Monday, May 14, 2012

The diamond with a 400-year history

Glittering atop a succession of royal crowns, the 35-carat Beau Sancy diamond has been witness to 400 years of European history.
The Beau Sancy is one of the most fascinating and romantic gems ever to appear at auction
Now the jewel, passed down through the royalty of France, England, the Netherlands and Prussia, could leave its noble past behind when it is sold at auction in Geneva tomorrow.
The gem is being auctioned at one of three multi-million euro sales over as many days in the city, featuring the jewels of queens, film stars and billionaires alike.
“The Beau Sancy is one of the most fascinating and romantic gems ever to appear at auction,” said David Bennett of sellers Sotheby’s, who estimates its value at €1.5 million-€3 million.
“One client I showed it to was moved to tears by it,” he said.
The pear-shaped diamond’s royal connections date back to 1604 when it was bought for Henri IV of France at the insistence of his wife Marie de Medici who wore it atop her crown at her coronation.
Later that century it was acquired by the Dutch and used to seal the wedding of Willem II of Orange Nassau to MaryStuart, daughter of Charles I of England.
Stuart pawned the rose-cut gem to finance her brother Charles II’s fight for the throne.
In 1702 the first king of Prussia gave it pride of place in the new royal crown and it has passed through generations of the House of Prussia until today.
“We’ve sold much larger diamonds but it has this wonderful romantic history, an unparalleled royal history − it has never been in non-royal hands,” said Mr Bennett.
The Beau Sancy will go under the hammer tomorrow as part of Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels sale, alsofeaturing a historic yellow diamond once the property of Charles Edward Stuart, one-time pretender to the thrones of Great Britain and Ireland.
More commonly known as Bonnie Prince Charlie, his attempts to make the Stuarts regain the crown failed and following the Battle of Culloden in 1745 he went into exile in France and Italy, where he is thought to have offered the 7.3-carat gem to the Corsini family in gratitude of their support.
It has an estimated value of €231,720 to €386,200.
A collection of 70 jewels belonging to billionaire philanthropist Lily Safra was meanwhile expected to raise more than €15.4 million for charity.
Brazil-born Safra, 77, was married to the Jewish-Lebanese banker Edmond Safra who died in a blaze at his Monte-Carlo penthouse in 1999.
Tomorrow, Christie’s will host a Sparkling Jewels sale featuring a necklace set from the collection of Mexican screen actress Maria Felix (1914-2002) and a diamond once famously refused by Hollywood star and jewellery queen Elizabeth Taylor.
The 23.6-carat brown-orange coloured stone was offered to Taylor by Richard Burton in 1975 while the couple were in Africa, according to Christie’s.
The gem set into a ring is expected to fetch €453,440 to €617,920.

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