GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – The first of the Geneva auction season’s glittery gems worth more than their weight in gold has appeared: a large and internally flawless diamond that Christie’s says it expects will go for more than CHF15 million, although it is releasing the estimated price range only on request.
The Archduke Joseph Diamond auction will be held 13 November 2012. “Undoubtedly one of the rarest and most famous diamonds in the world, this magnificent gem combines an impressive size of 76.02 carats, perfect colour, and internally flawless clarity,” Christie’s notes. “Its origin is traced to the ancient Golconda mines in India, the source of the world’s most coveted historical diamonds.”
The Golconda diamond fields in south central India were an ancient source of the gems and until about 1725, when diamonds were discovered in Brazil, Golconda and a small mine in Borneo were the world’s only sources.
“Universally esteemed as the world’s finest diamonds, Golconda diamonds have a special whiteness often described as soft, watery, and pure, so that light appears to pass through the stone completely unimpeded,” according to the Geneva auction house.
Back on the market 19 years later
François Curiel, who heads Christie’s international jewelry department, says the diamond “created a sensation when Christie’s Geneva offered it for sale the first time in November 1993 where it realized CHF9.7 million–the equivalent of $10.5 million today.”
“The Archduke Joseph Diamond is the finest and largest perfect Golconda diamond ever to appear at auction,” according to Rahul Kadakia, Christie’s Americas and Switzerland office. “It is comparable in its noble lineage and superb quality to the legendary Koh-i-Noor diamond that forms part of the crown jewels of Great Britain.” The Koh-i-Noor is kept in the Tower of London.
Part of a larger historical family of gems
The diamond reflects part of the history of the Austro-Hungarian Empire as well as the financial legacies of Europe’s royalty during the 20th century. From Christie’s press release for the sale:
“Although it is not known exactly when the diamond entered the House of Habsburg, it has been officially recorded as the property of the Archduke Joseph August of Austria, Palatine of Hungary (1872-1962), and was subsequently named after him. As the first son of Archduke Joseph Carl of Austria (1833-1905) and Princess Clothilde of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (1846-1927), Archduke Joseph August Viktor Klemens Maria was born in Alcsùt (Hungary), on 9 November 1872. He was the great grandson of Emperor Leopold II through his father and the great grandson of King Louis Philippe of France through his mother.
“In 1893, he married Princess Augusta of Bavaria, the granddaughter of Empress Elisabeth of Austria and Emperor Franz Joseph. He began a distinguished military career in 1890 and attained the rank of Field Marshal of the Austro-Hungarian Army in 1918 and was later named first Regent of Hungary. At the end of World War II, when Hungary was occupied by the Soviet Union, he emigrated for a few years to America but later returned to Germany where he died in 1962.
“It is believed that the Archduke passed on the diamond to his son, the Archduke Joseph Francis (1895-1957), as records show that he deposited it in the vault of the Hungarian General Credit Bank on 1 June 1933.
“The diamond was sold three years later to an anonymous buyer who left it in a safe during World War II, fortunately escaping the attention of the Nazis. After decades of mystery, the diamond re-appeared on 22 June 1961 at auction in London, and was finally re-offered for sale in November 1993 at Christie’s Geneva. Slightly recut to 76.02 carats, the diamond is now Internally Flawless in clarity, and exhibits the characteristic limpid transparency for which Golconda diamonds are so celebrated.”