All those with a strong familiarity of gems know of the fabled Wittelsbach blue, one of the most widely celebrated diamonds worldwide of a grayish blue colour. What gems collectors also know is that for more than half a century its location was unknown. The exquisitely cut diamond had initially been taken from India in the 17th century (typical) and brought to Europe. In 1664 it was given to the Infanta Margarita Teresa by her father, the king of Spain where it gradually became “a fixture of both the Austrian and Bavarian crown jewels”.
No one knew where the diamond, however, had disappeared to until it appeared at a Christie’s auction in 2008. And it was clearly quite the coveted items as it sold for $24.3 million, the highest paid for a diamond at an auction, instead of the $15 million it was predicted to do.
Laurence Graff was the billionaire buyer who then had it recut and reduced in size to a little over 31 carats from its previous 35.52.
He defended this at the auction saying,“The stone is heavily chipped around the edges. The stone was cut in the 1600s. I think we know more about polishing diamonds today. It will come back to the market as a more beautiful stone.”
Whether people will still be able to recognize the stone is another question as it has been borrowed by the Smithsonian Museum to take part in their National Gem and Mineral Collection.
Sotheby’s Daniela Mascetti, a senior global specialist in jewelry said: “In a way, it is a shame to have altered what has been preserved for so many years. Do you still have the original stone found by Tavernier or cut in his time? Will that stone still be the Wittelsbach? In my opinion, it’s not.”
Though she does say “that stone has a pedigree that is incomparable. The provenance of a gem is important in ways that are not true of other things. With the Wittelsbach blue, you knew how it came into existence and in a rather exciting way. You know who has worn it, what kinds of historical events it has gone through and what social upheavals it was present for.”
Has the stone, re-named Wittelsbach-Graff lost a little piece of its history or is it “better” as Graff implies?