A diamond that has been adorning the crowns of French Kings and Queens for over 200 years. With a pre-sale estimate set between $6 and $9 million, Le Grand Mazarin will be the star of the upcoming Magnificent Jewels sale, next 14 November, at Christie’s Geneva.
This priceless Light Pink diamond weighing circa 19.07 carats, Le Grand Mazarin, takes its name from Cardinal Mazarin. He was France’s Chief Minister in 1642 and was famous for having assembled an impressive collection of 18 rare gems.
And Le Grand Mazarin is for sure an exceptional diamond: it originates in the Golconda mines, in India’s Deccan plateau. The Golconda mines are legendary for having produced some of the most famous diamonds in history – such as the Koh-i-Noor, the Regent and the Wittelsbach-Graff, all renowned for their exceptional clarity, a distinctive signature for diamonds unearthed there.
The Cardinal sourced these gems from European Royal Families, or by asking to his trusted jeweller Lescot, and they were considered to be the most beautiful in the continent.
Out of these 18 gems, eight had the ‘square cut diamonds’ label, and the largest of these was, precisely, Le Grand Mazarin.
These stones became part of the French Crown Jewels, passing from the Cardinal to the Sun King Louis XIV, in 1661. The King is said to have added Le Grand Mazarin to his chain, featuring diamonds all set in descending size order. They remained in use for nearly 200 years.
With the outburst of the French Revolution, in 1791 King Louis XVI was forced to hand over all the French Crown treasures, which were stored in the Royal Treasury (or ‘Garde-Meuble’).
Once the complete jewels inventory made public, a group of around 30 men decided to attempt the coup of the century: they broke into the Royal Treasury building, opened the cabinets and seised all of the French Crown jewels – Le Grand Mazarin included.
The jewels all vanished, but some of them were retrieved thanks to one of the thieves who, to avoid the scaffold, revealed where he hid its portion of the treasure. He returned a bag full of precious stones, Le Grand Mazarin among them. Other stones, unfortunately, were never to be found.
Emperor Napoleon in 1810 commanded jeweller François-Regnault Nitot to create a magnificent set of diamond jewellery for his wife, Marie-Louise.
The set included a crown, a diadem (set with Le Grand Mazarin among other diamonds), a necklace, a comb, a pair of three-drop earrings, bracelets, a belt, ten dress jewels and eight rows of gold collets.
In 1884, at the same time as an exhibition at the Louvre, the decision was taken, and an auction took place in May 1887 to sell the French Crown Jewels, notwithstanding fierce opposition.
Le Grand Mazarin was then acquired by Frédéric Boucheron, one of the most famous jewellers at that time.
Listed as number 22, between the legendary Regent and Sancy diamonds, Le Grand Mazarin appears to the public for the last time in 1962, when the Louvre held a meticulously researched exhibition showcasing the most significant diamonds belonging to the French Crown – among others highly valuable specimen.
1962 was the diamond’s last public appearance because it was subsequently sold to a European private collection, after having been the property of Baron von Derwies, from which it comes to auction today, at Christie’s.
A diamond with three centuries of royal provenance that will be going to auction for the first time in 130 years, Le Grand Mazarin is
“the diamond with the most prestigious and historic provenance still to be in private hands.” ∼ François Curiel, Christie’s Europe and Asia Chairman.
The Autumn auction season in Geneva will see a real “battle of diamonds”.
The Autumn auction season in Geneva will be pretty intense.
Sotheby’s will celebrate the 10th anniversary of its Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels sales, and boosting the Raj Pink – the world laster cushion-cut fancy pink diamond known to date – the historic fancy yellow Donnersmarck Diamonds and an incredible fancy vivid blue diamond set in a ring signed Moussaieff.
Christie’s, on its side, will answer back not only with Le Grand Mazarin but also with the already much-celebrated necklace Creation I signed de GRISOGONO and created in partnership with Christie’s to highlight a superb rectangular cut-cornered diamond, weighing approximately 163.41 carats.
The two auction houses’ offer is impressive, for both carat-size and historical prestige. It will be difficult for collectors and investors to make a choice. CC