Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Spoonmaker's Diamond

 The pride of the Topkapi Palace Museum and its most valuable single exhibit is the 86-carat pear-shaped Spoonmaker Diamond, also known as the Kasikci. Surrounded by a double-row of 49 Old Mine cut diamonds and well spotlighted, it hangs in a glass case on the wall of one of the rooms of the Treasury.
Its origin is not clear. Like many other historic diamonds, it is difficult to seperate fact from fancy. Rasid, the official historian of the Ottoman court, describes it as thus:
"In the year 1669, a very poor man found a pretty stone in the rubbish heap of Egrikapi in Istanbul. He bartered it to a spoonmaker for three wooden spoons. The spoonmaker sold the stone to a jeweler for ten silver coins.

"The jeweler consulted another jeweler who knew immediately that the pretty stone was really a precious diamond. When the second jeweler threatened to disclose the whole matter, the two men quarreled bitterly. Another jeweler heard the story and bought the diamond, giving a purse full of money to each of the angry jewelers. But now the Grand Vizier, Kopruluzade Ahmed Pasha, has heard of the gem. When Sultan Mehmed IV is told of the affair, he orders the stone be brought to the palace, and he takes possession of it. Whether he paid for it is not revealed. And, of course, no one knows what history preceded it being thrown into the garbage heap."
A more probable story is that in 1774 a French officer named Pikot bought the diamond from the Maharajah of Madras in India and then took it to France. Somehow thieves got wind of the gem and robbed Pikot.

 Sometime later a large diamond about the size of the stone taken from Pikot, appeared at an auction, and the notorious Casanova made a bid for it. The diamond thus became known for a time as the Casanova Lottery Diamond. It was finally bought by Napoleon's mother, Letizia Ramolino, who later sold her jewels to help her son escape from Elba in 1815.
An officer of Tepedelenli Ali Pasha bought the great diamond for 150,000 pieces of gold and put it in Tepedelenli's Treasury. When he was killed in the revolt against Sultan Mahmut II, his entire treasury came to the Palace of Turkey. It is probable that the stone now called the Kasicki, is the long lost Pikot (aka Spoonmaker's) Diamond. Source: "Diamonds Eternal" by Victor Argenzio. Printed by the David McKay Company Inc., New York. 1974.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Star of the East

 After their marriage in 1908, Edward B. McLean and his bride Evalyn traveled to Europe for their honeymoon. Each had received $100,000 from their respective fathers as a wedding present. Among the countries they visited was Turkey where Evalyn McLean expressed a wish to see the treasures of the jewelry-loving Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Abd al-Hamid II. When the American ambassador heard of her wish he told her: "He may tap you for his harem," to which she replied: "The way they tap a boy for some society at Yale? Is that the way he gets them?" 

When the couple reached Paris Mrs. McLean was able to buy the wedding present which her father had told her to get. Pierre Cartier showed her the Star of the East, a fine 94.80-carat pear-shaped diamond, mounted on a chain below a hexagonal emerald of 34 carats and a pearl of 32 grains, which may have belonged to the Sultan Abd al-Hamid. "Ned," she said to her husband, "its got me. I'll never get away from the spell of this." Her husband - who was unimpressed by jewels - replied "A shock may break the spell. Suppose you ask the price of this magnificence." But Evalyn refused to listen to him and purchased the Star of the East for $120,000, in the process using up some of his wedding gift money. Mrs. McLean pointed out the diamond's merits as an investment and that she could tell her own father that it represented a double gift to cover both her wedding and Christmas presents. 

On her return home the following exchange between Thomas Walsh and his daughter Evalyn took place: 

Thomas: "Did you buy a wedding present?"
Evalyn: "Yes"
Thomas: "Did you pay the duty?"
Evalyn: "No, I smuggled it."
Thomas: "You take the cake." 

 The Star of the East in its original necklace 
setting with the hexagonal emerald and pearl.

Later Thomas Walsh said: "Don't worry. I'll send my lawyer down tomorrow and let him declare the trinket. Hell, I'm glad to buy it for Evalyn. There won't be a bit of trouble. I'll send the word to the Customs that she is not all there." 

The Star of the East remained in Evalyn Walsh McLean's ownership for 40 years or so. On one occasion she was photographed wearing the diamond as an aigrette with what appeared to be a feather from some exotic bird in a diamond bandeau. The Hope lay somewhat lower lower as a pendant to a pearl necklace. After her death, Harry Winston bought both diamonds and in 1951 he sold the Star of the East and a fancy colored oval cut diamond to King Farouk of Egypt. By the time of the King's overthrow in 1952, Mr. Winston had still not received payment for the two gems, but three years later an Egyptian government legal board entrusted with the disposal of the former royal assets, ruled in his favor. Nevertheless, several years of litigation were needed before he was able to reclaim the Star of the East from a safe-deposit box in Switzerland. 

In 1969 Harry Winston sold the Star of the East, the new owner asking him to remount the gem as a pendant to a V-shaped diamond necklace to which two flawless matching pear shapes could be attached. The Star of the East was displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, in 1978, at a reception marking the 50th anniversary of Harry Winston Inc. Six years later the diamond came back into the ownership of Harry Winston Inc. Its present whereabouts are unknown. 

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Centenary Diamond

The De Beers Centenary Diamond is, at 273.85 carats (54.77 g), the third-largest diamond to have been produced in the Premier Mine. The Centenary Diamond is rated in color as grade D color by the Gemological Institute of America, which is the highest grade of colorless diamond and is internally and externally flawless. It was named the Centenary Diamond as it was presented in the rough for the Centennial Celebration of De Beers Consolidated Mines on May 11, 1988. The Centenary Diamond was unveiled in final form in May 1991.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Steinmetz Pink Diamond

 This diamond is known largely for fancy vivid pink colour, at 59.60 carats (11.92 g). The Steinmetz Pink is a diamond weighing 59.60 carats (11.92 g), rated in color as Fancy Vivid Pink by the Gemological Institute of America. The Steinmetz Pink is the largest known diamond having been rated Vivid Pink. As a result of this exceptional rarity, the Steinmetz Group took a cautious 20 months to cut the Pink. It was unveiled in Monaco on May 29, 2003, in a public ceremony.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Cullinan Heritage Diamond

The giant Cullinan is one of the most famous and the largest diamond in the world. The Cullinan weighed a massive 3,106 carats as a rough diamond crystal. The rough diamond was 10 cm long, 6 cm high and 5 cm thick. The giant Cullinan was first cut into three large parts by Joseph Asscher and Company of Amsterdam, and cut again into  9 large stones and other smaller fragments. The nine larger stones are to be found in either in the British Regalia, the English Crown Jewels, or in the personal possession of the British Royal Family. The two largest and main diamonds are the Cullinan I (aka Great Star of Africa) and the Cullinan II.

This is a diamond which set the record for the highest price ever paid for a rough diamond in February 2010 when it was sold for $35.3m

Friday, 8 April 2011

The Allnatt Diamond

The Allnatt Diamond is a diamond measuring 101.29 carats (20.258 g) with a cushion cut, rated in colour as Fancy Vivid Yellow by the gemological institute of America.This diamond is named after one of its holders, Major Alfred Ernest Allnath, a soldier, sportsman, art patron and benefactor. While it is not known precisely where the Allnatt originated, many experts believe that it was probably found in what is now known as the De Beers Premier Diamond Mine.

The Allnatt's origins are unknown prior to Major Allnatt's purchasing of the diamond in the early 1950s. After purchasing the diamond, he commissioned Cartier to make a setting for it. The final setting was a platinum flower with five petals, a stem and two leaves, all set with diamonds. The Allnatt was resold at auction in May 1996 by Christie's in Geneva for $3,043,496 US. At the time of its sale the Allnatt was 102.07 carats (20.41 g). and was graded Fancy Intense Yellow. After being sold to the SIBA Corporation, the diamond was re-cut to its current weight and the intensity was upgraded as a result.

Millennium Star

The Millennium Star is the 10th largest diamond in the world. It weights 203.04 carats and is a D-color flawless pear-shaped diamond with a total of 54 facets. The diamond was found in the Mbuji-Mayi district of Zaire (Democratic Republic of the Congo) in 1990 and as a rough stone it weighted 777 carats. It took 5 months of studying and planning the cutting of the stone and the conclusion was that it must be cleaved into three pieces.