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Le Grand Mazarin
Auctions: Christie's Exceptional Gemstones High Jewellery History & Heritage Kings & Queens Magnificent Jewels

Diamond legends: Le Grand Mazarin

A gem with three centuries of royal provenance comes to auction at Christie's after 130 years: Le Grand Mazarin

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.

 

 

Le Grand Mazarin credits AFP Chris J Ratcliffe AFP
Le Grand Mazarin

 

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.

 

Cardinal Mazarin
Philippe de Champaigne (1602-1674), The Mazarin Cardinal. Musée Condé, Chantilly, France / Bridgeman Images

 

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.

 

Le Grand Mazarin, mounted
Le Grand Mazarin, a historic coloured diamond. The old mine brilliant-cut diamond, weighing approximately 19.07 carats. Accompanied by report no. 5182785154 dated 4 October 2017 from the GIA Gemological Institute of America stating that the diamond is Light Pink colour, VS2 clarity, and Diamond Type Classification letter stating that the diamond has been determined to be Type IIa.
Provenance Cardinal Mazarin (1602-1661)
Louis XIV, King of France (1638-1715)
Louis XV, King of France (1710-1774)
Louis XVI, King of France (1754-1793)
Napoleon I, Emperor of the French (1769-1821)
Marie-Louise of Austria, Empress of the French (1791-1847) Louis XVIII, King of France (1755-1824)
Charles X, King of France (1757-1836)
Napoleon III, Emperor of the French (1808-1873) Eugenie de Montijo, Empress of the French (1826-1920)
Frédéric Boucheron (1830-1902)
Baron von Derwies
Private collection

 

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.

 

Marie Louise Diamond suite
The French crown jewels were exhibited in the Musée du Louvre in 1884. Above, a page from the exhibition catalogue. © Bibliothèque Nationale de France

 

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.

 

auction catalogue french crown jewels 1887 photo by berthaud
A page from the 1887 French Crown Jewels auction catalogue. Photo by Berthaud. © Bibliothèque Nationale de France

 

Le Grand Mazarin was then acquired by Frédéric Boucheron, one of the most famous jewellers at that time.

 

cropped-invoice-in-the-name-of-boucheron-for-the-grand-mazarin
Invoice in the name of Boucheron for the Grand Mazarin diamond, lot 46 of the 1887 auction of the French crown jewels © Boucheron archives

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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