The Property of


Set with a detachable cushion-shaped diamond weighing 78.54 carats to the plain hoop (with diamond fittings to be worn as a pendant with lot 637)

With certificate 8357326 dated 29/6/1993 from the Gemological Institute of America stating that the diamond is D colour, SI1, accompanied by a working diagram indicating that the diamond is potentially flawless with probable weight loss

Historical diamonds are seldom offered at auction. The knowledge that this magnificent 78.54 carat gem once belonged to an Archduke of the great dynastic house of Habsburg adds an extra edge of excitement to this sale.

Graded as D colour, with SI1, potentially flawless clarity by the Gem Trade Laboratory of the Gemological Institute of America, the Archduke Joseph Diamond has that limpid transparency and soft luminescent quality that is described as "Golconda" by experienced diamond dealers. This almost undefinable water-clear appearance is characteristic of stones from the legendary diamond district of Golconda in India, in what would now be the state of Hyderabad. Described in detail by the seventeenth-century gem merchant, Jean Baptiste Tavernier, in his book "Travels in India", the mines of this area are believed to have been the source of many of the world's famous diamonds such as the Koh-i-Noor and the Regent. Unfortunately, these mines were depleted in the mid-eighteenth century. No other sources have been found that produce diamonds exhibiting this limpid transparency.

The beautiful elongated cushion-shaped stone derives its name from its first known owner, Joseph August Victor Clemence Maria, Archduke of Austria and Palatinate of Hungary, great-grandson of Emperor Leopold II of the House of Habsburg, one of the primary ruling dynasties of Europe. (The title of Archduke was given to all Habsburg sons except the principal heir who became the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.) The House of Habsburg ruled over the elective monarchies of Austria, Bohemia and Hungary from the fifteenth to the twentieth century. Archduke Joseph August (1872-1962) distinguished himself as a field marshall during World War I and was named first Regent of Hungary, a position that he held until he was forced to resign under pressure from the Allies. At this time, Archduke Joseph August retired from active politics, though he still became a member of the Upper House of Parliament, and involved himself in the cultural aspects of Hungarian society. He became an honarary member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and acted as its president from 1936-1944. With the occupation of Hungary by the Soviet troops at the end of World War II, Archduke Joseph August emigrated to the United States and lived out his days in exile.

It is believed that Joseph August gave the diamond to his son, Joseph Francis (1895-1957) at some point. Records show that in 1933 the gem was deposited in the vault of the Hungarian General Credit Bank. Evidence also shows that the stone was sold in 1936 to an undisclosed buyer. During World War II, the diamond escaped the notice of the Nazis and has been maintained discretely from 1936 to the present.

The lack of concrete information about the Archduke Diamond is tantalizing. That we only know a few details imparts an extra aura of mystery to this superlative gem. Perhaps it is just as well not to know more. For, even as the threads that we do have provide us with a tangible link to historic figures and events, we can nevertheless embellish the story in fantasy, imagining exotic evenings among the royal heads of Europe at which this diamond may have been worn and admired.

Elise B. Misiorowski
Librarian, Gemological Institute of America

Further details

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