The Archduke Joseph
The 76.02 carat Archduke Joseph is unquestionably one of the world's most famous diamonds. The sparkling, flawless stone will be auctioned at Christie’s in Geneva – and is expected to bring a price of between 15 and 20 million dollars.
The Archduke Joseph diamond is one and a half centimeters thick, and a stone of exceptionally rare quality. After pre-auction showing in New York and Hong Kong, the flawless, crystal-clear gem will be auctioned at the Christie’s ‘Magnificent Jewels’ auction in Geneva.
Famous namesake, shadowy history
The truth about gems like the Archduke Joseph diamond often becomes difficult to seperate from the mystery and controversy that they inevitably end up shrouded with. Such stones tend to disappear for decades in safes belonging to various anonymous owners, and this is exactly what happened with the Archduke Joseph diamond. In 1993, it brought a price of 6.5 million dollars, at Christie's and has changed hands between unamed owners at least once since then. Known for their strict discretion, Christie's will ensure that the identity of the current owner remains equally as much of a mystery as that of the previous one. One thing is certain about the years since it was available ahowever: Alfred J. Molina (owner of Molina Fine Jewelers in Phoenix, Arizon) bought the Archduke Joseph diamond in 1999 and gave it a new cut. It lost 2.5 carats in the process, but gained the highest possible brilliance. Singer Celion Dion wore the Archduke Joseph diamond mounted in a diamond chain in 2002 for a TV appearance, as did actress Laura Elena Harring for her appearance at the Oscar ceremony.
The stone once belonged to Archduke Joseph August of Austria (of the house of Habsburg-Lothringen), who gave it its name. In 1893, the great uncle of Austrian Kaiser Leopold II and French King Louis Phillipe married Wittelsbach princess Auguste Maria Louise of Bayern, grand-daughter of Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph, and Empress Sisi. The pair lived in Budapest, throwing glamorous balls in the Hungarian capital. The Archduke later gave the diamond to his song Joseph Franz, who deposited it in a Hungarian bank in 1933 before the family fled the country in the 1940s. Three years later, the diamond was sold to an anonymous buyer and deposited in a French bank safe, whereupon it disapeared for over two decades. It was 1961 before it appeared for the first time at auction in London.
How and when this exceptional diamond fell into the hands of the Archduke remains something of an unsolved mystery. All that is certain is that the stone originated in the legendary Kollur mines (closed in the 18th century) near the ghost town of Golkonda in central India. It shows the typical unique transparency that characterizes diamonds from these mines. Many legendary diamonds can be traced back to the Golkonda mines, including the Koh-i-Noor (part of the British crown jewels), the Regent diamond owned by the French kings, and the Hope diamond (that formed the inspiration for the “Heart of the Ocean” diamond in the film Titanic).