Christie’s jewellery specialist Jean-Marc Lunel describes the thrill of contact with a gem that had passed through the collections of four kings, four queens, two emperors and two empresses, before disappearing into private hands
‘One day, out of the blue, the department received a call inviting us to view an unspecified historic diamond in a private house in Europe,’ recalls Jean-Marc Lunel, senior jewellery specialist at Christie’s in Geneva. ‘When the client unwrapped a piece of old parcel paper to reveal this beautiful pink diamond in front of my colleagues Jessica Koers and Max Fawcett, they were completely stunned.’
The owner revealed that the gem was one of the famous Mazarin diamonds, bequeathed in 1661 by Cardinal Mazarin to Louis XIV. The perfect 19.07 carat pink diamond then passed through the collections of four kings, four queens, two emperors and two empresses, before disappearing into private hands. ‘Our jewellery historian Vanessa Cron began looking through old family records in order to trace the diamond’s history,’ recalls Lunel.
‘Holding such an important piece of French royal history in my hands was unbelievable. I knew this would be one of the most important stones we had ever offered’
As Lunel discovered, after spending 225 years as part of the French Crown Jewels, the stone was offered in an infamous 1887 sale, which saw the royal treasury broken up and dispersed. It had not been seen at public auction since.
‘Holding such an important piece of French royal history in my hands was unbelievable,’ he says. ‘Although Christie’s has previously had the privilege of selling pieces that were at one point part of the French Crown Jewels, I knew this would be one of the most important stones we had ever offered.
‘There was huge media interest in the stone’s rediscovery, as well as from private collectors and jewellery professionals,’ the specialist continues. ‘On the day of the auction, the atmosphere in the saleroom was incredible.’ The hammer finally fell at CHF14,375,000 / $14,463,493, underlining the stone’s allure.
Offered in the same auction was an emerald and diamond necklace by de Grisogono, set with a rectangular-cut, D-colour flawless diamond of 163.41 carats, which sold for CHF33,500,000 / $33,705,994, highlighting the demand for rare gems. ‘This year marks our 24th consecutive year as jewellery-market leaders,’ says Lunel, ‘proving that Christie’s is the world’s top destination for buying and selling important treasures.’