the Crown Jewels in the Iranian capital had been known for a long time. The British administrator and diplomat Sir John Malcolm, who visited Persia in the 19th century, was allowed by Fath Ali Shah (1797-1834) to inspect the Regalia. He wrote: "Darya-I-Nur, or 'Sea of Light' weighs 186 carats, and is considered to be tha diamond of the finest lustre in the world. The Taj-I-Mah, or 'Crown of the Moon' is also a splendid diamond. It weighs 146 carats. These two are the principal in a pair of bracelets, valued at near a million sterling. Those in the crown are also extraordinary size and value."
The two major diamonds in these bracelets, or armbands, is somewhat puzzling. Other travellers have specifically stated that the Koh-I-Noor was worn by Fath Ali Shah in one of his armbands. In this connection it is of interest to recall the fact that before the Koh-I-Noor was recut to its existing weight it weighed approximately 186 carats. Could it therefore have been the Koh-I-Noor rather than the Darya-I-Nur which was the companion diamond to the Taj-I-Mah in the ornament? It has always been stated that the Darya-I-Nur and the Taj-I-Mah were sister stones. This may have been true from a historical standpoint, but definitely not from a gemological one, since the Darya-I-Nur is light pink while the Taj-I-Mah is colorless. Indeed the color of the latter is much like that of the Koh-I-Noor, so they would have been well matched.
Whatever may have been the truth about the jewel of Fath Ali Shah, there is no doubting the existence of three seperate diamonds today. With reguard to the discrepancy between the past and present weights of the Taj-I-Mah, it is quite possible that at some stage in its history the stone may have been recut. This is most likely to have taken place during the reign of Nasir ud-Din Shah (1848-96), the ruler who was responsible for the purchase of numerous large diamonds, clearly of South Africa origin, that are among the Iranian Crown Jewels, and for recutting some of his predecessor's acquisitions.
Diamonds have no mercy... "They will show up the wearer if they can," says one character in The Sandcastle, an early novel by the famous British author, Iris Murdoch. Now this may be true of some women - usually wearing an outrageously large item of jewelry which imparts a degree of unwholesome vulgarity to themselves - but is it applicable to Elizabeth Taylor? Those well-publicized gifts which she received from her fifth husband, the late Richard Burton, certainly enhance her appearance and do not look out of place on her. A compatibility is established between the jewel and its wearer.
Richard Burton's first jewelry purchase for Elizabeth Taylor was the 33.19-carat Asscher-cut Krupp Diamond, in 1968. This had formerly been part of the estate of Vera Krupp, second wife of the steel magnate Alfred Krupp. Miss Taylor wears this stone in a ring. She has worn it in a number of her post-1968 films, during her interview on CNN's Larry King Live in 2003, and just about everywhere else she goes. Next came the La Peregrina Pearl for which Burton paid £15,000. The stone has a long and complex history. For Elizabeth's 40th birthday in 1972 Richard Burton gave her a heart-shaped diamond known as the Taj-Mahal. The stone is fairly large and flat, with an Arabic inscription on either side. It is set with rubies and diamonds in a yellow gold rope-pattern necklace. "I would have liked to buy her the Taj-Mahal," he remarked, "but it would cost too much to transport. This diamond has so many carats, its almost a turnip." Then he added, "Diamonds are an investment. When people no longer want to see Liz and I on the screen, then we can sell off a few baubles."
By the far the best known of Richard Burton's purchases was the 69.42-carat pear-shape, later to be called the Taylor-Burton Diamond. It was cut from a rough stone weighing 240.80 carats found in the Premier Mine in 1966 and subsequently bought by Harry Winston. Here there is a coincidence: Eight years before, another cleavage of almost identical weight (240.74 carats) had been found in the Premier. Harry Winston bought this stone too, commenting at the time, "I don't think there have been half a dozen stones in the world of this quality." This wouldn't be the first time the Premier Mine would have the last word because the 69.42-carat gem cut from the later discovery is a D-color Flawless stone.
After the rough piece of 240.80 carats arrived in New York, Harry Winston and his cleaver, Pastor Colon Jr. studied it for six months. Markings were made, erased and redrawn to show where the stone could be cleaved. There came the day appointed for the cleaving, and in this instance the usual tension that surrounds such an operation was increased by the heat and glare of the television lights that had been allowed into the workroom. After he had cleaved the stone, the 50-year-old cleaver said nothing -- he reached across the workbench for the piece of diamond that had seperated from it and looked at it through his horn-rimmed glasses for a fraction of a second before exclaiming "Beautiful!" This piece of rough weighed 78 carats was expected to yield a stone of about 24 carats, while the large piece, weighing 162 carats, was destined to produce a pear shape whose weight had originally been expected to be about 75 carats.
Elizabeth Taylor wearing the Taylor-Burton Diamond in a necklace
by Cartier featuring a number of smaller pear-shaped diamonds.
The stone's first owner after Harry Winston wasn't actually Elizabeth Taylor. In 1967 Winston sold the pear shape to Mrs. Harriet Annenberg Ames, the sister of Walter Annenberg, the American ambassador in London during the Richard Nixon administration. Two years later, she sent the diamond to Parke-Bernet Galleries in New York to be auctioned explaining her decision with this statement: "I found myself positively cringing and keeping my gloves on for fear it would have been seen, I have always been an extremely gregarious person and I did not enjoy that feeling. It sat in a bank vault for years. It seemed foolish to keep it if one could not use it. As things are in New York one could not possibly wear it publicly." One might argue the stone was too large to be worn in a ring, let alone in public.
The diamond was put up for auction on October 23rd, 1969, on the understanding that it could be named by the buyer. Before the sale speculation was prevailing as to who was going to bid for the gem, with the usual international names being kicked around by the columnists. Elizabeth Taylor was one name among them and she did indeed have a preview of the diamond when it was flown to Switzerland for her to have a look at, then back to NYC under precautions described as "unusual".
An illustration of the Taylor-Burton set in a necklace containing
several hundred small round brilliants and a marquise shape.
The auctioneer began the bidding by asking if anyone would offer $200,000, at which the crowded room erupted with a simultaneous "Yes". Bidding began to climb, and with nine bidders active, rushed to $500,000. At $500,000 the individual bids increased in $10,000 increments. At $650,000 only two bidders remained. When the bidding reached $1,000,000, Al Yugler of Frank Pollack, who was representing Richard Burton, dropped out. Pandemonium broke out when the hammer fell and everyone in the room stood up, resulting in the auctioneer not being able to identify who won, and he had to call for order. The winner was Robert Kenmore, the Chairman of the Board of Kenmore Corporation, the owners of Cartier Inc., who paid the record price of $1,050,000 for the gem, which he promptly named the 'Cartier'. The previous record for a jewel had been $305,000 for a diamond necklace from the Rovensky estate in 1957. A diamond, known as the Rovensky (actually thought to possibly be the Excelsior III Diamond), attached to the necklace weighed approximately 46.50 carats. It appeared in an article about diamonds in the April 1958 issue of National Geographic magazine, along with the Niarchos, Nepal, and Tiffany Yellow.
As well as Richard Burton, Harry Winston had also been an under-bidder at the sale. But Burton was not finished yet and was determined to acquire the diamond. So, speaking from a pay-phone of a well-known hotel in southern England, he spoke to Mr. Kenmore's agent. Sandwiched between the lounge bar and the saloon, Burton negotiated for the gem while continually dropping coins into the phone. Patrons quietly sipping their drinks would have heard the actor's loud tones exclaiming "I don't care how much it is; go and buy it." In the end Robert Kenmore agreed to sell it, but on the condition that Cartier was able to display it, by now named the Taylor-Burton, in New York and Chicago. He did not deny that Cartier made a profit, stating "We're businessmen and we're happy that Miss Taylor is happy."
The Taylor-Burton, with a label of 'the Cartier Diamond', being
displayed at one of the Cartier stores, in the brief period after
Richard Burton bought it but it had not yet been handed over to him.
More than 6000 people a day flocked to Cartier's New York store to see the Taylor-Burton, the crowds stretching down the block. But an article in the New York Times was distinctly sour on the subject. Under the headline of 'The Million Dollar Diamond' appeared the following comment:
"The peasants have been lining up outside Cartier's this week to gawk at a diamond as big as the Ritz that cost well over a million dollars. It is destined to hang around the neck of Mrs. Richard Burton. As someone said, it would have been nice to wear in the tumbril [a farm cart for carrying dung; carts of this type were used to carry prisoners to the guillotine during the French Revolution] on the way to the guillotine."
Shortly afterwards on November 12th, Miss Taylor wore the Taylor-Burton in public for the first time when she attended Princess Grace's 40th birthday party in Monaco. It was flown from New York to Nice, Italy in the company of two armed guards hired by Burton and Cartier. In 1978, following her divorce from Richard Burton, Miss Taylor announced that she was putting the diamond up for sale and was planning to use part of the proceeds to build a hospital in Botswana. In June of 1979 Henry Lambert, the New York jeweler, stated that he had bought the Taylor-Burton Diamond for $5,000,000.
By December he had sold the stone to its present owner, Robert Mouawad. Soon after, Mr. Mouawad had the stone slightly recut and it now weighs 68.09 carats. Before the recutting, the curved half of the stone's girdle had a very round outline, it is now a little more straight at that end. It also had a small culet, which was made even smaller after the recut. Sources: Famous Diamonds by Ian Balfour and My Love Affair With Jewelry by Elizabeth Taylor.
To gem historians, judging by the reaction of the press, and to the general public as well, it is always something of an event when the existence of an unusual stone, up till now known only to a handful of people, becomes more widely known. That is what occured in 1984 when Christie's announced that they would be auctioning this fancy blue pear-shaped diamond weighing 42.92 metric carats, the fourth largest recorded blue diamond (The stone might actually be the 5th or 6th largest blue diamond as of the present -- it is true, however, that in 1984 it was indeed the 4th largest, a title which it held for about a decade or so).
The original owners of the gem were the Tereschenko family. They were sugar-kings in pre-communist Russia. One member, Mikhail (1886-1956), who held advanced political views, became Kerensky's Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1917. Four years before, Mikhail had deposited the diamond with Cartier in Paris. In 1915 he instructed Cartier to remount the gem as the centerpiece in a necklace containing a variety of fancy colored diamonds. The jewel was unique in combining forty-six marquise, round, pear and heart-shaped diamonds ranging from 0.13 to 2.88 carats. Their colors were described as "jonquil, lemon, aquamarine, sultana-green, golden button, grey, blue, crevet, lilac, rose, old port, madeira and topaz." As such, the necklace ranked among the most important creations of this century in fancy colored diamonds.
In 1916, on the eve of the Russian Revolution, the Tereschenko Diamond was secretly taken out of Russia and then passed into private ownership.
Like other fancy blues, the Tereschenko belongs to the rare group of Type IIb diamonds. It is not known where it was found: theoretically, it may have come from either the Kollur alluvial deposits in India or from the Premier Mine in South Africa. However, by 1913 the Premier Mine had been in existence for barely ten years and since there is no report of it having yielded such a rare and unusual gem, it must be assumed that the diamond is of Indian origin.
Days before the sale in Geneva, four dealers contacted Christie's seperately, offering to buy the diamond directly at the estimated price, between three and four million Swiss francs, thus saving at least the 10% charge added to the selling price. Christie's refused the offers. In addition, a group of diamond dealers suggested that the auctioneers ought to have the diamond graded by the Gemological Institute of America. They pointed out that while the report of the Swiss laboratory in Lucerne mentioned in the sale catalog was impeccable, it would make commercial sense to have the diamond graded by the GIA because its certificate was better known, particularly in Asia and the Middle East. A sale would thus be made easier in those regions. Christie's duly obliged: the diamond was flown to the GIA laboratory in New York and was returned with the necessary documents.
A line drawing I made of the Tereschenko's facet layout, based
on the photo in Ian Balfour's book Famous Diamonds. In
the drawing, looking through the crown, the pavilion facet lines
don't match the side-view drawing, but you get the general idea.
The Tereschenko came up for sale on November 14th, 1984. At 10pm excitement ran high in the brightly lit ballroom of the Hotel Richmond in Geneva when the Chairman of Christie's announced: "We are now selling Lot 454. We shall start the bidding at three million Swiss francs." The price didn't seem to surpise anyone in the room, which was full of important dealers from all over the world and several billionaires, too. It took 40 seconds for the bidding to reach 6.5 million Swiss francs, a figure far in excess of Christie's most optimistic estimate. Ultimately the auctioneer brought down his hammer when a shout of "Ten million Swiss francs" came from the back of the room. Robert Mouawad, Saudi diamond dealer, had added a new stone to his growing collection for $4,508,196. Sources: Famous Diamonds by Ian Balfour and The Fancy Colored Diamond Index.
The Tiffany Yellow
It is debatable whether Truman Capote's novel Breakfast at Tiffany's did much to increase the prestige of this famous New York jewelry store because long before 1958, the year of the book's publication, it had become a household name within the United States as well as abroad. Doubtless some people continue to inquire whether the store does serve breakfast to its clientelle, but of course what the delightfully-named heroine, Holly Golightly, sought was not refreshment of the stomach but of the spirit, which was supplied by the sight of the magnificent gems on display in the showcase.
Founded by Charles Lewis Tiffany in 1837, Tiffany & Co. came to the fore among diamond merchants during the second half of the 1800s. During the political disturbances in Paris in 1848, which cumulated in the overthrough of King Louis Philippe, the firm bought a large quantity of jewels. At the sale of the French Crown Jewels in 1887, Tiffany's bought a great diamond necklace of Empress Eugénie, considered at the time to have been the finest single item to go on sale, four diamonds which may have been among the former Mazarins, as well as several other pieces. In the end, Tiffany's emerged as the largest buyer, with 24 of the total 69 lots.
Between these two events in French history came the discovery of diamonds in South Africa. Tiffany's were active there too, buying a light-yellow cushion of 77 (old) carats cut from a rough stone weighing fractionally less than 125 (old) carats and another fine yellow gem weighing 51 and 7/8 (old) carats. Both of these two diamonds were among the first large stones to be cut in New York City. They were surpassed, however, by the famous gem named after its owners. In the rough, the stone was a beautiful canary-yellow octahedron weighing 287.42 (metric) carats.
It is believed that the Tiffany Yellow was found in either 1877 or 1878. The lack of exact information concerning the correct date of its discovery extends to its location as well; this has been variously described as the 'De Beers Mine' or the 'Kimberly Mine', 'the De Beers Mines' or 'the Kimberly Mines'. The finding of the Tiffany Yellow took place before accurate records of the discovery of large diamonds from South Africa were kept. However, the clue to its location has been supplied by one writer who has stated it was found in the mines of the French Company. This was the colloquial name for the Compagnie Français de Diamant du Cap, an important mining concern, the existence of which sparked off the most momentous financial struggle which the diamond industry has witnessed.
A publicity photo of Audrey Hepburn in the 1961 film Breakfast At Tiffanys. Believe it or not, the
film did alot for the Tiffany image -- the store and the film are now forever associated with each other. This photo
shows the stone set in the "Bird on the Rock" brooch, which was designed by the famous Tiffany jeweler
Jean Schlumberger. The piece is the Tiffany Yellow's most well-known setting, and is the setting it remains in to this day.
In the belief that the only solution to the problems posed by the inefficient and haphazard mining methods employed by the Kimberly deposits lay in the amalgamation of the multitude of claims into one unit, by 1887 Cecil Rhodes and his colleagues had succeeded in making the De Beers Mining Company, which was then headed by the flamboyant Barney Barnato.
Born Barnett Isaacs in 1852, the son of a small shopkeeper off Petticoat Lane, one of the best-known streets in London's East End, Barnato was in every respect the complete antithesis of Rhodes. Barnato was an extrovert, imbued with Jewish-Cockney wit and humor. After leaving school at fourteen, he obtained a number of odd jobs including being a 'bouncer' at a public house and appearing on stage at a music hall. Several of his relatives left for South Africa after hearing of the discovery of diamonds there, so Barney eventually followed them. His only capital on arrival at the diamond fields consisted of a box of cigars - of doubtful quality - which he hoped to sell to the diggers. He became an itinerant buyer of diamonds, his genial personality proving a useful asset. In time, he bought for claims in the center of the Kimberly Mine and prospered so that he was able to form the Barnato Diamond Mining Company. Like Rhodes, Barnato kept on buying up claims. In 1885 Barnato merged his company with that of Baring-Gould's Kimberly Central Mining Company, thus giving him a strong hold in the Kimberly Mine as that of Rhodes in the De Beers Mine.
Since his company was going so well, Barnato saw no reason at all why he should join any scheme of Rhodes for amalgamation. However, one obstacle lay in the path of the Kimberly Central, namely the Compagnie Français de Diamant du Cap. By virtue of its position within the Kimberly Mine and the policy it pursued, the French Company impeded any success of future operations by Barnato's company. Consequently Barnato made proposals to the French: but Rhodes had already done likewise and had succeeded in raising the finance necessary for the purchase of the French Company in Paris. Rhodes then laid a trap for his rival. He told Barnato that he could acquire the French Company if he wanted it and would not ask for cash in payment, only the equivalent of the price paid in Kimberly Central's recently issued new shares. By this means Rhodes was able to secure a useful foothold in the form of one-fifth of Kimberly Central's issued capital; all the time this had been his real objective, not the control of the French Company. Barnato acquiesced in his plan, falling right into the trap Rhodes had set for him.
The stage was now set for a titanic battle for the remainder of the Kimberly Central's issued capital. Both Rhodes and Barnato bought recklessly, and at a time when the price of diamonds barely covered the cost of production, the company's shares soared from £14 to £49 within a few months. Eventually Rhodes and his associates could claim to own three-fifths of Kimberly Central's issued capital and Barnato realized he had been beaten. He surrendered in March of 1888, accepting the terms which gave Rhodes the control he had sought. On March 12th, De Beers Consolidated Mines Limited was formerly incorporated. The new company took over assets which represented the whole of the De Beers Mine, three-quarters of the Kimberly Mine and a controlling interest in the Bultfontein and Dutoitspan Mines. Cecil Rhodes and Barney Barnato were appointed among the company's first Life Governors.
Sine if the Kimberly Central's shareholders, however, disapproved of Barnato selling out to Cecil Rhodes and challenged the merger in the Courts. It was the judge who told them that if Barnato agreed to put Kimberly Central into voluntary liquidation, De Beers could simply purchase its assets. Accordingly this is what the company did: Rhodes wrote out a check for £5,338,650 for the assets of Kimberly Central, which, in those days, was the largest sum of money ever covered in a single check.
Further evidence that the Tiffany Yellow Diamond must have originated in the claims of the historically important French Company is show by the fact that the gen was shipped to Paris. Experts there studied it for one year before it was cut under the supervision of the distinguished gemologist George F. Kunz in 1878. It yielded a cushion-cut brilliant of 128.54 (metric) carats, measuring 27 mm wide, 28.25 mm long and 22.2 mm deep. It was given a total of 90 facets: 48 on the pavilion, 40 on the crown, plus the table and culet. The extra facets were cut not to give the diamond more sparkle, rather to make it smolder as if it were lit by fire. The gem is high in fluorescence and retains this rich color in artificial light, but is even more beautiful by day.
The head of Tiffany's office in Paris, Mr. Gideon Reed, bought the Tiffany Yellow for $18,000, on behalf of the firm, whence it was imported into the United States in 1879. Initially, little publicity attended the diamond after its arrival there, a deliberate policy which has been ascribed by Charles Tiffany's fears that, as yellowish diamonds were being produced in South Africa in greater quantities than every before, this particular diamond might merely be one of many such stones. However, it is important to draw a distinction between light yellow and yellowish diamonds and those of the rare deeper canary yellow; the Tiffany Yellow remains one of the finest examples of the latter of the three.
It was not long before the existence of the Tiffany Yellow did become widely known. In 1896 one of the triumvirate who ruled China, the Viceroy Li Hung-Chang - about whom President Grant is said to have remarked, 'There are three great men in the world, Gladstone, Bismarck and Chang, but the greatest of these is Chang' - visited New York. He announced that the one thing he wished to see was the Tiffany Yellow Diamond, a request that was duly met by the firm.
The Tiffany Yellow, set in Jean Schlumberger's "Bird on the Rock" brooch.
Since being viewed by this distinguished visitor, the Tiffany Yellow has been seen by millions of others in almost seventy years of continuous display in Tiffany's store. It has also been shown at numerous exhibitions: they include the Chicago Columbian in 1893, the Pan-American in 1901, the Chicago Century of Progress in 1933-34 and the New York World's Fair in 1939. The first occasion on which the diamond was worn was in 1957 at the Tiffany Ball held in Newport, Rhode Island, when the chairwoman of the ball, Mrs. Sheldon Whitehouse, had the honor of wearing it, mounted for the occasion in a necklace of white diamonds. In 1971 the Tiffany Yellow returned to South Africa for the exhibition which marked the centennial celebrations of the Kimberly Mine. After an absence of forty years from London, Tiffany's re-opened their branch in Old Bond Street in 1986, and displayed the diamond to herald its return.
This is the best glimpse of the stone's pavilion I've seen yet in a photograph.
The sole disturbance in the otherwise uneventful history of the Tiffany Yellow concerns reported attempts to sell the stone, which was valued at $12,000,000 at the end of 1983. In 1951 the new chairman of Tiffany's recommended that the gem be sold, a decision which not surprisingly horrified certain members of the old Board. A buyer agreed to pay $500,000 for the stone but the deal fell through because the chairman wanted a check in full whereas the prospective buyer wished for other financial arrangements to be made. Then on November 17th, 1972 the New York Times carried an advertisement by Tiffany offering to sell the diamond for $5,000,000. However, in the circumstances it would be as well to recall the story of the eager new salesman who, when asked what he would get if he sold the famous gem, was promptly told by the head of the firm 'Fired!'
My replica of the Tiffany Yellow, from the now-defunct NW Diamonds & Gems, which was based in Washington state. The stone measures 28.11 × 28.23 × 15.51. The company dealt in CZ, colored and colorless, in various sizes, large in particular. My Jonker replica was also from the company. I bought my Porter Rhodes replica, from them as well.
The fact that no major gemological organization has ever formerly examined the Tiffany Yellow (or at least, its findings were never made public) remains to be seen. Herbert Tillander addresses this in his book Diamond Cuts in Historic Jewelry - 1381 to 1910, in which he writes about the Tiffany Yellow:
The golden-yellow Tiffany is not only a typical Stellar Cut Brilliant with a star-like arrangement of small facets around the culet, but the crown is stepped, which consequently involves splitting the main facets. This was a standard procedure.* The pavilion, however, received three steps: between the regular two steps a third was applied, which was probably unique. This involved the splitting of the lower main facets into two triangular and one flat keystone-shaped facet. Consequently the Tiffany Yellow Diamond recieved 40 actual facets on the crown and 48 on the pavilion, plus the compulsary table and culet - in all, 90 facets compared with the 56 plus two facets of the Standard Brilliant Cut.
No one has ever explained why such a bulky step cut was applied to this diamond. It seems that priority was given to weight retention, since the prestige of a diamond depended at that time primarily on its weight. Dr. Kunz state "that this unprecedented number of facets was given the stone not to make it more brilliant, but less brilliant. The stone was of yellow colour, and it was thought better to give it the effect of a smothered, smoldering fire than one of flashing radiance."** The stone has an unusual feature, in a yellow diamond, of retaining its color by artificial light.*** The designers decided to ignore the modern rules of proportioning (such as those introduced to America by Morse) since these would have produced a Brilliant of well below the magic figure of 100 carats, which entitles a diamond to the name of 'Paragon'. Here, even the classic proportions would not have done -- a Brilliant with the width and length of this stone (27 mm × 28.25 mm) with 45° angles would have barely weighed 100 carats.
In the end, a number of solutions were found. Obviously, the diameter of the finished gem was weighed against a symmetrical outline. But the height of the crown, the thickness of the girdle and the depth of the pavilion could all be substantially increased. In fact, they managed to retain a vertical measurement of 81.5 percent (22.2 mm) as compared with Jeffries' 68 percent and the modern 60 percent.****
A view of the crown, pavilion and side of the Tiffany Yellow's facet layout. This
drawing appeared in Tillander's book, and was most likely based on the drawing from
Max Bauer's 1904 book Precious Stones. The drawings of the stone in Tillander's book
look identical to the ones in Bauer's, but enlarged cleaned up to show better detail.
The convex silhouette shows not only the weight saved through stepping but also an exceptionally high crown and deep pavilion. Other measures were taken in order to produce desired light effects. An exact calculation was made of the angles of reflection and refraction of light and the culet was given a size which made it act as a reflector. Until the Tiffany Yellow Diamond is professionally examined two queries remain unsolved: the four extra facets on the pavilion, adjacent to the girdle, and the often-mentioned seventeen polished spots on the girdle which, according to a check-up at the premises of Tiffany in 1945, are 'no true facets'.
We know that the rough, a fine octahedron weighing 287.42 carats, was found in about 1878 in what appears to have been the French-owned part of the De Beers Mines. It was shipped to Paris where it was shown to the Tiffany representatives. The firm's eminent gemologist, George F. Kunz, was commissioned to help plan the fashioning of it into the most magnificent gem possible. The result was extraordinary, as we have seen. The finished gem has the amazing weight of 128.54 carats. It was, until recently, the largest golden-yellow diamond in the world. According to the official invoice from a Paris office, the Tiffany Yellow Diamond was shipped to New York on the City of Chester on June 15th, 1880, and was listed with a number of other gems 'on consignment' at 100,000 French francs.*****
*Another famous but quite different stepped Brilliant is the Saxon White in the Grünes Gewölbe in Dresden. For a detailed description see Herbert Tillander, Journal of Gemmology (UK), July, 1968.
**George F. Kunz, Science, August 5th, 1887.
***Gems & Gemology, Summer, 1945.
****According to Tom R. Barbour, in Lapidary Journal, March, 1963, page 1131, the overall depth is 78 percent.
*****The cost price, according to Ian Balfour (1987) [mentioned above], was US $18,000.
It should be noted that at some time, the clarity of VS1 has been mentioned for the Tiffany Yellow. This, however, might have been an educated guess by a Tiffany official rather than an actual clarity grade issued by a gemological lab.
When Tom R. Barbour published his instructions in the March, 1963 issue of Lapidary Journal on how to cut a Tiffany Yellow replica, he called for a 27 mm x 27 mm x 21 mm finished stone. His measurements as well as his facet design were relatively close, at least compared to some of his other replicas. The diamond's design is sometimes shown as having an extremely thick girdle -- as is the case with Herbert Tillander's 1995 book. This was, however, dispelled when numerous photos of the diamond, set in its famous Bird on the Rock brooch, taken from various angles appeared on the internet, taken while it was on display at the Smithsonian Institute in 2007.
The Tiffany Yellow II
The Colonial Necklace featuring large yellow diamonds exhibited by Tiffany & Co. at the 1889 Exposition in Paris. The Louis XVI Revival design referred to the era of the American Revolution, just as the 1889 Paris Exposition celebrated the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution. In the lower pendant was the Tiffany Yellow II Diamond (above photo), at the time the second largest diamond in the United States (after the Tiffany Yellow Diamond and the first large diamond to be cut in America.
The lower and upper halves of the Colonial Necklace.
It weighed 124.94 carats in the rough; Charles M. Field, foreman of the Henry D. Morse factory in Boston and inventor of the first modern diamond cutting machine, began cutting the stone on September 29th, 1883. Field finished the stone on January 11th, 1884. It was a European Cut weighing 77 carats. Sadly, its present whereabouts are unknown.
A preliminary drawing of the necklace from the Tiffany archives.
The Transvaal Blue
A pear cut 25-carat blue diamond that was found in the Premier Diamond Mine in Transvaal, South Africa, the same mine the 3106-carat Cullinan crystal was found in. It was once owned by Baumgold Bros., but it's now owned by an unknown foreign buyer.
The Vainer Briolette
When considering which diamond cuttings centers are the most important, odds are London won't spring to mind as one of them. The city's main role in the diamond trade has been as the major point of distribution of rough diamonds. The London Diamond Syndicate, formed in 1890 as a joint buying and selling organization for the output of the De Beers mines, was succeeded by the modern Central Selling Organization, now the Diamond Trading Company, so that most of the leading diamantaires around the world are are still obliged to make travel arrangements to London. At the same time, for almost two centuries, a small cutting industry has contrived to exist in the British Isles and the greatest diamond which it had produced was the Regent, or "Pitt" as it was then known. The largest rough gemstone handled has been the Woyie River, cut in the early-1950s by Briefel & Lemer, the same firm who had been entrusted with the Williamson Diamond. With the Vainer Briolette, London was recognized as a diamond cutting center again.
In the autumn of 1984 associates of M. Vainer Limited informed them of the existence of a 202.85-carat diamond, yellowish, slightly spotted, but of almost perfect octahedral shape. Instead of cutting the customary brilliant from such a stone Milosh Vainer and his master cutter, Michael Gould, had other more unusual ideas: they decided to cut a briolette. This is a fairly rare diamond cut. One older example was owned by Henry Philip Hope, the banker whose collection of unique gems included the famous diamond named after him. The Briolette of India, weighing 90.38 carats was thought to have a history dating back to the Middle Ages; unfortunately recent research has revealed it was cut in Paris in 1908-09. Four more briolettes, all yellowish, are the so-called June Briolette of 48.42 carats and three sold in Geneva by Christie's in May of 1984 that weighed 44.61, 32.32 and 29.17 carats. These have all been surpassed by the Vainer Briolette weighing 116.60 carats. It has 192 facets. The GIA certified that both the polish and symmetry were Excellent and that the color was Fancy Light Yellow. The diamond also enjoys, therefore, the distinction of being the largest diamond to have been faceted in London to date since the Regent, and being the second largest briolette cut diamond in the world. The first largest briolette-cut diamond weighs 180.85 carats, and is also yellow. It is privately owned. The third largest is a 114.64-carat stone, yellow as well, listed as being discovered in India, privately owned. The fourth largest is a 107.43-carat Fancy Yellow gem. It was supposedly sold at Sothebys on May 16th, 2002, but for how much I don't know. Its estimate was $600,000 - $800,000. The fifth largest is a 101.25-carat yellow, owned by M. Vainer Limited of London, the namesake of the Vainer Briolette.
The Vainer Briolette was purchased by the Sultan of Brunei. In addition the rough stone yielded five smaller gems weighing a total of 14.93 carats, all of which were faceted in keeping with the historical cutting of the principal gem. Sources: Famous Diamonds by Ian Balfour, Diamond Cuts in Historic Jewelry - 1381 to 1910 by Herbert Tillander, and Diamonds - Famous, Notable and Unique by GIA.
The Victoria sits elevated on an acrylic stand.
From the very beginning an aura of mystery surrounded the discovery of this gem, which weighed 457½ (old) carats in the rough. Also called the 'Imperial' or 'Great White', it remained the biggest octahedral diamond crystal from South Africa until 1896 when it was surpassed by one weighing 503¼ (old) carats that was found in the De Beers Mine.
The doubts about its origin were clearly expressed early on because under the heading of 'A Large Diamond' two letters from correspondents appeared in The Times in London. The first, dated August 20th, 1884, read as follows:
"Sir. This gem of blue-white colour, similar to the finest stones from the Jagersfontein Mine, which is said to be (and most probably is) the true locality of this gem. There is somewhat of a mystery attached to the true origin of the stone, and from the secrecy displayed at its first discovery, it is not improbably that it has been procured through an 'illicit' at the mine from which it is reported to come.
"By the existing laws in connexion with the diamond mines, it is necessary for person to hold licenses for the traffic in diamonds, but, unfortunately, the jurdisdiction extends only to a limited circle. For instance, in the Cape Colony proper, the purchasing and selling of gems is unrestricted, no such law existing. The Jagersfontein Mine, in the Orange Free State, has for some time been only partially worked, and I believe many diggers could tell a could tell a rueful tale of their unsuccessful operations. If this monster stone had been found and sold in a strictly legimate manner, it seems astonishing that all the diamond world has not heard of this wonderous gem before. It also seems peculiar that it should have been consigned to this country by a Port Elizabeth house ...
"Report says that it was purchased in the first instance for £15,000, and the syndicate now possessing it ask £200,000. Should it prove to be the wonderous gem reported this latter sum is certainly not too high a valuation for such a marvellous and unique stone."
That letter drew the following forthright reply which appeared two days later.
"Sir: It may preserve your columns from further fiction, may satisfy public curiosity, and give the unrivalled beauty of a fair start in society if the simple pedigree is given, for which I am indebted to a letter, dated 30 June, from my near relative, Mr. Allenberg, of Port Elizabeth, who shipped the stone for sale to the London market.
"The diamond was found on a Dutchman's farm in the Orange Free State by one of his 'belongings' and kept in secret by him for nearly a year, purely from dread that, if known, his farm would be 'jumped' by a crowd of diggers and he driven from house and home. At length - by what arrangements is not given in the letter - an old friend of Mr. Allenberg's obtained sight of the stone and induced the owner to forward it for sale.
"No doubt presumably the exact locality must become known. I am ignorant of it, and cannot therefore gratify the curious or money-making...
"It is true that the stone was sold to a syndicate of the leading diamond merchants in London. There has been no secrecy from first to last.
"The guess of the price in The Times is not correct."
Despite the affirmative tone of the second letter, experts continued to harbor doubts about the source of the Victoria. In this connection, it is important to note that while the Jagersfontein Mine definitely did produce many fine white stones, they were nearly always cleavages in the rough; octahedral diamonds were characteristic of three of the Kimberly mines: De Beers Mine, Kimberly Mine and the Dutoitspan Mine.
In the issue of Science dated August 5th, 1887, an interesting article entitled 'Four Large South African Diamonds' appeared under the name of George F. Kunz, the distinguished gemologist under whose supervision the Tiffany Yellow Diamond was cut. Mr. Kunz first discuessed the Victoria. Aware of the correspondence in The Times indicating the Orange Free State as the source of the stone, he wrote:
"It is, however, believed that it was found by someone at one of the Kimberly mines, South Africa. The first intimation that any of the various mining companies had of its existence was when they heard of its safe arrival in London. It is generally supposed that in the month of June or July 1884, the stone had been found by one of the surveillance officers if the Central Mining Company in the Kimberly mines. It being his duty to search others, he had the privilage of not being searched himself, and so the stone was passed through the searching-house, and he was afterwards supposed to have found means of communicating with four illicit diamond-buyers. Owing to the stringency of the diamond laws of Griqualand West, the trading in rough diamonds is forbidden to any one not owning one of the 'patents' or 'licenses', as they were called, costing £200 and a guarantee of £500. All the purchases made by them must also be entered into a special registry, and are duly signed each week by the police authorities. £3000 was the price paid to obtain the stone from the first processor. To prepare themselves for the ordeal of transporting the stone out of the district, they assembled at night, commenced drinking, then gambling, and after a night's debauch two of the party had lost their share in the big stone. The other two reached Cape Town in safety, where the diamond laws are not in force, and from a dealer there received £19,000 cash for their stone. An outward duty of one-half percent is collected on shipments of diamonds from Cape Colony; but this diamond is siad to have been carried by one of the passengers of a mail steamer, and was hence undeclared. We next hear from it in London, causing considerable sensation in Hatton Garden, the great diamond market. After considerable time had been spent trying to find a capitalist who could afford to buy such a gem, it was at last arranged by a former resident of the Cape mines to form a company of eight persons, who bought the stone together for £45,000 cash, on condition that if they should dispose of it each should receive a ninth share in the eventual profits."
The Victoria appears bluish in this dark photo. One reporter said it had a "greenish flash."
Mr. Kunz went on to add that it was finally decided to cut it into the largest possible brilliant, rather than into numerous small stones, and that Amsterdam was selected as the place where the gem could best be cut.
The Victoria was despatched to the firm of Jacques Metz where a special workshop was constructed for its cutting. First, a piece was cleaved off that yielded a brilliant of 19 (old) carats. The stone was later bought by the King of Portugal; its location is unknown today but it may be one of the brilliants among the former Crown Jewels on display in the Ajuda Palace in Lisbon.
The cutting of the largest piece of the Victoria began on April 9th, 1887, in the presence of the Queen of Holland: the operation took about a year because the preliminary processes in cutting a diamond were by-passed and it was polished solely on the scaife. A great deal of time was taken by the cooling of the stone as it became heated after an hour's running on the wheel. The cutter was Mr. M.B. Barends.
The finished gem was a slightly rectangular cushion cut with 58 facets, including the table and the culet facet. It measured 39.5 mm long, 29.25 mm wide and 22.5 mm deep. In his article, Mr. Kunz noted that the form of the Victoria was not entirely even and that on one side of the girdle there was quite a flat place, a natural unpolished surface, necessary, in cutting, to preserve the large weight of the stone. The diamond weighs 184.5 (metric) carats.
The Sixth Nizam of Hyderabad, Mahbub Ali Khan, bought the Victoria which was believed to bring good luck: this belief later prompted the Prince to reject an offer for it from the Aga Khan. But the Nizam's purchase was to inaugurate a second period of mystery surrounding the diamond.
When the British withdrew from India in 1947 the Indian sub-continent was partitioned into India and Pakistan, the ruling Nizam of Hyderabad, the son of the buyer of the Victoria Diamond, chose to remain independent, refusing to join either of those two countries. Eventually, after the breakdown of negotiations and subsequent armed interventions by Indian forces, Hyderabad acceded to the Indian Union as a state in January of 1950. Later Hyderabad was divided among three neighboring states. The Nizam, General His Excellent Highness Sir Mir Osman Ali Khan Bahadur, who had loyally supported the allied cause during World War II, retired to Bombay (now Mumbai) to live on a pension granted to him by the government of India. It was said that the Nizam lived so frugally that his personal expenses amounted to a mere 7s. 6d (37½ cents) per day.
The Nizam placed his collection of jewels, stated unofficially at the time to have been worth between £13,000,000 and £15,000,000, under trust, dividing them into two groups: the first was made up of forty pieces which the trustees could sell; the second and slightly larger group consisted of pieces that were not for sale, unless, in the Nizam's own words, some unforseen calamity should befall his family. There was no mention of the Victoria. On the other hand a diamond called the Jacob was specifically included in the second category.
On more than one occasion there were reports that the Nizam was experiencing financial trouble, caused apparently by his family and his dependants, of whom were said to be more than a thousand. Then in April of 1951 it was stated that the Jacob was to be offered for sale along with other jewels. The India States Minister told Parliament that the proceeds from the sale would be invested in government securities and used to benefit Hyderabad. Simultaneously came reports that the Indian government was refusing to allow any more of the famous jewels to leave the country and that the Jacob Diamond would almost certainly be listed as a "national treasure". Again, there was no mention of the Victoria.
Five years later it was reported that the Jacob, then held by the Bank of India, was for sale. An American dealer described it as "white, not blue" in color, adding that it was not the most brilliant gem which he had seen.
After the death of the Nizam in 1967 his jewels were again in the news. The trustees wished to sell some of them to help meet the family's staggering tax liabilities. Millionaires flocked to India to attend the sale. Certain conditions were laid down for prospective buyers: anyone who wanted to examine a single jewel on sale was obliged to pay a non-refundable fee of £100; no one could bid without depositing £2000 security which would be refunded only after all transactions had been completed; whatever the price offered for each piece, one-tenth of it had to be furnished with the bid, the remainder within ten days of an offer's acceptance.
The auction was stalled because of public outcry. Many Indians felt that, like the British Crown Jewels and the jewelry collection housed in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, the jewels that had belonged to the Nizam of Hyderabad should be reguarded as part of the country's national heritage and therefore, should be preserved in India.
There the matter rested until 1993 when the Indian government decided to buy the fabled collection. The two sides reached final agreement on the price and the government said that payment for the jewels would be made in six installments, but the trustees rejected this arrangement and their argument was upheld by the Supreme Court, who directed the government to pay in full.
Once again events stalled until the Supreme Court intervened at the behest of the trustees. It forced the government's hand by directing that the trustees could invite bids from foreign buyers.
Earlier the Supreme Court had given a deadline but yielded to an appeal from the government for more time. The Lower House of the Indian Parliament gave its approval for the funds to buy the collection but the Upper House did not get around to ratifying decision in the session. The impass was fortunately resolved by the discovery of a loophole in the parliamentary rule book which allowed the money to be handed over to the parliamentary rule book which allowed the money to be handed over to the appropriate government department; all that was left to do was to work out the final details of the agreement. The government was told to produce the cash by January 16th, 1995, or the deal would expire.
On January 12th, the Indian government paid approximately Rs 218 crore ($70 million) for the Nizam's jewels, which was made up of 137 items. Privately the trustees and beneficiaries considered that the best price had not been obtained for the collection, which had earlier been valued much higher by international auctioneers.
Throughout these procedings there was no mention of a diamond entitled Victoria, Imperial or Great White. On the other hand, mention continued to be made of the Jacob, its weight being reported variously as 100, 150 and, more importantly, 184½ carats. The last figure is, of course, the reported weight of the Victoria. Is it possible then that a diamond with a somewhat mundane name is the same stone as another with such a resounding title? The answer is supplied by John Lord in his book The Maharajahs, published in 1972, where he recounts the strange story of A.M. Jacob. Alexander Jacob was an Armenian Jew who arrived in Simla in 1871, where he became a dealer in precious stones. Lord writes:
"Jacob was notorious, from Simla to the fasionable spa of Homburg, for his powers of magic. The gullible credited him with the ability to walk on water and even the least credulous granted him powers of mesmerism and telepathy. It was generally believed by British and Indians alike that he practiced white magic, and it was variously reported that he was a Jew, an Armenian, a Russian agent, a British agent. It was obvious to all that he was the most important dealer in jewels and antiquities in India, and known to a few that he had in fact undertaken missions for the Secret Department of the government of India. He travelled by private train. His little store in Simla was a pantechnicon of riches, blazing with gold and smokey with incense, and in it Jacob squatted, pale and subtle, keeping a diary full of secrets."
It is not surprising that such a character as Jacob should have served as the model for at least three characters in fiction, the most celebrated being Lurgan in Rudyard Kipling's novel Kim. This tale was published in 1901, ten years after the lawsuit that had spelled ruin for Jacob. John Lord describes the case as follows:
"Jacob had agreed to purchae for the Nizam a famous diamond kept in England, then called 'the Imperial' (and later 'the Jacob'), for the sum of three hundred thousand pounds, half of which His Highness had paid as a depost. Now Jacob delivered the diamond in person with only the Nizam's valet as a witness. He left, with the Nizam still owing half the purchase price. Unknown to Jacob, the Resident had heard about the transaction A worthy, wordy man whose lust was legalities and property, the Resident sought to save the Nizam's almost bankrupt government from the folly of buying yet another bauble. The Nizam froze. He was not allowed to pay the rest of the money and he would not return the diamond. He wrapped it in an ink-stained cloth and dropped it into a drawer. Jacob was forced to defend his investment by suing a Calcutta court; though he won the case, he was broken financially. His legal expenses were great. No prince in India would deal with him again and he died in penury, even his magic spent, in Bombay."
Sotheby's valued the jewelry collection at $162 million, and Christie's at $135 million. After the purchase of the jewels by the nation of India in 1995 they were displayed several different times, but the most publicized exhibit opened on August 30th, 2001. The gems went on display in Hyderabad, India, along with the Victoria Diamond, which is considered the centerpiece of the exhibit. The exhibit closed on October 30th, 2001, but in February of 2002 it opened again, with enthusiastic talk of it becoming a permanent exhibit.
Actress Michelle Pfeiffer wearing the Victoria-Transvaal necklace.
The Victoria-Transvaal is a 67.89-carat, brownish-yellow pear shaped stone. It was cut from a 240-carat crystal that was found in the Transvaal, South Africa. The first cutting produced a 75-carat 116-facet stone that measured 1 x 1³/8 inches; a recutting retained the same length and width, but reduced the depth to better proportions, making it more brilliant. The diamond has been featured in several Hollywood films, including a Tarzan episode from 1952 titled Tarzan's Savage Fury, and in leading exhibitions in the United States and Canada.
The necklace was designed by Baumgold Brothers, Inc, and consists of a yellow gold chain with 66 round brilliant-cut diamonds, fringed with ten drop motifs, each set with two marquise-cut diamonds, a pear-shaped diamond, and a small round brilliant-cut diamond (the total weight of the 106 diamonds is about 45 carats). The necklace was donated by Leonard and Victoria Wilkinson in 1977 to the Smithsonian Institute, Washington D.C.
The Victoria-Transvaal Diamond amoung other notable diamonds in the Smithsonian's collection:
The Portuguese, the Pearson, the De Young Pink and the Eugenie Blue, an unnamed
oval-shaped diamond, and the yellow Oppenheimer Diamond Crystal in the back. Photo by Chip Clark.
Sources: Diamonds - Famous, Notable and Unique by GIA and The National Gem Collection by Jeffrey E. Post.
photo © Patrick Gries/Van Cleef & Arpels
One of the "great unknowns" of the diamond world, the Walska is a 95-carat yellow briolette cut stone. Its size and cutting style rival the Briolette of India, a 90-carat stone and probably the most famous diamond of this cutting style. It is set in a bird-motif brooch/pendant, the wings can be detached to become earrings; the drop yellow diamond extending from the beak is a pendant or leaving the tail as a brooch. The piece was created by Van Cleef & Arpels in 1971. Unfortunately not much else is known about the Walska. Perhaps someday more will be published about this stone. What is known is that Ganna Walska (1887-1984) was a Polish opera singer and her birth name was Hanna Puacz. She was also an avid gardener and created Lotusland, a 37-acre estate and botanical garden east of Santa Barbara, California. Walska bought the property in 1941 and owned it until her death in 1984. Before her death, Madame Walska established the nonprofit Ganna Walska Lotusland Foundation, which now preserves this botanical treasure. The brooch and diamond are now privately owned but it occasionally appears at historical jewelry exhibitions.
photo © Ernst A. Heiniger
How often does one come across terms such as "present location unknown" or "all trace of the diamond has been lost" when undertaking research into the histories of famous diamonds? It is all the more satisfying, therefore, to recall an item in a newspaper that appeared in January of 1962, under the heading "Rare diamond reappears". This refered to the Wittelsbach, a diamond of a rare deep blue color whose reappearance, even though after a mere few decades, was nonetheless an exciting and welcoming event.
The Wittelsbach weighed 35.56 metric carats and measured 24.40 by 24.46 millimeters, with a depth of and 8.29 millimeters. It was pure apart from a few surface scratches that were probably caused during removal from its settings over time. The diamond has been cut with 82 facets arranged in an unusual pattern — the star facets on the crown are vertically split and the pavilion has sixteen needle-like facets, arranged in pairs, pointing outward from the culet facet, which itself is extremely large.
The first record of the Wittelsbach dates from the latter part of the seventeenth century. One fact is thus certain: the diamond must be of Indian origin. Furthermore, it has been suggested that a diamond of such a rare color must once have formed part of the famous French Blue Diamond, weighing 112½ old carats in the rough, which Tavernier bought in India and later sold to Louis XIV of France. The principal gem which this yielded is the Hope, weighing 45.52 carats, so that technical reasons alone clearly preclude the possibility of the Wittelsbach having been fashioned from the same piece of rough. The sole possibility of a connection between the Wittelsbach and the Hope lies in Tavernier's French Blue Diamond being merely part of a much larger piece of rough that had at some time been split in two (a very unlikely occurence). While the Wittelsbach has been found to fluoresce bright red, like the Hope, no link has been established between the two diamonds.
The history of the Wittelsbach has been uneventful; for the most part it has been passed down from one royal owner to another. The gem formed part of the gift which Philip IV of Spain gave to his 15-year-old daughter, the Infanta Margareta Teresa, up the occasion of her betrothel to the Emperor Leopold I of Austria in 1664. (Any chance of tracing the earlier history of the Wittelsbach was lost when the Madrid archives were destroyed during the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39.) The bride's father commanded the treasurer to compose a dowry from a recent acquisition of precious stones from India and Portugal. The resulting selection included a large blue diamond. Unfortunately, the marriage between the Emperor and the Infanta ended with her early death in 1675. Her jewels passed to her husband, and listen in a document dated March 23rd, 1673:
"Diamond ornament ... consisting of ... a large brooch with a Great Blue Diamond in the centre, to which belongs a bow-jewel set with rubies."
Leopold I later gave all the jewelry he had inherited from the Infanta to his third wife, the Empress Eleanor Magdalena, daughter of the Elector Palatine. The Empress outlived her husband, dying in 1720. By then she had already made arrangements to bequeath the 'Great Blue Diamond' to her younger granddaughter, the Archduchess Maria Amelia, daughter of the Emperor Joseph I.
In 1717 the Archduchess made the aquaintance of the man she was destined to marry, the Bavarian Crown Prince Charles Albert. Born in Brussels in 1697, he was subsequently brought up and educated in Austria. Their wedding in 1722 was an event that heralded an important change in the future of the blue diamond. Henceforth it became the 'family diamond' of House of Bavaria, the Wittelsbachs; it remained so until the abdication of the last king in 1918. The diamond was the principal item in Maria Amelia's dowry and was described under the heading of diamond ornaments as, 'No. 1 A large blue brilliant encircled with small brilliants,' valued at 240,000 guilders, proof of the value attached to the gem, especially when its worth is compared to that of other valuables recorded in contemporary inventories.
An Order of the Golden Fleece ornament, with a glass replica of the Wittelsbach set at the top.
Although it appears colorless/nearly colorless in this image, the cushion-shaped diamond in the
center section of the pentdant is actually described as being a pinkish-brown color. In
Lawrence Copeland's book Diamonds - Famous, Notable and Unique there is a photo of this ornament,
with the actual
Wittelsbach Diamond set in it, but the gold ram at the bottom is not attached.
A zoom-in of the top third of the ornament. This blue stone is most
likely glass. The original Wittelsbach was removed and eventually wound
up in a Harry Winston brooch surrounded by a pear-shaped white diamonds.
It was not long after the wedding of the Crown Prince to the Archduchess that his father, the Elector Maximilian Emmanuel, found himself in financial difficulties. As the head of a royal family, he was responsible for the wellfare of its members which in turn, meant that he was free to do as he pleased with all their worldly goods. Borrowing money from a banker named Oppenheim, he thus pledged both the Wittelsbach Diamond. They were redeemed four years later for 543,781 guilders, but the Elector, who died shortly afterwords, left his son and successor the task of covering this amount. In addition, the Elector left his family an impoverished one; the redemption of the diamond raised the total deficit to 4,000,000 guilders.
The new Elector, Charles Albert, clearly had an affection for the Wittelsbach because during his lifetime he had its setting altered several times, each more beautiful than the last. His successor, Maximilian III, ordered yet another setting for the gem which was undertaken by a Munich jeweler. The Wittelsbach was set in a circle of brilliants with a border of larger brilliants in a floral design. Suspended from this was a loop or bow of brilliants with horizontal rays radiating from a large cushion-shaped brilliant diamond of a pink-brown tint in the center (see the above two photos). Altogether a total of 700 brilliants were employed into this extravagent setting.
The last King of Bavaria to wear the blue diamond was Louis III who reigned until 1918 when Germany became a republic. After his abdication he retired to his estate in Hungary, dying there in 1921. His internment in the Theatinerkinche in Munich was a ceremonial occasion of splendour and it marked the last time that the Wittelsbach Diamond accompanied a monarch to his final place of rest.
In the aftermath of World War I, Bavaria became a republic and the possessions of the former House of Wittelsbach were placed under the control of an equalization fund. The members of the royal family recieved an indemnity which, however, was soon to prove worthless in the ensuing period of inflation, and since legislation did not permit the conversion of landed property into money, the members of the royal house were soon left in an impoverished state. Accordingly, the State agreed in 1931 that certain Crown Jewels of the House of Wittelsbach should be sold to alleviate the hardship experienced by descendants of the last king.
The Wittelsbach's unusual facet layout. The eight inner-most facets of the pavilion is actually a sapphire
glued to the stone to hide a very large culet facet and help deepen the diamond's color appearance. This
addition, which technically made the diamond a doublet, was added sometime after the gem's 1964 sale.
The honor of auctioning the Bavarian Crown Jewels fell to Christie's in London, who in November, 1931, announced the sale would take place the following month and that the contents would include "a famous blue diamond". Public interest was remarkable; the sale comprised thirteen lots and lasted for over two hours. The first lot consisted of the blue diamond; and it was apparently considered to be a good start at £3000 and the bidding rose to £5400. Although it was knocked down at that figure to a purchaser named 'Thorp' the general impression was that the diamond remained unsold. Among the items sold was one described as 'a fine cinnamon-yellow oblong brilliant' for £1500 which may have been the previously mentioned diamond of a pink-brown tint that featured in the jewel made for Maximilian III.
Now the mystery of the whereabouts of the Wittelsbach truly begins. Whatever transpired at Christie's in December of 1931, the diamond did not return to its former place of display in Munich; in its place visitors were shown a worthless piece of faceted blue glass. Rumors included one that the stone had been sold illegally in 1932 through a Munich jeweller and had reappeared in Holland. Later research unveiled the fact that the Wittelsbach had been sold in Belgium in 1951 and that it had changed hands again in 1955. Three years later millions of visitors came to Brussels for the World Exhibition and many must have cast eyes upon the exhibition of jewelry which included a large blue diamond. But not one person appeared to have any inkling that this was in fact a missing famous gem - the Wittelsbach Diamond.
Credit for the recognition of the true identity of the blue diamond must go to the late Joseph Komkommer, a leading figure in the Belgian diamond industry and the fourth generation of a diamond family.
In January of 1962 Mr. Komkommer received a phone call asking him to look at an Old Mine cut diamond with a view of its recutting. When he opened the package he received a shock -- a dark blue diamond is among the rarest and most precious of gems. Mr. Komkommer at once recognized that the diamond was one of historical significance and that it would be sacrilegious to recut it. With the assistance of his son, Jacques Komkommer, he identified the diamond as the 'lost' blue diamond that was formerly owned by the House of Wittelsbach. Mr. Komkommer thereupon formed a consortium of diamond buyers from Belgium and the USA which purchased the diamond, then valued at £180,000. The vendors were the trustees of an estate whose identity remained undisclosed. Finally, the Wittelsbach was acquired by private collector in 1964. The diamond was photographed in the late 1970s, shown mounted in a Harry Winston brooch surrounded by white pear-shaped diamonds.
On December 10th, 2008 the stone was sold at a Christies in London for £16.4 million, or US$23.4 million, to London-based jeweler Laurence Graff. To date this is the highest price ever paid at auction for a diamond, the old record-holder being the Star of the Season. To the dismay of many diamond and jewelry historians, Graff recut the stone a short time later. This reduced its weight to 31.06 carats, removing the small nicks from the edge of the stone, marks that had been made over the centuries by jewelers moving the stone from one setting to another. (The stone had had a very thin girdle, making it more susceptible to damage when being worked in jewelry.) After the recut the diamond was reexamined by the Gemological Institute of America and its color grade revised from Fancy Deep Grayish Blue to a more desirable grade of Fancy Deep Blue. The diamond's clarity had also been revised upward, from Very Slightly Included (VS1) to Internally flawless (IF).
Sources: Famous Diamonds by Ian Balfour, Traditional Jewelry of India by Oppi Untracht, Diamonds - Famous, Notable and Unique by Lawrence Copeland.
The Zale Light of Peace
photo © Michel Plassart
In 1969 the Zale Corporation of Dallas purchased in Antwerp a fine blue-white gem weighing 434.6 carats, the source of which was simply stated as West Africa. More specifically it had almost certainly come from Sierra Leone. After two years work in New York the outcome was thirteen gems totally 172.46 carats. The biggest, a pear shape cut with 111 facets, weighs 130.27 carats and has been named the Light of Peace. The twelve smaller gems are as follows:
Marquise ... 9.11 carats
Marquise ... 9.04 carats
R. Brilliant ... 6.93 carats
Heart ... 3.63 carats
Oval ... 3.55 carats
Marquise ... 2.73 carats
Pear ... 1.83 carats
Pear ... 1.55 carats
Pear ... 1.51 carats
Pear ... 1.13 carats
Marquise ... 0.81 carats
Pear ... 0.37 carats
A photo of a hand holding the stone to show scale.
The choice of the name for the large diamond was explained by Morris Zale, one of the two brothers who had founded Zale Corporation. He stated, "Once we acquired the diamond, it was suggested that perhaps we could use this great find to make a small contribution to promoting peace. We also felt that it was time for private industry to begin taking a more active role in promoting peace which has, up to now, been essentially a government function."
Accordingly Zale Corporation set up a fund with money recieved from the many showings of the diamond, the proceeds being donated to a cause for peace. In 1980 Zale Corporation sold the Zale Light of Peace to an undisclosed buyer. Explaining the decision to sell the diamond, Donald Zale said: "Over the years we had so many inquiries about the diamond that we put a price on it and said not to call unless the enquirer were willing to pay the price ... Somebody called."
The Zale Light of Peace was graded as being D-color and VVS1 clarity.