The De Beers Diamond

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From the Archives : Originally published July 17th, 2009
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Category : Gems and Treasures





The De Beers diamond gets its name from the mine where the diamond was discovered in March 1888, the De Beers mine, one of the two mines that were dug initially on the farm belonging to Nicolas and Diederick de Beer, near Kimberley, after diamonds were discovered in this farm in the mid-1860s.


The gem weighed 428.50 old carats (old carats being the pre-1913 non-metric carat) and measured 47.6 mm through its longest axis and 38.1 mm square. After cut the De Beers diamond turned into a 234.65-carat gem, pale yellow, cushion cut diamond of unknown clarity grade. It is the 2nd largest faceted yellow diamond (disregarding the un-cut Oppenheimer) and the largest cushion-cut yellow diamond in the world. It is also the 7th largest faceted diamond in the world, not including the Nizam, a now-lost stone which is said to have been only partially cut.



Even though the country where the De Beers diamond was cut is not known precisely, it must have been at Amsterdam in the Netherlands, because around this time Amsterdam was the leading diamond cutting center in the world, and most of the diamonds mined in South Africa were eventually reaching there.


In 1928 at the request of the Maharajah of Patiala, the jewelry firm Cartier's of Paris set the De Beers diamond, as the centerpiece of a ceremonial necklace that came to be known as "Patiala Necklace," which without any doubt was one of the most spectacular pieces of jewelry ever created. In addition to the De Beers diamond weighing 234.69 carats, there were seven other big diamonds ranging from 18 to 73 carats, incorporated into the necklace. Several expensive Burmese Rubies were also placed in the necklace. In all, the necklace also contained 2,930, smaller diamonds, weighing about 962.25 carats. Had this unique jewelry masterpiece existed today, by current market values, in addition to its great historic significance which also adds to it's value, the price of this spectacular necklace, would have been beyond estimation.



The De Beers diamond was purchased by the Maharajah of Patiala, after it was displayed at an exhibition held in Paris. Patiala was a princely state in Punjab, in Northwestern India, which at the time of independence, merged with India in 1947. After the end of the Raj, the Patiala Necklace disappeared.


On May 6th, 1982, the De Beers came up for auction at Sotheby's in Geneva. It was generally thought that bidding could reach as much as $4.5 million. At the event the stone was bought when the top bid of $3.16 million remained below its undisclosed reserve.




Then in 1998, someone came upon the remnants of it in a second hand jewelry shop in London. All of the big stones were gone: seven stones ranging from 18 to 73 carats, set above a pendant, and the 234.69-carat De Beers Diamond, seventh largest in the world.



Cartier acquired the remains of the necklace and spent four years restoring it. They tried recreating the original replacing the missing diamonds.The original diamonds were of course not available including the De Beers Diamond itself. While the search for replacements continues, Cartier decided to use cubic zirconium to substitute for the seven diamonds and synthetic rubies to substitute for the original Burmese marvels. A replica of the De Beers Diamond was created and set in the necklace, but what type of synthetic material used has not been released to the press. Therefore, it is more than likely the yellow cubic zirconium was used, and another clue is that in a number of photos of the necklace, the De Beers replica casts off a number of different colors, something a synthetic yellow sapphire wouldn't do to that degree, but which a yellow cubic zirconium would.)



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