The oldest diamond in recorded history was first mentioned in the 12th century when it made it's way to Europe, most likely in the form of booty captured during the 2nd Crusade. The stone was initially owned by the Nawabs of Punjab, which essentially equates to Indian royalty from the period. Realistically, the “Briolette of India” was most likely a was not a briolette cut during the 12th century. It was most likely a large rough diamond, or potentially a polki cut, which are not faceted, but polished to enhance the visual appearance. 

The World’s Oldest Recorded Diamond Comes to Europe

The famous stone was originally gifted to Eleanor of Aquitaine by her husband King Louis VII of France, both of whom were traveling with the crusading soldiers. There is no documentation of how they acquired the stone, but let's be real, it probably wasn't purchased. Despite the jewels, this was not a happy marriage and campaigning together in the holy land made their marriage far worse. The two were subjected to a bitter annulment discussion which lasted years before finally being granted on March 11, 1152 on grounds of consanguinity (which essentially means they were related – Eleanor was Louis’ third cousin once removed). The two shared two daughters from this marriage, custody of whom were awarded to Louis.

Following the finality of her annulment, like literally two weeks later, Eleanor would go on to marry the Duke of Normandy, who would soon also earn the title King Henry II of England. Ironically, she was more closely related to Henry than she had been to Louis, but I suppose that just comes with the territory of being in royal families during the Middle Ages. From this marriage, she and Henry would have five sons and three daughters. The most famous of their children, King Richard I of England, also known as Richard the Lionheart, is alleged to have inherited the famous stone and taken it into battle with him during the Third Crusade.

Going Into Hiding

From here, the storied diamond is lost for a few centuries, only to resurface in the late 16th century when King Henry II of France gifted the diamond to his famous mistress, Diane de Poitiers. It is suspected that following King Henry’s death, the stone became a part of the French Crown Jewels, which means it was most likely either stolen in 1792 or sold off in 1887.

A Return as Mysterious as It’s Disappearance

The diamond then mysteriously reappears once again in 1908 when it was recut from what was referred to as a “double rose cut” into a more pure briolette cut and sold to Cartier. It was set as a pendant with a large pearl, and then a year later, it was paired with a pair of 22 carat emeralds and sold to American Financier, George Blumenthal. Mr. Blumenthal’s wife, Florence Meyer Blumenthal, wore the piece in a Tiara. Following George Blumenthal’s death, the stone was acquired by Harry Winston and sold to an Indian Maharaja.

From here, the stone passed through many hands and always came back to Harry Winston in between owners. In 1971, Harry Winston set the famous stone in a platinum necklace decorated with marquise and pear shape diamonds and sold the piece to Austrian billionaire Helmut Horten, who gifted the stone to his wife, Heidi.

A Jewelry Sale As Significant and Contentious As the Diamond's History

Upon Heidi’s death in 2022, the 90.38ct D color, Type IIa “Briolette of India” was sold by Christie’s in what was arguably the most important and most controversial jewelry sale in modern history. The Briolette of India necklace was sold to an unknown collector for $7.1m.

The main reason for the controversy surrounding the sale comes from the fact that Helmut Horten made a significant amount of money purchasing Jewish businesses, which were sold under duress, during World War II.

Combined with the rest of Heidi's collection, the jewelry sale brought in a total of $202m, making it the most expensive private jewelry collection of all time. The previous record being from the collection of Elizabeth Taylor in 2011, which totalled $137.2m. 

Article by: Joseph Denaburg

Everyone knows that diamonds are rare, but the very finest diamonds are even more incredibly scarce. Large diamonds with a near perfect standard of color and clarity come on the market once in a blue moon. That was the case on the 13th of November when the stunning 76.02-carat Archduke Joseph Diamond was sold at auction for more than 20m Swiss frank ($21,474,525 USD including commission).

The Archduke Joseph Diamond is one of the most famous, most flawless and most stunningly beautiful diamonds to come on the market in recent years, so it is no surprise that the final sale price broke records for the per-carat price for a colorless stone.

The diamond is generally regarded as the world’s finest cushion cut, with a dazzling standard of brilliance. It is internally flawless, and completely colorless. The Archduke Joseph Diamond is the largest completely colorless and internally flawless diamond to ever be rated by the Gemological Institute of America.

This diamond isn’t just a stunning gem: it also has an impeccable historical pedigree. The extremely high sale price of the diamond is no doubt at least partly indicative of the historical interest behind the stone and its regal lineage.

It was originally excavated from the famous Golconda mines in South Central India. Golconda is known as the origin of some of the world’s finest and most famous diamonds, including the Koh-i-Noor, the centerpiece of Britain’s crown jewels, and the famous Blue Hope diamond.

From there it fell into the hands of Archduke Joseph August of Austria, a Prince of the Hungarian line of the Hapsburg dynasty. As the first recorded owner, the diamond bears his name. He passed it on to his son, who secreted it away in a Hungarian bank vault.

The diamond was then sold to a French banker, who managed to keep it hidden throughout the entirety of World War 2. The next time it surfaced was at auction in 1961, and then again in 1993 where it was bought by Alfredo Molina, CEO of Black, Starr, and Frost jewelers, for around $6.4m USD. It has proven to be a very wise investment for Mr. Molina, who has more than tripled his money in the recent sale.

After his purchase, Mr. Molina took the brave decision to have the diamond re-cut and polished using modern day technology. This shaved several carats off the weight of the diamond, but greatly improved the symmetry and clarity of the stone. It is reasonably unusual to tamper with such a historically significant stone, but as a jewelry expert Mr. Molina felt his company could improve it. It seems he has been proven correctly by the diamond’s exceptionally high sale price.

Speculation is rife about who the new owner of this spectacular stone is. Christies of Geneva, the auction house where it was sold, is remaining tight lipped as to the buyers identity. They aren’t even saying which country the diamond will be going to. However rumor has it that is that the buyer will be donating it to a museum where a wider audience can enjoy it.

Everyone knows that diamonds are rare, but the very finest diamonds are even more incredibly scarce. Large diamonds with a near perfect standard of color and clarity come on the market once in a blue moon. That was the case on the 13th of November when the stunning 76.02-carat Archduke Joseph Diamond was sold at auction for more than 20m Swiss frank ($21,474,525 USD including commission).

Article by: Joseph Denaburg

There are many large, famous diamonds, but the biggest gem-quality diamond ever found was the Cullinan Diamond that weighed in at 3,106 carats. The stone was discovered by a miner employed by the South African Premier Mine by the name of Thomas Evan Powell in 1905. It was named after the owner of the mine, Sir Thomas Cullinan.

Analysis of the Cullinan diamond revealed astounding clarity but also a black spot in the middle. The colors around the spot were brilliant and vacillating as the stone was turned; this indicated strain in the stone, a not uncommon trait of diamonds. It was then purchased by the Transvaal government and given to King Edward VII on his birthday.

In the early 20th century, jewelers did not have access to the technology used today and cutting the diamond was considered a difficult, risky task that could very well end in disaster. Joseph Asscher of Amsterdam, said to be the most skilled cleaver of his time, managed to split the stone in half precisely through its defect. It is said that the knife broke in the first attempt but when the stone finally broke it fell apart as two perfect halves. It was then cut into thirds and eventually into 9 large gem-quality stones and 96 minor stones. The South African government eventually bought the major stones and gifted them to Queen Mary in 1910.

The largest of the major stones that were cut and polished from the Cullinan was Cullinan 1, also known as the Great Star of Africa totaling 530 carats. It was the biggest polished diamond in the world until 1985 when the Golden Jubilee Diamond (545 carats) was found. The Cullinan I, a pear shaped gem, now sits in the head of the Sceptre with the Cross, a sceptre that was crafted for the coronation of King Charles II in 1661. It was redesigned to hold the Cullinan I, which can be removed in order to be worn as a brooch. The Cullinan II, the second largest gem from the original stone, also known as the Lesser Star of Africa, is 317 carats; it is the 4th largest polished diamond on earth and cut in a rectangular cushion. Cullinan II now sits in the Imperial State Crown and can be combined with Cullinan I as a brooch. Both stones are part of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom.

The remainder of the 9 stones became part of the Cambridge and Delhi Dunbar Parure, a suite of emerald and diamond jewelry that was crafted by the crown jewelers for the coronation of King George V in 1911; Mary and George were proclaimed Emperor and Empress of India at a Dunbar in Delhi in December of 1911. Cullinan III, a pear shaped 94 carat stone now is part of a brooch that includes the Cullinan IV, a 63 carat square cushion diamond that was originally the centerpiece of the parure’s tiara. The 18.8 carat heart-shaped Cullinan V was originally part of the stomacher of the parure, a triangular shaped panel that was meant to fill the front opening of a woman’s gown or be attached to the bodice. Cullinan VI, an 11.5 carat marquise cut, was set as a pendant in the parure’s diamond and emerald necklace. Cullinan VII and Cullinan VIII are also part of the stomacher. Cullinan IX is a pear shaped 4.4 carat stone that was set as the bezel in a platinum ring for Queen Mary in 1911.

Speculation persists that the Cullinan diamond is but one fragment of an enormous octahedral crystal, the rest of which is awaiting discovery deep in the bowels of Africa.

There are many large, famous diamonds, but the biggest gem-quality diamond ever found was the Cullinan Diamond that weighed in at 3,106 carats. The stone was discovered by a miner employed by the South African Premier Mine by the name of Thomas Evan Powell in 1905. It was named after the owner of the mine, Sir Thomas Cullinan.
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