The Archduke Diamond
Thought I would start Part 3 of Famous Diamonds with the Archduke Joseph Diamond as it has been in the news recently. The gem is named after its original owner Archduke
Joseph August, who was the highest ranking official in the Kingdom of Hungary during the 19th century. The diamond originated from India’s now defunct Golconda mine, sharing its origins with some of the world’s most impressive diamonds such as the the Koh-i-Noor and the Regent.
After Archduke Joseph August’s death, it passed to his son, Archduke Joseph Francis, who put it in a bank vault, then to an anonymous buyer who kept it in a safe during World War II. From there it surfaced at a London auction in 1961, then at a Geneva auction in 1993, when Christie’s sold it for $6.5 million.
Since then the diamond has changed hands privately. The dazzling Archduke Joseph diamond sold for just under $21.5 million this November (2012), setting a new world auction record price per carat for a colorless diamond. It went for well above the expected $15 million and more than triple the price paid for it at a sale almost two decades ago. The four-hundred-year-old gem fits snugly into the palm of an adult’s hand and weighs a staggering 76.02 carats.
The Centenary Diamond
The Centenary Diamond is the third-largest diamond ever recovered from De Beers’ Premier mine in South Africa Mined in 1986, the stone weighed 599 carats in its rough form. Its discovery was possible due to modern technology and the use of X-ray imaging system. The discovery of the Centenary Diamond was announced in 1988 on the occasion of the mining giant’s 100th anniversary celebrations, which also gave the diamond its name, “Centenary Diamond.”
The man chosen to cut the Centenary was Gabi Tolkowsky, famed in the diamond industry as one of the most accomplished cutters in the world. Late in 1988 Tolkowsky,
and his two two master cutters – Geoff Woolett and Jim Nash, left a modified diamond of 273.85 carats with an unprecedented 247 facets. The final cutting of the Centenary Diamond lasted close to a year.
While the stone has never been officially valued, it was insured for $100 million when it was officially unveiled in May 1991. According to some reports, the Centenary Diamond was sold in June 2008, although De Beers has declined to confirm or deny the rumors.
The Excelsior Diamond
When the Excelsior rough was discovered in the South African mine of Jagersfontein, the date was June 30, 1893. At that time, it was the largest diamond ever found. A miner was shoveling gravel into a truck and noticed a very large “rock”. He secured it and, bypassing his overseer, quietly took it directly to the mine’s superintendent. He was promptly rewarded with 500 British pounds and a fine horse complete with bridle and saddle. The diamond had an unheard of weight of: 995.2 carat. The crystal was flat on one side and raised up on the other, not unlike a loaf of bread.
The Excelsior diamond remains the great unknown of famous large diamonds because unlike the Cullinan that followed it in 1905, it was cut into multiple smaller (21) stones. While the largest of these Excelsior diamonds weighed nearly 70 carats, all the others
had below 50 carat total weights and were dispersed in several directions, worldwide. Only the 70 carat Excelsior retained the original namesake for the public to admire.
The Excelsior gems were sold separately, three of them being 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 marquises at the ‘House of Jewels’ exhibit during the 1939 World Fair in New York World Fair by DeBeers.
Since 1984, the 70 carat pear-shape and the other larger examples, of the lesser 21 diamonds, that were initially fashioned from the Excelsior, dissapeared from public view.
The gem reappeared for sale in May 1991 when the GIA certified it as “G” colour (rare white), and again in May 1996, when it was bought by Robert Mouawad.
The Orloff (Orlov) Diamond
Some might say the most outstanding of the treasures held within the Diamond Fund of the Kremlin is a large diamond known as the Orloff (sometimes spelt Orlov). The origin of this resplendent relic—described as having the shape and proportions of half a hen’s egg—can be traced back to a Hindu temple in 18th century Mysore, southern India.
The particulars of the Orloff’s story have been lost with time, but it is widely reported that the diamond once served as the eye of a Hindu devotional statue. The man held responsible for its removal was a French deserter, a grenadier from the Carnatic wars who apparently converted to the Hindu faith and worshiped at the temple for many years. Whether the
deserter did this sincerely or solely to gain access to the statue is not known. Once having pilfered the stone from its sacred home around 1750, perhaps after untold years of patient planning, the deserter fled to Madras where he would find protection with the English army, as well as a buyer.
The as yet unnamed stone passed from merchant to merchant in the everlasting quest for profit, eventually appearing for sale in Amsterdam. Salfras, an Armenian merchant who then owned the Orloff, found an eager buyer in Count Gregori Gregorievich Orloff. The Count paid a purported 400,000 Dutch florins, but would likely have agreed to any amount demanded.
Years before the purchase, Count Orloff had been romantically involved with a German
princess by the name of Sophie Frederick Augusta. The princess was destined to become history’s Catherine the Great of Russia. Count Orloff sought to rekindle their forlorn romance by offering her the diamond, as it is said he knew she had wished for it. While he failed to regain her affections, Catherine named the diamond after the Count, and had her jeweller, C. N. Troitinski, design a sceptre incorporating the Orloff. Now known as the Imperial Sceptre, it was completed in 1784.
The Orloff is a rarity among historic diamonds, for it retains its original Indian rose-style cut . Its colour is widely stated as white with a faint bluish-green tinge. Data released by the Kremlin give the Orloff’s measurements as 32 mm x 35 mm x 31 mm, its weight being 189.62 carats.
The Idol’s Eye Diamond
The Idol’s Eye is a 70.21-carat Golconda diamond, possessing a blue tinge characteristic of many diamonds from that source, and shaped like an Old Mine cut – but with nine main facets instead of eight. There are nine corresponding pavilion facets and a number of non-symmetrical facets scattered around the crown and pavilion of the stone.
Considering this shape, it’s not difficult to envisage the gem as an eye, giving a fair clue as to the origin of its name. What is less clear is the gem’s history.
The first authenticated fact in the diamond’s history was its appearance at a Christie’s sale in London on July 14, 1865. It was described as “a splendid, large diamond set with 18 smaller brilliants.” It is said that the
Idol’s Eye was bought by Ottoman Emperor Abdul Hamid II. When exiled in 1909, Hamid II dispatched his jewels; however,
his servant-turned-traitor sold them in Paris.
It is known that the gem was one of several large diamonds that came up for auction in Paris on June 24, 1909. There, it was purchase by a Spanish nobleman and stored in a London bank for some years. After the end of World War II, the Idol’s Eye was sold to Harry Winston who sold it May Bonfils Stanton.
Stanton 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. After her death, Stanton’s jewels were auctioned in New York, and the proceeds distributed among various charities.
Chicago jeweller Harry Levinson bought the Idol’s Eye for $US375,000 and loaned it to De Beers for an exhibition at the Diamond Pavilion in Johannesburg in 1967. Six years later, Levinson put the diamond up for sale in New York but withdrew it when the bidding failed to reach his $US1.1 million reserve. In 1979, Laurence Graff acquired the Idol’s Eye for display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, after which it was sold, together with the Emperor Maximilian and a 70.54-carat, fancy-yellow diamond named the Sultan Abdul Hamid II. The sale is considered to have been one of the highest-priced transactions on record.
The Krupp/Elizabeth Taylor Diamond
Sometime between 1952 and 1956 the 33.19-carat, Asscher-cut Krupp Diamond began its public journey on the finger of actress Vera Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach, the original owner of the diamond, and second wife of Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach, who belonged to the famous Krupp family, owners of Krupp AG munitions, who were one of the world’s principal steel makers and arms manufacturers for Hitler until the end of World War
The Krupp diamond, set in a platinum ring, later changed hands in 1968, after the death of Vera Krupp, when it was sold
as part of her estate, at a Sotheby’s New York auction on May 16, 1968, and purchased by Richard Burton for $305,000 (£231,207), the highest price paid for a diamond ring at an auction, at that time. Burton gifted the celebrated ring to his beloved wife, Elizabeth Taylor, who was delighted to receive it.
In her book, “Elizabeth Taylor-My Love Affair with Jewelry”, Taylor says, “the Krupp diamond was owned by Vera Krupp of the famous German munitions family, which helped knock off millions of Jews. When it came up for auction in the late 1960’s, I thought how nice it would be if a nice Jewish girl like me were to own it.”
The Pohl Diamond
The 287 carat rough diamond was found by J.D. Pohl at Elandsfontein near Pretoria, South Africa, in 1934. It was fashioned for Harry Winston by Lazare Kaplan. The rough, said to be of fine colour but heavily included, yielded 15 polished diamonds, the largest of which, a 38.10 carats D color, potentially flawless emerald cut, was named the Pohl Diamond and sold in 1943 to Bernice Chrysler Garbish, daughter of the founder of Chrysler Motor Corporation. It was sold again in 1979 to an unknown buyer.
The Pohl Diamond ring was sold at Christie’s on May 18 2016, Geneva for CHF 4,309,000 (£3,318,539).
The Mouawad Mondera
The Mouawad Mondera is an exceptional quality D-colour, internally flawless (IF), pear shaped diamond weighing 60.19 carats. The Mouawad website characterized the Mondera diamond as a breathtaking diamond, both unique in colour and clarity, with excellent finish and proportions, ranking it a world class gem.
Nothing is known about the early history of the diamond, but the finished stone made it’s first appearance on the 16th of November, 2000, at a Christie’s auction in Geneva, and after successful bidding was purchased by Robert Mouawad for 7,160,000 Swiss francs equivalent to about US $5,360,000 (£4,062,880).
Thus Robert Mouawad enriched his impressive collection, with another top class gem.
The Mondera diamond was set at the center of a unique bra, an innovative creation, comprising emeralds and rubies, forming green and pink floral patterns with a total carat weight of 320 carats. This unique bra was worn by the model Karolina Kurkova, and represented a unique and dramatic way of presenting an exceptional diamond to the world audience.