Monday, August 9, 2010


The Ahmadabad Diamond

Donald Stampfli/AP World Wide Photos
Ahmadabad, the capitol of the Indian state of Gujarat, is located 550 km north of Bombay, on the Sabarmati River. The city has long been a center for trading and cutting diamonds, both of which are still pursued there today (although to a lesser degree). One famous visitor to Ahmadabad in the 1600s was the French traveller and gem merchant, Jean Baptiste Tavernier. Over a period of 40 years, he made six trips to the East. In chapter XXII of part II of his book Travels in India, Tavernier described some of the notable diamonds and rubies which he had seen during the course of his travels, often accompanied with illustrations, from which the following is from:
"No. 4 represents a diamond which I bought at Ahmadabad for one of my friends. It weighed 178 ratis, or 157½ of our carats...[no. 5] represents the shape of the above mentioned diamond after it had been cut on both sides. Its weight was then 94½ carats. The flat side, where there are two flaws at the base, was thin as a sheet of thick paper. When I had the stone cut I had this thin portion removed, together with a part of the point above, where a small speck of the flaw still remains."
This is the only instance of Tavernier supplying drawings of both rough and polished forms of a diamond. The briolette-shaped diamond was presumably cut in Ahmadabad: after that its history is uncertain. Who was the friend Tavernier purchased the diamond for? The most likely person was his sovereign, Louis XIV of France, to whom he had sold several diamonds, among them two briolettes. But there was never any reference to a diamond such as the Ahmadabad entering the Crown Jewels of France. Others, including Edwin Streeter, the author of two books on famous diamonds, have indicated that the diamond may have found its way to Persia via one of the numerous ports of Gujarat which served as a gateway to the Persian Gulf and Arabia, but no trace of it has been found among the Iranian Crown Jewels. A 'friend' is an unlikely epithet to the mighty Aurengzeb, the last of the Mogul emperors (1659-1707) and a noted collector of diamonds, of which one is reputed to have been the Ahmadabad. It is more likely that the 'friend' was one of the emperor's courtiers, who would have bought the gem for the emperor.
The Ahmadabad is next reported to have belonged to the Begum, Hazrat Mahal, the wife King Wajid Ali Shah of Oudh, who had been exiled to Calcutta by the British after his refusal to sign a treaty of abdication at the time of the Indian Mutiny of 1857. She was a beautiful woman and an outspoken rebel leader at the time of the Mutiny. When British forces regained control after the rebellion, she fleed to Nepal where, it is said, she traded the diamond in return for her safe passage.
It is unlikely that the Ahmadabad Diamond has completely disappeared. It should be noted that its weight is lighter than that of the recorded weight of 90.5 carats of the Ahmadabad; however, such a drop in weight might be explained by its transformation from a briolette to a pear shape. But of greater significance is the fact that this gem possesses a minor flaw at its base, at the culet facet. Is it not probable that this is one of the two small specks of flaw which Tavernier stated had remained after the cutting had taken place? Therefore, it is possible that this diamond, besides possessing a notable beauty found in the finest diamonds from the historic Golconda mines of India, is also a long-lost gem. (A gemologist friend of mine believes there is no way that one could cut a 90-carat briolette into a 70-carat brilliant pear. He thinks this story is just one that has been made up by the auction house to make the stone more interesting. "Judging by the style of the cut," he writes, "I’d say it was cut around the early 20th century. It’s therefore quite likely be an African stone (the Premier mine is known to have produced 'Golconda-type' stones.)"
The Ahmadabad has been graded by the GIA as D-color, VS1 clarity and was accompanied by a working diagram indicating that the clarity is improvable. The gem is an antique pear-shaped brilliant and its weight is 78.86 carats. I have not seen its GIA certificate but I would wager its culet was graded as Extremely Large, as can be seen in the photo above. I am guessing the gem was was more of a double-sided rose cut originally, with a pear-shaped outline, essentially a somewhat flattened briolette. Also, the pavilion mains are horizontally split, a cutting step visible in the above photo. The gem came up for sale at Christie's in Geneva in November of 1995 when it was bought by Robert Mouawad for $4,324,554. Sources: Famous Diamonds by Ian Balfour, Travels in India by Jean Baptiste Tavernier (translated into English by Valentine Ball), and various internet/magazine articles.


The Centenary celebrations of De Beers took place in 1988 in Kimberley, in front of a captive audience of four hundred people.

These included government representatives of producer countries and other important dignitaries from the diamond industry. Julian Ogilvie Thompson, the then Chairman, revealed that a diamond of 599 carats had been recovered from the Premier mine.
Over time, the Premier mine had produced approximately 300 stones of more than 100 carats, and nearly 25% of all the world's diamonds over 400 carats. These included important stones such as the Cullinan, the Niarchos, the Taylor-Burton, and the Premier Rose.
When found in 1986, only a few people knew about its discovery, and were sworn to secrecy. The rough stone presented many difficulties in polishing it. One of the most accomplished cutters in the world, Gabi Tolkowsky, was chosen to study and appraise the great stone.
We have recovered at the Premier mine a diamond of 599 carats which is perfect in colour – indeed, it is one of the largest top colour diamonds ever found. Naturally it will be called the Centenary diamond.
Julian Ogilvie Thomson

He said of its top colour – “Usually you have to look into a diamond to appreciate its colour, but this just expressed itself from the surface. That is very rare.”
Generally, however, the rough shape of the diamond meant it would be difficult to cut, and with a number of alternative routes, including cutting the diamond into several smaller stones.
In the end Tolkowsky said the diamond was to be made into one large modern-cut stone.
Tolkowsky and two other cutters, Geoff Woollett and Jim Nash, worked with hand-picked engineers in a specially constructed room in the De Beers Diamond Research Laboratory in Johannesburg. The construction of the room itself took a year.
Meanwhile Tolkowsky studied the diamond. He said, “From the moment I knew I was going to cut it, I became another man, a strange man. I was looking at the stone in the day, and the stone was looking at me at night.
Kerfing by hand, Tolkowsky took 154 days to remove 50 carats, to reveal a rounded stone weighing approximately 520 carats. After many sketches, thirteen shapes were presented to the De Beers Board, and a modified heart shape was decided upon.
After nearly a year of work, the Centenary weighed 273.85 carats. It also had an unprecedented number of facets, with 164 on the stone and 83 on the girdle. Two flawless pear shapes were also cut.
The Centenary is the largest modern-cut diamond in the world, and is the ultimate expression of both “fire” and “brilliance”.
Nicky Oppenheimer remarked, “Who can put a price on such a stone?”


Agra is the site of the Taj Mahal, one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. The diamond has a long history, with many of the earlier accounts disputed.

It has been suggested that in 1526 the Agra diamond was taken into the possession of Babur, the first Mogul Emperor, after he defeated the Rajah of Gwalior in battle. It is recorded that Babur wore the Agra diamond in his turban.
In 1739, the Agra may have been amongst loot captured by Nadir Shah when the Persian sacked Delhi, however the gem eventually returned to India.
The diamond was reputedly smuggled to England by young military officers in around 1857, in the year of the Indian Mutiny. However the Agra was apparently already in the possession of the Duke of Brunswick, who had paid the huge price of 348,600 francs for the stone.
Later in the 19th century, the Agra was reduced to just under 32 carats, to eliminate some black inclusions. Even at this stage it was questioned whether the Agra was indeed the same stone that some thought it was.
More formal records indicate that Edwin Streeter purchased the Agra from Bram Hertz, with Hertz giving Streeter over £15,000 in jewels and cash in return.
Despite a lengthy lawsuit relating to the Agra, the stone remained in Streeter’s stock until 1904 when the Parisian jewellers La Cloche Freres, put the item up for sale at Christie’s in 1905.
Shortly after 1909 the gemstone was acquired by Louis Winans, son of a wealthy American railroad engineer. Louis Winans settled in Brighton and used a local jeweller to help him create a stunning collection of coloured diamonds.
In 1990, the Agra and two other diamonds from the collection were auctioned at Christie’s. The vendor had inherited them in 1927, and during the Second World War had buried them in the garden for safe keeping.
The Agra was certified as a fancy light pink natural coloured VSI2, and sold for £4,070,000, making it at that time, the most expensive pink diamond in the world.
Since then, the Agra has again been recut, to 28.15 carats.

De Beers Diamond

In March 1888, the enormous, light yellow octahedron was found in the De Beers mine.

It was cut and displayed at the Paris Exhibition in 1889. After the removal of approximately 200 carats during cutting, its weight was 228.5 carats.
The De Beers Diamond is the 7th largest cut diamond in the world.
It was bought after being displayed in Paris, by the Maharajah of Patiala. Cartier Paris set it in 1928 as the centrepiece of a ceremonial necklace.
In 1982, the De Beers Diamond was put up for auction at Sotheby’s, but failed to meet its undisclosed reserve.
The stone is often confused with a larger white diamond called the Imperial, Great White, or Victoria, however mathematical calculations have shown otherwise.


The Eureka Diamond is perhaps the single most important diamond in the history of South African mining.

Discovered in 1866 by children digging amongst the shrubbery of their father's land, it remained for some time "undiscovered" - a mere plaything for the children of Dutch farmer Daniel Johannes Jacobus Jacobs. No one in the farmer's home took it to be anything more than an attractive rock, and it was not until a neighbour farmer, Schalk van Niekerk, who possessed a smattering of geological knowledge noticed the stone whilst visiting the Jacobs' farmhouse. Whilst van Niekerk did not imagine it could be a diamond he thought it interesting enough to offer to buy the Eureka from the children. However, Mrs Jacobs refused to accept any payment and simply gave the stone to her neighbour. The Eureka then passed to John Robert O'Reilly who van Niekerk took the stone to in order to confirm his suspicions that it might be a rare mineral. O'Reilly determined that it had to be a diamond and it was sent to Dr. William Guybon Atherstone in Grahamstown for authentication.
In 1867 Atherstone confirmed the "first" diamond to be discovered in South Africa, stating it was a "veritable diamond weighing 24 carats worth £800", he suggested that the Eureka be exhibited at the Cape Colony's stand at the Paris exhibition.
However it was felt that Queen Victoria should be given the opportunity of inspecting the diamond firsthand so a replica was exhibited and the Eureka was sent on its long journey to Windsor. The stone was then sold to Sir Philip Wodehouse, Governor of the Cape Colony for £500; O'Reilly and van Niekerk sharing the proceeds. Whilst an agreement had been made that van Niekerk would give some of his share to the Jacobs family, it seems they never received a penny for their great discovery.
In 1870 Sir Philip returned to the UK, and there the Eureka was to remain for almost 100 years. It was cut and, over the course of almost a century, changed hands a number of times. In 1946 the Times reported that £5,700 had been paid at a Christie's public auction for a diamond bangle of 20 large stones with the Eureka as its centrepiece. It remained in a private collection until, in 1967, exactly 100 years after its discovery, De Beers purchased the Eureka, gifting it to the people of South Africa. The Eureka was placed on permanent loan by the South African government at the Mine Museum, Kimberley - a fitting venue to display the gemstone that established South Africa as one of the world's richest resources of diamonds.

Golden Jubilee
Discovered in the Premier mine in South Africa in 1986, the 755.50 carat rough diamond was a beautiful golden yellow colour with a bright reddish hue at the centre.

Gabi Tolkowsky commented that “within its heart lay a wonderfully mysterious shine that gave the diamond a character unlike any other”.
A large surface and deep cracks from the interior, as well as several inclusions, meant that cutting and polishing the big diamond presented challenges.
An underground room that was free from vibration had to be constructed before work could begin on the diamond. In 1990, after two years of work, the stone was finished, reduced in total from 755.50 carats, to 545.65 carats.
Within its heart lay a wonderfully mysterious shine that gave the diamond a character unlike any other.
Gabi Tolkowsky

Gabi Tolkowsky described the cut as a “Fire-Rose cushion shape.”
Thai businessmen arranged for the diamond to be given to King Bhumibol as a gift from the people to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the King’s ascent to the throne.
The diamond was named the Golden Jubilee, and was received by the King’s daughter, Princess Matia Chari Sirindhom, on his behalf in 2000.
The diamond is now on display in the Royal Museum at Pimammek Golden Temple Throne Hall in Bangkok.

Millennium Star

In 1999, De Beers unveiled the De Beers Millennium Jewels - the centrepiece being the De Beers Millennium Star, a ‘D’ colour, flawless pear-shaped stone weighing 203.04 carats.

Millennium Star

The rest of the Millennium Jewels were made up of eleven rare blue diamonds with a total weight of 118 carats. The largest was the Heart of Eternity weighing 27.64 carats.
The Millennium Star weighed 777 carats in the rough, and is the sixth largest diamond of gem quality ever discovered.
It took the Steinmetz Group three years to cut the Millennium Star. First of all it was split in Belgium, then polished in South Africa and subsequently finished in New York.
Over one hundred plastic models of the stone were made to design and plan for the optimum cut for beauty and weight. A special room had to be constructed and special tools created for the operation.
In the end the diamond was shaped into a classic pear, with 54 facets. Harry Oppenheimer remarked that it was the most beautiful diamond he had ever seen.
The De Beers Millennium Jewels were displayed in the Millennium Dome at Greenwich in London, in the year 2000, and later at exhibitions in Tokyo and Dubai.

Therese Lachman La-Paiva diamants

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