This 76.45-carat diamond gets its name from from Archduke Joseph August (1872-1962), a previous owner of the gem and a prince of the Hungarian line of the Hapsburg dynasty. The Archduke was a descendant of the Emperor Leopold II, son of Empress Maria Theresa who owned the famous Florentine Diamond, one of the most notable and unique diamonds in history and an heirloom of the Hapsburgs for many years. But whereas the Florentine was unusually large for an Indian diamond and light yellow in color, the Archduke Joseph is a colorless diamond; it possesses the most notable characteristic of the best Golconda diamonds, namely a high internal clarity. Thus its D-color certification. It is cut in a rectangular cushion shape, perhaps a style of cutting that is not entirely unfitting with its Indian origin. It has horizontally divided pavilion main facets.
The Archduke Joseph - better known as Joseph of Alcsut - was the oldest son of Duke Joseph Carl Ludwig and Princess Clothilde of Saxe-Coburg. He married Augusta in 1893, daughter of Prince Leopold of Bavaria, Duchess of Gisela, and a granddaughter of Emperor Franz Joseph. He began his eminent military career in 1902 when he enlisted in the Hungarian territorial reserve, simultaneously studying law at Budapest University. On the death of Emperor Franz Joseph he became commander of the Hungarian front line forces during World War I, reconquering the eastern part of Siebenburgen and initiated the negotiations for a cease-fire. In October of 1918, he was named Regent of Hungary by the Emperor Charles I, but his efforts for forming a government were overturned by the onset of the October 31st Revolution, whereupon he retired to his Alcsut estate.
Photo © Tino Hammid
During the so-called "Traitor Republic," due to his great popularity, Archduke Joseph was put under surveillance while remaing at Alcsut. In August of 1919 he succeeded in becoming the Regent of Hungary but was compelled to resign within two months because the Allied Forces would not allow a Hapsburg to hold a commanding position in Hungary. In late 1944 he emigrated to the United States and returned to Europe to live with his sister, Princess Margaret von Thurn und Taxis, and published several memoirs and historical studies. He died in 1962, not completely removed from politics, having become a member of the Upper House soon after its restoration.
It is thought that at some point he gave the diamond to his son, Joseph Francis (1895-1957). Minutes taken on June 1st, 1933 record that the diamond, at the time belonging to Archduke Joseph, was at the time deposited with the Hungarian General Credit Bank in the presence of a state counsellor. Three years later the diamond was sold to a European banker who kept it in a safe deposit box in France during World War II, where it forunately escaped the attention of the Nazis.
The location of this stone remained a mystery until it came up for auction in London in June, 1961. At the time it was believed to be the largest loose fine quality diamond ever to have been auctioned in Great Britain, but it was withdrawn from the sale when the bidding stopped at £145,000. Later it was reported that a syndicate of Hatton Garden buyers had made an unsuccessful bid for the diamond. It came up for sale again at Christie's in Geneva in November of 1993, when it was sold for $6,487,945. The diamond originally weighed 78.54 carats but was slightly recut in the late-1990's by Molina Fine Jewelers (the diamond's present owners) down to its current 76.45-carat weight. The diamond has been graded as being Internally Flawless. Sources: Famous Diamonds by Ian Balfour, Diamonds - Famous, Notable and Unique by Lawrence Copeland, and numerous magazine articles.