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DIAMOND la version française


A large diamond of singular beauty, perhaps the most perfect of all, is the "Regent" or "Pitt", preserved with the French crown jewels. In its rough condition it was the largest of all Indian diamonds, the genuineness of which is unquestionable. It was found in 1701 in the Partial mines on the river Kistna in southern India (or according to another account in the Malay Peninsula), and was bought for £20,400 ($2,216,564) by Governor Pitt of Fort St. George, Madras. In 1717 the Duke of Orleans, then Regent of France, acquired it in its rough state for 2,000,000 francs. The operation of cutting was performed in London; it occupied two years and cost £5,000 ($543,275); the weight of the stone reduced from 410 to 136 14/16 carats, and the portions detached in the cuttings remained the property of the former owner. The stone when cut (Plate 5 Figs. 8a, 8b, 8c), was a brilliant of the most perfect form; its colour, however, does not reach the same high standard of perfection. In the valuation of the French crown jewels, made in 1791, this diamond was stated to be worth 12,000,000 francs. In 1792 it was stolen in company with many other crown jewels, but was subsequently recovered, and after being pledged at the time of the Revolution was redeemed by Napoleon. Being an object of general interest, it was not disposed of with the other crown jewels, but has remained up to the present time one of the most beautiful and valuable of the jewels belonging to the French nation.

The "Florentine", "The Great Duke of Tuscany" or the "Austrian" was a large diamond in the treasury of the imperial Palace at Vienna. It has the form of a briolette (Plate 5 Fig. 10a, 10b), with the facets arranged in nine groups radiating from the center. Its weight is 133 1/5 Vienna carats (27.454 grams), the weight of 139 1/2 carats, which is sometimes given, being the smaller Florentine carats. The stone though distinctly yellow in colour, is beautifully clear and shows a fine fire. According to the usual but disputed account, this stone was cut by L. van Berquen for Charles the Bold, who lost it on the battlefield of Granson, where it was found by a Swiss soldier. After frequently changing hands, it passed into the possession of the Grand Duke Francis Stephen of Tuscany, who brought it to Viena.

The "Sancy" diamond, a stone of 53 12/16 carats, though much smaller is very similar in form to the "Florentine", and is also stated to have been cut by L. van Berquen for Charles the Bold. At the death of the latter, at the battle of Nancy in 1477, the stone is supposed to have been taken by a soldier to Portugal, where the French nobleman de Sancy acquired it, and later, about 1600, sold it to Queen Elizabeth of England,. It was carried back to France by Henrietta Maria, the Queen of Charles I., and passed into the possession of Cardinal Mazarin as a pledge. Together with seventeen other large diamonds it was left by the latter to Louis XIV, and in the inventory, made in 1791, of the French crown jewels was valued at 1,000,000 francs ($183,253). At the time of the Revolution it was stolen in company with the "Regent ("Pitt"), but unlike the latter was not recovered. It reappeared ten years later as the property of the Spanish crown; from 1828 to 1865 it was in the possession of Prince Demidoff, by whom it was sold for £20,000 ($2,173,102). It is said then to become the property of the Maharaja of Patiala, and so, after many vicissitudes, to have returned to the land of its origin. So many stories are related of this stone that it seems not improbable that the history of other large diamonds has been confused with that of the "Sancy." It was exhibited at the Paris Exhibition of 1867, and is figured in (Plate 5, Figs. 11a, 11b.)

The "Nassak" diamond derives its name from its long sojourn in the temple to Siva at Nassak on the upper Godavari River. From the possession of the last independent Prince of Peshawar, it passed in 1818 into the hands of the East India Company. At that time it was of an unsymmetrical cut-form and weighed 89 1/2 carats; the form in which it was re-cut, namely, that of a triangular brilliant, is shown in ( Plate 5, Figs. 13a, 136, 13c) In 1831 Emanuel, a London jeweller, who soon afterwards disposed of it to the Duke of Westminister, in whose family it still should remain, bought it for £7,200 ($801,017).

The "Empress Eugenie" diamond is a beautiful brilliant of unknown origin, weighing 51 carats. Catharine II of Russia gave it to her favourite, Potemkin, in whose family it remained until Napoleon III acquired it for a wedding-gift to his bride Eugenie. After the dethronement of the latter it came into the possession of the Gaikwar of Baroda in India.

The "Pigott" is a brilliant brought by Lord Pigott from India to England about the year 1775, and afterwards disposed of to Ah Pasha, the Viceroy of Egypt. All trace of this stone has since been lost, and, according to report, it has been destroyed. Its weight is given by Mawe, who saw the stone shortly before it was sold to Ah Pasha, as 49 carats, but other values up to 81 1/2 carats have been given at various times.

The "White Saxon Brilliant" is one of the most beautiful of known diamonds; it is square in outline with an edge measuring 1 1/12 inches in length, and weighs 48 3/4 carats. For this stone August the Strong is said to have paid 1,000,000 thalers.

The "Pasha of Egypt" is a fine eight-sided brilliant of 40 carats, purchased by the Viceroy Ibrahim of Egypt for £28,000 ($3,042,343).

The comparatively small diamond known as the "Star of East" surpasses in beauty many of those already mentioned. Its intrinsic beauty is absolutely flawless, and the brilliant form in which it is cut is as perfect. Its weight is 25 13/32 Vienna carats (5,232 milligrams), only about half the weight, that is to say, of the "Empress Eugenie" or the "Sancy" diamond. Compared with these stones, however, it does not appear sensibly smaller, so perfect are its proportions and so regular the cutting. It was in the possession of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austrian-Este, eldest son of the Archduke Karl Ludwig. In 1876 it was valued at 64,000 Austrian florins, a former valuation having been 200,000 to 250,000 francs.

Excluding the yellow South African diamonds, stones which come in large size with beauty of colour are rare and are all of Indian origin. Of these the following are most famous:

The "Blue Hope" diamond is characterized not only by the possession of a beautiful sapphire-blue colour -an extremely rare tint in diamonds- but also by a brilliant lustre and fine play of colours. Its existence has been known of since 1830, and it at one time formed part of the famous collection of precious stones of Henry Philip Hope, who bought it for £18,000 ($195,792). It is a perfect brilliant weighing 44 1/4 carats. Its final resting place is well known.

A beautiful blue, triangular brilliant of 67 2/16 carats, and valued in 1791 at 3,000,000 francs ($550,000), was preserved among the French crown jewels up to the year 1792, when it was stolen, together with the "Regent" and others. It had been cut from a rough stone, weighing 112 3/16 carats, brought from India by Tavernier for Louis XIV. There are substantial grounds for the suggestion that when this brilliant was stolen it was divided, and the portions re-cut and placed on the market about 1830 in a new form. It is very possible that the "Hope Blue" diamond is one of these portions; another being a stone of 13 3/4 carats of the same blue colour, and formerly in the possession of Duke Karl of Brunswick, who sold it in 1874 in Geneva for 17,000 francs; the third portion may be identical with a stone of 1 1/4 carats of the same colour, once bought for £300 ($32,600) and now in the possession of an English family.

The "Dresden Green" diamond, preserved in the "Green Vaults" of Dresden, is the most famous representative of stones of this colour. It is of a very fine clear apple green, intermediate between the colour of emerald and chrysoprase, perfectly transparent and faultless in every way. It is almond-shaped in form, being 1 1/12 inches long and 5/6 inch thick, and weighs 40 carats, not, as is sometimes stated, 31 1/4 or 48 carats. Since 1743 it has been the property of the Saxon crown, and 60,000 thalers is said to have been paid for it by August the Strong.

Diamonds famous for their size have come from Brazil as well, the two large stones found, in the fifties of the nineteenth century, in the district of Bagagem, in the western part of Minas Geraes, both of which were acquired by the Gaikwar of Baroda, a purchase which would seem to indicate that India can no longer satisfy the taste of her native princes for gorgeous jewels.

The "Star of the South", found at the end of July 1853, is one of these two famous Brazilian diamonds. The rough stone, which was examined by the French mineralogist, Dufrenoy, was described as being an irregular rhombic dodecahedron with convex faces and as weighing 254 1/2 carats.

The diamond 'Star of the South'

Fig. 2 The diamond "Star of the South". Two views of the rough stone.

The stone showed in a few places small octahedral impressions of other diamonds, as if the larger diamond had once formed one of a group of crystals; in other places the octahedral cleavage was discernible. A few small black plates enclosed in the stone have been considered to be ilmenite (titaniferous iron ore), since this mineral has been shown to occur as an enclosure in diamond. The rough stone fetched 430 contos de reis, about £40,000 of 1900. It was cut in Amsterdam, and produced a beautiful pure brilliant of 125 carats (Plate 5, Figs. 9a, 9b, 9c), which was bought by the Gaikwar of Baroda for £80,000 ($8,900,196).

Mr. E. Dresden's diamond was found at the same place as the last-mentioned stone, and almost at the same time. It weighed, in the rough, 119 1/2 carats, and was therefore smaller than the "Star of the South", and its appearance suggested that it might be a fragment of a larger crystal. It was transformed into an egg-shaped brilliant (Plate 4., Figs. 7b, 7c ) of 76 1/2 carats, the process of cutting not involving in this case a very large loss of material.

It has already been mentioned that the supposed large diamond, the "Braganza", came from Brazil. Some other large Brazilian diamonds have been mentioned above under the description of Brazilian deposits, one of these being the large stone found at the beginning of the nineteenth century on the Rio Abaete, in Minas Geraes, as to the history of which nothing is known.

The diamond 'Presidente Vargas' (An information from: Mr. Iran F. Machado, PhD, Professor with the Institute of Geosciences, State University of Campinas-UNICAMP, Brazil) <

> "As a matter of fact, the largest Brazilian diamond ever found (in 1938) was the Presidente Vargas (726.6 carats), and not the Star of the South (Estrela do Sul, in Portuguese) - 254.5 carats.
51 rough stones, weighing over 100 carats, were found in Brazil until 1986. Surprisingly, these large stones are still being found nowadays in West Minas Geraes. Last year, during the 31st. International Geological Congress, held in Rio de Janeiro, I had the opportunity to present a poster about the Presidente Vargas, the largest rough diamond found in the Americas. A computer graphic image of it is also attached, reconstructed from old photographs taken in 1938/1939."

Only a few of the large diamonds which have been found in South Africa are distinguished by special names. Some of these were discovered and named before the comparative abundance of large stones in these deposits was known; others, however, so far surpass other large diamonds in size and beauty that it is only fitting that they should receive distinctive names.

The first large diamond found in this country was discovered in 1869 in the river diggings, and is known as the Star of South Africa. It weighed, in the rough, 83 1/2 carats, and formed, when cut, an oval, three-sided brilliant (Plate 5, Fig. 14) of 46 1/2 carats of the purest water, comparable with the best Indian and Brazilian stones. It was sold to the Countess of Dudley for nearly £25,000 ($3,476,638), and is therefore sometimes referred to as the "Dudley diamond.

The Stewart, a much larger stone, was found in 1872 in the river diggings, known as Waldeck's Plant, on the Vaal. It weighed, in the rough, 288 3/8 carats, and for many years remained the largest of Cape diamonds. The rough stone was first disposed of for £6,000 ($652,000), but on again changing hands made £9,000 ($978,000); it gave a slightly yellowish brilliant of 120 carats (Plate 4., Fig. 6).

The "Porter Rhodes" diamond was found at Kimberley on February 12, 1880. Its weight in the rough has been variously given at 150 and 160 carats. It is a perfectly colourless blue-white stone, and, on the whole, may be considered to surpass all other South African diamonds in beauty. Its owner valued it at £200,000 ($21,731,000).

The 'Victoria' diamond

Fig. 3 The "Victoria" diamond of 457 1/2 carats from South Africa (Actual size)

A stone of 457 1/2 carats, from the South African deposits, reached Europe in 1884, of which nothing as to its exact origin is known. The rough stone, which had the form of an irregular octahedron, is shown above in its actual size. A very beautiful colourless brilliant of 180 carats was cut from it, which is variously known as the "Victoria", "Imperial", or "Great White", and was valued in 1900 at £6,200,000 ($673,661,700).

The largest brilliant, the genuineness of which is unquestionable, is one of 288 1/2 carats, which was cut from a stone of 428 1/2 carats found on March 28, 1880, in the De Beers mine. This was yellowish in colour and had the form of a fairly regular octahedron, the outline of which is shown here in its actual size. In the direction of its longest axis it measured 1 - 7/8 inches. Another large diamond, which weighed in the rough 655 carats, was found in the Jagersfontein mine at the end of the year 1895.

The largest of all known diamonds is the "Excelsior", afterwards called the "Jubilee," in honour of the celebration of the sixtieth anniversary of the accession of Queen Victoria. The rough stone is represented here. It came from the Jagersfontein mine in Orange River Colony in South Africa, and weighed 971 3/4 carats, measuring 2 1/2 inches in length, and 2 inches in breadth, and 1 inch in thickness, thus surpassing in size even the "Great Mogul", which in its rough condition is supposed to have weighed 787 1/2 carats.

It was found on June 30, 1893, by a Kaftir, who received as a reward £500 ($54,327) in money and a horse equipped with saddle and bridle. It is said that an agreement existed between the mine-owners and certain diamond merchants by whom the latter were to purchase every stone found in the mine during a certain period at a uniform price per carat. This period ended on June 30, and the "Excelsior" was one of the last stones to be found on that day, so that the mine-owners instead of the merchants came very near to profiting by this lucky find. The stone is of a beautiful blue-white colour and of the purest water, and has been valued, in 1895 by different experts at amounts, which vary between £50,000 and £1,000,000 ($5,433,000 and $108,655,000). The rough stone, though of such perfection of colour, lustre, and water, had a black spot near the centre of its mass, which had to be removed by cleaving the stone in two. From the larger portion was cut an absolutely perfect brilliant weighing 239 international carats of 205 milligrams, and measuring 1 - 5/8 inches in length, 1 - 3/8 in breadth, and 1 inch in depth.

The 'Tiffany' Brilliant

Fig 4. The "Tiffany" Brilliant (Actual size)

The orange-yellow Tiffany Brilliant, now in the possession of the Tiffany Company of New York, is also a Cape diamond. It is one of the finest of yellow diamonds, and at the present time is the largest brilliant in America, weighing 125 1/2 carats. The form of the stone can be seen above in its actual size.

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March, 2011