The Agra Diamond - Famous Diamond

>> Monday, August 10, 2009

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.

worlds famous diamonds

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 though 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?

What's 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 Jewelry 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 siecle 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 Freres, 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.

It 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. Its color grade is said to have been boosted from Fancy Light Pink to Fancy Pink that last recutting. Sources: Famous Diamonds by Ian Balfour, Diamonds - Famous, Notable and Unique by GIA, and the Gemstone Forecaster.


The Allnatt Diamond - Famous Diamond

worlds famous diamonds When Porter Rhodes traveled to the Isle of Wight in 1881 to show to his fine white diamond crystal to Queen Victoria and Empress Eugenie of France, who was at that time residing nearby, he helped to dispel a myth: South African diamonds were usually yellowish in color and therefore less valuable. Both the Queen but in particular the Empress, who was knowledgeable 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 rivaling 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 102.29-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.

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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 in 2003, 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 Red Shield Diamond (now known as the Moussaieff Red), the Ocean Dream, and the Steinmetz Pink.


The Amsterdam Diamond - Famous Diamond

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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 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 - Famous Diamond

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.

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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.

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During the so-called "Traitor Republic," due to his great popularity, Archduke Joseph was put under surveillance while remaining 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.

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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 counselor. 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 fortunately escaped the attention of the Nazis. 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 down to its present 76.45-carat weight. The diamond has been graded as being Internally Flawless. Sources: Famous Diamonds by Ian Balfour, and various magazine articles. The biggest trend for the jewelry industry, however, was the number of designer jewelers who made it into the Oscar spotlight. Alfredo Molina of Molina Fine Jewelers, Phoenix, AZ, scored when when actress Laura Harring wore his necklace featuring the $25 million Archduke Joseph diamond, a 76.45-ct. gem dating to the 17th century and ranked as the world's 12th largest perfect white diamond. April 5, 2002

Celine Dion to Wear Molina Necklace
On April 7, Celine Dion's televised comeback special will feature a special guest in the finale: the $25 million Archduke Joseph diamond, a 76.45-ct. gem dating to the 17th century and ranked as the world's 12th largest perfect white diamond. It will be in a necklace created with 57 Millennium diamonds by Molina Fine Jewelers, Phoenix, AZ. The necklace includes 73.15 carats of diamonds and designed so that the Archduke Joseph diamond could be inserted or removed. The Archduke Joseph diamond is for sale at Molina Fine Jewelers.

The television special, which airs on CBS at 8 p.m. E.S.T., features many songs from Dion's new release, "A New Day Has Come," as well as songs from previous albums. "The elegance of the Archduke Joseph diamond mirrors the beauty and clarity of Celine's voice," says Alfredo J. Molina, president of Molina Fine Jewelers.

The Archduke Joseph diamond is a Type IIa diamond, a diamond type which represents less than 1% of all diamonds. It originated in the Golconda mines of India diamonds mined there were noteworthy for their limpidity or clarity. The diamond takes its name from onetime owner Archduke Joseph August (1872-1962), prince of the Hungarian line of the Hapsburg dynasty.

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Erzherzog Joseph Ferdinand

Erzherzog Joseph Ferdinand was born on the 24th of May 1872. He was the son of Ferdinand IV, the last Grand Duke of Tuscany and his second wife - Alice of Bourbon-Parma. As the fourth of a total of ten children he grew up in exile in Salzburg as a member of the house of Habsburg-Toskana. Following numerous scandals, the eldest son, Archduke Leopold Ferdinand withdrew from the house of Habsburg and adopted the name Leopold Wölfling. Joseph Ferdinand as the now eldest son of the Toskana family branch did not take up the title as a Grand Duke of Tuscany, a title his father still held.

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Erzherzog Joseph Ferdinand attended the military Oberrealchule at Mährisch-Weißenkirchen and after that the Theresian military academy at Wiener-Neustadt from which he was commissioned as a Leutnant in the Tyrolean Jäger regiment on the 18th of August 1892. Following various assignments with infantry regiments 93, 17, 59 and the 4th regiment of Tyrolean Jägers he was attached to infantry regiment number 27 as an Oberstleutnant in 1903. From 1895 until 1897 he had attended the Kriegsschule in Vienna and from 1905 until 1908 he commanded infantry regiment 93 as an Oberst followed by command of the 5th infantry brigade.

His service was more and more interrupted with leave with which the enthusiastic hunter availed himself with hunting trips abroad. A further interest of the Prince was air travel. He had already concerned himself with balloon travel and in 1909 flew from his home in Linz with his own balloon to Dieppe in France in 16 hours.

In January 1911 Erzherzog Joseph Ferdinand received command of the 3rd infantry division in Linz followed shortly afterwards by his promotion to Feldmarschall-Leutnant on the 1st of May 1911. At the outbreak of war the Archduke received his first corps command, that of the 14th Corps having been promoted in the meantime to General der Infanterie. He was simultaneously the defence commander of the Tyrol and Vorarlberg and the commanding general at Innsbruck. With his 14th corps, with which many elite regiments were to be found, he fought on the eastern front in the Autumn of 1914 as a group commander. In support of General Auffenberg's army, he attacked successfully in the bend of the river Bug and fought at Komarów, Zamosc and Rava Ruska. Following the relief of General Auffenberg he was at first provisionally appointed to command the 4th army on the 10th of September 1914 followed by permanent command on the 9th of November 1915.

With the 4th army he took part in the bloody winter campaign in the Carpathian mountains and the successful spring offensive of 1915 at Gorlice-Tarnów. Following the breakthrough of the Russian front at Gorlice and the battle of Krasnik he entered Lublin as it's conqueror. Following the fall of the fortress at Brest-Litovsk on the 26th of August 1915, the high command attempted a continuation of the offensive which however failed and compelled a retreat to behind the river Styr. On this line the front was finally stabilised and in more than six months well constructed, even comfortable positions were constructed. Above all the sanitary conditions were improved through the Archduke's influence. With his promotion on the 26th of February 1916 he had finally reached the rank of Generaloberst.

Up to this point the Archduke's career had been successful. He was now to be judged as one of those mainly responsible for the so-called catastrophe at Luck in June 1916. The Russians had planned for some time a great attack in July 1916 against the central powers. At the insistence of the French and Italian politicians this was however brought forward. The main reason was the German offensive at Verdun and the Austro-Hungarian offensive in the Trentino in Italy. The Russian offensive was to provide relief for these two fronts. The central powers could not naturally fail to anticipate the Russian offensive preparations but put their trust in the well constructed positions and the battle experience of the available troops. The four armies of General Brusilov's South Western front attacked on a wide front. General Kaledin's 8th army had the mission to lead the attack against the Austro-Hungarian 4th army. Through individual initiative and without particular reinforcement Brusilov's troops attacked on the 4th of June 1916. Already in the first days of the offensive the Russians succeeded in a deep penetration of the Austro-Hungarian positions at Olyka. Prolonged Russian artillery fire had to a large extent destroyed the trenches of the Austro-Hungarian infantry and made a surprise Russian penetration into the defensive system possible. Extremely severe casualties and a high number of losses through capture forced the 4th army to retreat to a defensive position further to the west. Already by the 10th of June the Russians, ever pressing forward, crossed the Styr. They had penetrated the Austro-Hungarian positions to a width of 85 km and to a depth of 48 km. In increasing measure the commanders were becoming ever more nervous and the troops showing signs of discouragement. Some regiments of Slav nationality especially were only putting up limited resistance against the Russians. In eventful fighting, however the German and Austro-Hungarian troops managed to consolidate the strongly shaken front around the end of July 1916 so that the danger of a Russian breakthrough of war winning decisiveness was eliminated.

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The army group commander Generaloberst Linsingen blamed the command of the 4th army in numerous dispatches to the AOK at Teschen for the breakdown in the leadership of the troops and with this judgment the immediate relief of the Archduke of his command of 4th army was obtained from the Kaiser by the 7th of June. Further investigations were carried out to clarify the precise question of blame. In a report by the chief of staff of the 4th army, Josef Ferdinand was indeed relieved of much of the blame. However his name remained associated with much of the leadership and a considerable part of the public with the defeat at Luck. Kaiser Franz would not protect the Archduke just because he was a member of the royal dynasty in deference to public opinion.

Following the accession to the throne of Kaiser Karl in November 1916, the new Kaiser wished to reemploy Erzherzog Joseph Ferdinand in the post of General-Inspektor der Luftfahrtruppen (general inspector of the air force). To this appointment the Archduke would bring his long experience through his association with ballooning to the post. The AOK immediately objected to the appointment but despite their reservations the Archduke was finally appointed to his new post on the 8th of July 1917 and in which he remained until the 3rd of September 1918.

Following the collapse of the monarchy the Archduke remained in Austria and on account of that had to publicly renounce his membership of the house of Habsburg. He married his first wife, the commoner Rosa Jockl in 1921 and lived at Mondsee. After his separation to his first wife he married again in 1928 a wife not in keeping with his social status - Gertrude Tomanke Edle von Bayerfels. After the Anschluß of March 1938 Joseph Ferdinand was taken into protective custody by organs of the NSDAP on the 10th and remained under house arrest until the 25th of March under SA guard. Finally he was taken to the concentration camp at Dachau and placed in solitary confinement and only released, it is alleged at the intervention of Hermann Göring with whom the family had been friendly, on the 4th of April. Joseph Ferdinand was therefore the only member of the house of Habsburg who had been held in a concentration camp. He died on the 25th of August 1942 in Vienna.


The Arcots - Famous Diamond

worlds famous diamonds

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.

worlds famous diamonds
Queen Charlotte

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 regards 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.

worlds famous diamonds
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 pave-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?'"

worlds famous diamonds

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 Ashberg Diamond - Famous Diamond

worlds famous diamonds

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 - Famous Diamond

worlds famous diamonds

A drawing I made of the Beau Sancy, based closely on illustrations
I've seen of it. I have also seen a couple photos. Unfortunately,
none of them are clear enough to be worth showing here.

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.

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.

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 Medicis, 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 Medicis 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 Medicis was exiled in disgrace to Compiegne, 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 Medicis, 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 now 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. Source: Famous Diamonds by Ian Balfour and Thomas Cletscher's Sketchbook, published in the seventeenth century.


The Black Orlov Diamond - Famous Diamond

worlds famous diamonds

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.

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.

worlds famous diamonds

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. Source: Diamonds - Famous, Notable and Unique by GIA, the Gemstone Forecaster, and the Cartier archives.


The Blue Empress - Famous Diamond

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."


The Blue Heart - Famous Diamond

worlds famous diamonds

Some reports refer to this unusual diamond as the "Eugenie 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.

worlds famous diamonds
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.

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.

worlds famous diamonds

The Eugenie Blue Diamond amoung 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.

worlds famous diamonds

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 Diamond - Famous Diamond

worlds famous diamonds

Here is what's auction said about the stone when it was up for auction:

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 among 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 crystallization 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 and $6 million U.S. dollars. I contacted 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.

worlds famous diamonds
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 - Famous Diamond

worlds famous diamonds

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.

worlds famous diamonds

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)

worlds famous diamonds
The Briolette of India set in a necklace with a diamond 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.


The Centenary - Famous Diamond

worlds famous diamonds

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."

worlds famous diamonds
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 mathematician, 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 unorthadox 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.

worlds famous diamonds
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."

worlds famous diamonds
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 disclose 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.


The Conde - Famous Diamond

worlds famous diamonds

The Grand Conde 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 Conde, who had distinguished himself as Commander of the French Army in the Thirty Years' War and who became known as the Grand Conde. 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 Conde family until the Duc d'Aumale bequeathed it to the French Government in 1892. Today, it is on display in the Musee de Conde 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 Conde Pink, the Conde Diamond, or Le Grand Conde.

worlds famous diamonds
A glass replica of the Conde.

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!


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