The Constellation Diamond
In November of 2015 the Canada-based Lucara Company enjoyed an uncanny stroke of good luck when its workers discovered two enormous gem-quality rough diamonds at its Karowe Mine in Botswana. The pair tipped the scales at a combined 1,922 carats — or just shy of a 14 ounces. Both diamonds have been rated Type IIa by the Gemological Institute of America. Diamonds in this rare and coveted subgroup are chemically pure and often show extraordinary optical transparency.
The larger of the two — the 1,109-carat Lesedi la Rona — will be offered for sale at Sotheby’s London on June 29 2016. The smaller of the two — The Constellation — just set a record when the 813-carat gem, which measured 6cms, was purchased in May 2016 by Dubai-based Nemesis International for $63.1 million (£47,104,781). It was the highest price ever paid for a rough diamond. This equated to $77,649 (£57,965) per-carat.
In September 2016, Swiss luxury jeweller de Grisogono announced the acquisition of
The Constellation. The announcement was made at a press conference held in the Grand Palais, to mark the opening of the 28th Biennale des Antiquaires. “I am thrilled to have the chance to work with such an incredible and important diamond as The Constellation,” adds founder and Executive Board member of de Grisogono, Fawaz Gruosi, in a news statement. “As a jeweller I am conscious of the extraordinary responsibility I have to the stone and to the team who have worked so hard to secure it. To be able to bring my creative skills to the cutting and setting process of such a stone is both an honour and a privilege and I cannot wait to realise my vision for it.”
Lesedi La Rona Diamond
Also recovered from Karowe mine in November 2015 along with the Constellation Diamond, was the famous 1,109 carats (roughly the size of a tennis ball), Lesedi La Rona diamond that got its name from a national naming competition.
The diamond was put up for sale at Sotheby’s in a private auction conducted solely for the stone on 29th June 2016, Lucara and the Auctioneer had expected to get $150 million in a bid that started at $50 million and went as far as $61 million in the 15 minutes of the sale. Billed by Sotheby’s as “The Diamond of a Lifetime,” the gem did not sell.
However, the world’s second-largest gem-quality diamond, the Lesedi La Rona, has finally been acquired by London based British multinational jeweller, Laurence Graff,
chairman of Graff Diamonds who bought the diamond privately for $53m (£39.5m) after it failed to meet its reserve price. Mr Graff said “The stone will tell us its story, it will dictate how it wants to be cut.”
The company says it will be scanned using state-of-the-art 3D equipment that searches for inclusions – small imperfections in the heart of the stone – to decide how the diamond will be polished. Then an expert team will examine the diamond using microscopes to pick up and navigate any further pinpoint inclusions. They will then work out how to cut the diamond and into how many individual stones.
It’s hard to imagine how improbable it was for Lucara to secure two such extraordinary diamonds within days of each other in the same area of a single diamond mine — in this case, the south lobe of the Karowe Mine.
In May 2017, a heart-shaped diamond billed as the largest of its kind to be auctioned off sold for less than the pre-sale estimate, fetching a hammer price of 13 million Swiss francs (about £9,784,320.) La Légende was the standout piece among some 250 jewels put on the block during the day at Christie’s in Geneva. It had been expected to go for $14 million to $20 million.
The name La Légende corresponds to its status, as it is almost impossible to find a diamond of such weight with ideal parameters of colour and purity. This stone is a one-in-a-million, and according to Jasmine Hubjer, co-founder of the Boehmer et Bassenge
jewellery house who owned the ston, it is a stone that needs no intricate frame. The heart-shaped beauty has become the central feature of a rather minimalistic string of pearls that are matched perfectly in colour and luster.
The Marlborough Diamond
On 11th September 1980 at the Graff jewellery shop in Knightsbridge two masked men burst in, one with a gun, the other with a hand grenade. While one cleared out the window display the other picked out a necklace which contained the magnificent 45.47 carat Marlborough diamond.
The necklace was so called because the diamond had belonged to Gladys Deacon, a famous American beauty and intellectual, the second wife of the 9th Duke of Marlborough. In her youth she had dazzled society in Paris, Rome and London. In 1902, Boldini painted her, Proust and Anatole France had admired her, and Epstein had sculpted
her. But her marriage to the Duke was not a happy one and the Dowager Duchess ended her days as a veiled recluse as
a result of a failed operation on her face. After her death, the gem, which was then mounted in a brooch, was purchased by Graff’, where it was reset into a necklace surrounded by other diamonds. In 1980, the piece was valued at over $900,000.
It appeared the robbery was not planned very well, as a passerby took the number of the getaway car which the thieves had rented in their own names! Also the ‘Idol’s Eye’ diamond was on disply close to the
Marlborough diamond but the thieves missed it! The pair abandoned their getaway car and took a cab to the airport. The two men, Joseph “Jerry” Scalise and Arthur “the Genius” Rachel, who had Chicago mob connections, were arrested on their return flight from London and imprisoned. The gems were never found, though a London cabbie later reported to the police that the duo had asked him to post a package to the United States for them.
Both men stood trial in the UK and served thirteen years each at Parkhurst prison on the Isle of Wight. The diamond has never been found.
The Sancy Diamond gets its name from Nicholas Harlay de Sancy of France, who was the one time owner of this fiery, slightly yellow tinted, stone of Indian origin, shaped like a shield and weighing 55.23 carats. Harlay de Sancy acquired the stone around 1592 when he was on a mission to the Netherlands on royal business. The exact year under which Harlay de Sancy acquired this historic diamond are controversial, and this confusion and controversy can be seen throughout the long, colourful and interesting history of this diamond. The stone is undoubtedly of Indian origin, considering the period, it made it’s first appearance in the 14th century, when India was the only source of diamonds in the World.
The diamond is believed to have been smuggled out of India in the 14th century, by a Venetian diamond cutter. The first recorded evidence of the existence of the Sancy in Europe is in the dowry inventory of Valentina Visconti, daughter of Galeazzo di Visconti, the Duke of Milan, in 1389. At that time the diamond weighed over 100 carats. Valentina married the Duke d’ Orleans Louis I, brother of King Charles VI of France (1380-1422). Louis sat on his brother’s council. In 1388 Charles VI appointed Philip the Bold, the Duke of Burgundy as regent. Around 1392, Charles became ill with fever and convulsions, these lasted for the remainder of his life.
A power struggle developed between the Duke de Orleans, Louis I and his uncle Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy. However Philip died in 1404, and the rivalry continued with his son John the Fearless. The family feud finally ended up with the murder of Louis I, by the agents of John the Fearless, in 1407. Immediately after the assassination of Louis I, a long feud ensued between the Armagnacs, partisans of Louis’ heirs, and the Burgundians. John the fearless allied himself with King Henry V of England and defeated the French forces at the battle of Agincourt in 1415.
Valentina, bitter over her husband’s assassination by the Burgundians, used the Sancy diamond to obtain funds, to finance the struggle against the Burgundians. Following the defeat of the Armagnac faction, the Sancy diamond fell into the hands of Duke John the Fearless, as a spoil of war. The Sancy then remained with several generations of the Dukes of Burgundy, until it reached Charles the Bold, the great grandson of John the Fearless. The diamond was believed to bring good luck to the Dukes of Burgundy, and Charles carried it into battle on several occasions, always ending up victorious, until it was lost in the Battle of Grandson in 1476. Misfortune followed after this, Charles died at the Battle at Nancy on Jan 5, 1477.
The Sancy was purported to have been lost in battle, but was actually hidden away by the Bishop of Basel. After a lapse of almost 14 years the Jacob Fugger acquired the Sancy. It was Fugger who got the Sancy cut to its present weight of 55.23 carats.
In the early 16th century the Sancy was sold to Manuel the Fortunate, the King of Portugal from 1495 to 1521. The death inventory prepared after Manuel’s death in 1521, lists the Sancy as the first item of jewellery.
The Sancy remained a part of the Portuguese Crown Jewels until 1580, when Philip II of Spain invaded Portugal to assert his right as the heir to the Portuguese throne against Antonio de Crato. Antonio de Crato escaped with most of the crown jewels to France. Later he sold some of the crown jewels to Queen Elizabeth I of England including the Sancy. It is said that Queen Elizabeth I got her portrait painted while wearing the Sancy diamond. Later Elizabeth I needed funds to finance a military campaign to assist the Dutch in their struggle for independence from Spain. To obtain the funds she decided to pawn the Sancy diamond, which was dispatched to Antwerp through the Earl of Leicester to be pawned to Francesco Rodriguez.
The Sancy that was pawned was never redeemed and found its way to Netherlands, where it was purchased in 1592 by Nicholas Harlay de Sancy. When Nicholas Harlay de Sancy visited England on an official mission, Queen Elizabeth I had wanted the diamond back, but Harlay de Sancy politely refused.
At the beginning of the 17th century, Harlay de Sancy, was in dire financial straits, and had to sell his valuable Sancy diamond. He sold his diamond to King James I of England in 1604 and thus the diamond returned back to England.
In 1625, James I died, his second surviving son Charles I, succeeded as King of Great Britain. Charles I inherited the Sancy and presented it to his wife Henrietta Maria (daughter of Henry IV of France) as a wedding gift. The Sancy was
pawned around 1626 in Amsterdam, when Charles I was in desperate need of funds to pursue his war efforts against the Spanish.
In the 1630s Charles redeemed the Sancy, but the continued conflicts between Charles I and his Parliament eventually led to a serious confrontation between the Royalists and the Parliamentarians in 1641. Queen Henrietta went to Holland in February 1642 to raise funds for her husband, by pawning the Sancy again. Charles sent his family away to France, and full scale war broke out on June 14, 1645. Charles forces suffered defeat and Charles I was put to death by beheading on Jan 30, 1649.
After the death of Charles I, Cardinal Mazarin of France, regent of King Louis XIV took over Henrietta’s debts. Cardinal Mazarin redeemed the jewels that were pawned and took possession of the Sancy and bequeathed it to Louis XIV (1643-1715). From Louis XIV, the Sancy passed to Louis XV, who was King of France from 1715 to 1774. Louis XV died in 1774 and was succeeded by his grandson Louis XVI, formerly Louis Auguste, duke de Berry. Louis XVI (1774-1792) was the last king of France preceding the revolution of 1789. The monarchy was abolished on September 21, 1792. Subsequently both Louis XVI, and his Queen consort Marie Antoinette, were guillotined on charges of counter revolution on January 21, 1793.
In 1792, the French crown jewels, which included the Sancy, were stolen from the Garde Meuble (royal treasury) in Paris. Some of the gems were later recovered, but there is controversy about the recovery of Sancy. It was reported to be sold to the Spanish Crown’s Minister, Manuel de Godoy, but was never confirmed, The Sancy is believed to have been in the possession of the Queen of Spain, until the arrival of
Joseph Bonaparte (Napoleon’s brother). Joseph took possession of the Sancy and hid it. The stone then re-appeared only after 20 years and was sold to the fabulously rich Prince Anatoly Demidov of Russia. Demidov’s beautiful wife Aurora is pictured with the Sancy in a portrait hanging in Ekatereinburg.
The Sancy remained with Prince Anatoly Demidov up to 1865, when it was sold to Indian entrepreneur, Sir Jamsetee Jeejeebhoy for £50,000. Two years later the stone was displayed by the French Jeweller G Bapst, at the Paris exposition, with a price tag of 1,000,000 French Francs.
In 1906, the Sancy was purchased by Viscount William Astor as a wedding gift when his son Waldorf Astor married Nancy Langhorne. Lady Astor often wore the big shield shaped gem in a tiara on state occasions. Lady Astor holds the unique distinction of being the first woman to sit in the British House of Commons, being elected to Parliament on November 28, 1919. In 1962 the Sancy diamond featured prominently at a French Jewellery exhibition held at the Louvre Museum. When Lady Astor died in 1964, the Sancy was inherited by her son the 3rd Viscount Astor, and remained in the Astor Family until 1976. Finally the Louvre Museum of France purchased the Sancy from the Astor Family in 1976, for an undisclosed sum.
The following is a summary of the ownership of the Sancy in chronological order: (internetstones).
|Name of Owner||period||
number of years
|1||Valentina Visconti-daughter of Duke of Milan||1389-1415||26|
|2||Duke John the Fearless-Duke of Burgundy||1415-1419||4|
|3||Philip the Good-Duke of Burgundy||1419-1467||48|
|4||Charles the Bold-Duke of Burgundy||1467-1477||10|
|5||Bishop of Basel-Switzerland||1477-1491||14|
|7||Manuel I-King of Portugal||1495-1521||26|
|8||John III-King of Portugal||1521-1557||36|
|9||Sebastian-King of Portugal||1557-1578||21|
|10||Henry-King of Portugal||1578-1580||2|
|11||Antonio de Crato-King of Portugal||1580-1580||0|
|12||Queen Elizabeth I-Queen of England||1580-1581||1|
|13||Pawned to Francisco Rodriguez at Antwerp||1581-1592||11|
|14||Nicholas Harlay de Sancy||1592-1604||12|
|15||King James I-King of Great Britain||1604-1625||21|
|16||Charles I-King of Great Britain||1625-1642||17|
|17||Pawned at Holland by Queen Henrietta, Queen Consort of Charles I||1642-1649||7|
|18||Cardinal Mazarin-Prime Minister of France||1649-1654||5|
|19||King Louis XIV-King of France||1654-1715||61|
|20||King Louis XV-King of France||1715-1774||59|
|21||King Louis XVI-King of France||1774-1792||18|
|22||Burglary of French Crown Jewels||–||–|
|23||Recovered and sold to Spanish Crown’s Minister||1792-1793||1|
|24||Queen of Spain||1793-1808||15|
|25||Joseph Bonaparte-Brother of Napoleon Bonaparte||1808-1828||20|
|26||Prince Anatoly Demidov of Russia||1828-1865||37|
|27||Sir Jamsetee Jeejeebhoy of India||1865-1906||41|
|28||Lady Nancy Langhorne Astor of England||1906-1964||58|
|29||3rd Viscount of Astor of England||1964-1976||12|
|30||Louvre Museum||1976 to date||–|
Thus, since it’s arrival from India in the late 14th century, the Sancy had passed through at least 15 countries in Europe, affecting almost all the royal families of Europe.
The total number of years the stone remained in each country up to 1976 when it became the property of the French Louvre Museum are as follows:
Number of years
Thus the Sancy is one of the most celebrated stones in history that has passed through more countries, and affected more royal families than any other diamond in history.
Considering the long period the diamond had remained in France, about 263 years out of a total history of 587 years, the Sancy Diamond is without any doubt an outstanding relic of the proud National Heritage of France, and it’s present home the Apollo Gallery at the Louvre Museum, is the most appropriate abode for such a great and historic diamond.
Great Mogul Diamond
The mystery of the Great Mogul Diamond! Its last owner murdered, the famed gem has not been seen for centuries and to this day its whereabouts remain unknown. Still, theories swirl about its fate. Who stole the gem? Is it now part of someone’s private collection? Perhaps it is truly lost, patiently waiting somewhere on this earth to be re-discovered. Or maybe it has gone under the knife, cut down to disguise its identity.
The Great Mogul Diamond’s story begins around 1650 with its discovery as a rough diamond, most probably in the Kollur Mine in the Golconda region of southern India. Weighing in at a whopping 787 ½ carats, the diamond’s impressive size made it a perfect gift of diplomacy when Emir Jemla, a very wealthy general, used it in seeking an alliance between two great families. Presenting the rough diamond to Shah Jehan, Emperor of India, Jemla, he described it as “that celebrated diamond which has been generally deemed unparalleled in size and
A Venetian lapidary named Ortensio Borgio was assigned to cut the stone. It is believed that the Great Mogul Diamond exhibited several inclusions. Rejecting the idea of cutting the diamond into several fine stones, the hapless Borgio decided to address the inclusion problem by grinding away at it until the unwanted flaws were gone. Much to the horror of the Emperor, Borgio’s work yielded very poor results, including a great loss of weight. Showing great restraint, Shah Jehan spared Borgio’s head, instead fining him 10,000 rupees (all the money he had) for his ineptitude.
Around 1665 the Shah’s son, Shah Auranf-zeb, showed the stone to the famous jeweller and world traveller Jean Baptiste Tavernier. At that time Tavernier wrote in his Six
Voyages: “The first piece that Akel Kahn placed in my hands was the great diamond, which is rose cut, round and very high on one side. On the lower edge there is a slight crack, and a little flaw in it.”
Later, the Great Mogul Diamond became part of the spoils of war when India was invaded and Delhi sacked by the Persian ruler Nadir Shah. Nadir Shah returned with the stone to his home in Isfahan in 1739. However, Nadir Shah’s ownership proved shorted-lived. He was assassinated in 1747 and the stone disappeared.
There are many legends regarding its fate. A more probable explanation is that it was stolen and cut into smaller gems to disguise its origin. No one knows for sure.
The Graff Venus
The Graff Venus weighs an impressive 118.78 carats, making it the largest flawless heart-shape diamond ever to be certified by the Gemological Institute of America or GIA. And that, presumably, makes it the largest heart-shape diamond in the world.
Cut from a 357-carat rough discovered at the Letšeng Mine in Lesotho in 2015, it took 18 months for the stone to take shape. As with any rough diamond, it’s impossible to know exactly what lies inside until cutting and polishing begins, so it was with trepidation that Graff’s team embarked on creating this heart-shaped marvel.While Mr. Graff won’t disclose how much he paid, the gamble seems to have paid off.
The heart shape is not only a metaphor for love — in the world of fine jewellery it is also one of the most difficult shapes to get right. And the size of this stone made it necessary for Graff to create new technology to cut and polish the Venus and the 22 other satellite stones yielded from the same piece of rough, to achieve symmetry without fracturing the gem.
As always, Mr Graff prioritised perfection over size. The Venus was originally classified as internally flawless, but Mr. Graff instructed the polishers to shave one-tenth of a carat off the original weight to achieve flawless clarity: the highest possible
grade. It was a bold move, not least because the finished diamond’s original weight was 118.88 carats — a serendipitous figure for the Chinese market, given that eight is considered the luckiest number.
In the case of the Venus, Graff’s perfectionism paid off. As well as being a colourless D diamond, the Venus is classified as a Type IIa (attributed to only the top one to two per cent of diamonds in the world) with excellent polish, excellent symmetry and no fluorescence. “This is the most beautiful heart-shaped diamond I have ever seen,” commented Mr Graff as he unveiled the stone at the house’s Albemarle Street headquarters, admiring its overall shape and symmetry as well as the diamond’s material properties.The Graff marketing team presenting the diamond suggest it may be made into a pendant, brooch or even a tiara – or all three.
Le Grand & Le Petit Coeur d’Afrique
The West Africal state of Guinea has a somewhat chequered existence as a diamond producer: this has been due to a combination of interference in the industry and output being smuggled out of the country to realise hard currency. But Guinea has been the source in recent years of some very fine stones, notably in 1982, when a rough diamond weighing 278 carats, was found 645 km east of the capitol, Conakry. After protracted negotiations, Lawrence Graff bought the stone and dispatched it to New York for cutting. First, two smaller gems were cut, a marquise of 14.25
carats, which was sold at once in New York, and a flawless heartshape of 25.22 carats. The latter became known as ‘Le Petit Coeur d’Afrique’ and was set in a necklace.
Work started on on the major part of the diamond which ultimately yielded a flawless heart shape weighing 70.03 carats. It was named ‘Le Grand Coeur d’Afrique’ and was set in a spectacular necklace containing almost 70 carats of of smaller heart shapes. In August 1983 newspapers reported that two billionaires were interested in buying it to present to their wives. Ultimately Le Grand Coeur d’Afrique and its sibling were set together in the necklace which was bought by the Sultan of Brunei.