Discover the history behind the extremely rare, internally flawless diamond with connections to one of America’s leading industrialists
Diamonds form deep within the Earth’s mantle, but the name of this extremely rare, internally flawless 54.03-carat pear-shaped diamond relates to a man who soared to great heights as one of America’s leading industrialists. He was Walter P. Chrysler, the automotive tycoon who personally funded the construction of New York’s Chrysler building – considered one of the most accomplished architectural wonders in the world. His daughter, Thelma Chrysler Foy was the distinguished owner of the diamond and a prominent figure within New York society.
A triumph of art deco style, the Chrysler skyscraper is recognised by its decorative ‘sunburst’ crown and needle-like spire. As it pierces the Manhattan skyline, it embodies Walter Chrysler’s own breakthrough achievements as a visionary force in 20th century vehicle production. Born in Kansas in 1875, he came from humble beginnings and forged a career as a skilled locomotive engineer before entering the automotive world and tripling production at General Motors’ Buick division.
His leadership qualities quickly propelled him to the pinnacle of his profession: by the mid-1920s, he was the highest-paid employee in the auto industry, at one point earning an unprecedented $1 million per year. His fortune allowed him to set up his eponymous Chrysler Corporation car company, which was headquartered at the Modernist high-rise for more than 20 years.
Chrysler’s daughter Thelma inherited her father’s love of statement art; in fact, the heiress gained a reputation as a society style icon and collector of rare antiques. According to Time magazine, she was ‘repeatedly voted among the world’s 10 best-dressed women’, thanks in no small part to her vast array of sumptuous Christian Dior gowns (many of which she bequeathed, along with other couture fineries, to the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art before her death in 1957).
She and her Texan husband Byron Foy, a longtime Chrysler executive, filled their lavish 740 Park Avenue apartment with 17th and 18th-century artefacts and Impressionist paintings by the likes of Renoir and Degas. It is not certain how or when she acquired the dazzling pear-shaped diamond. However, it has been established that the gem was at this point a heftier 62 carats, since it hadn’t yet been cut to fully maximise its highest potential clarity.
Although its origins remain ambiguous, it is possible that the stone was sourced by 17th century French gem merchant and intrepid traveller Jean-Baptiste Tavernier during a voyage to the Mughal Empire, at the behest of his patron Louis XIV. The pendant was recently certified by the GIA as a type IaB diamond, a class of stone that accounts for less than 1% of all gem-quality diamonds.
The ensuing story of this unique gem is well documented. In the hands of Harry Winston, a house that is known for showcasing only the highest quality jewels, the Chrysler gemstone – then known as the Louis XIV diamond – was recut to a D-Flawless 58.60 carats and mounted as the centrepiece of an opulent tiara along with six pear-shaped diamonds totalling 22 carats, and 233 smaller diamonds totalling 120 carats.
In 1962, the regal headpiece was displayed at the Louvre in Paris as part of the museum’s Ten Centuries of French Jewels exhibition, which also featured the legendary Hope diamond, bequeathed to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History by Harry Winston in 1958.
A year later, the Chrysler diamond was given a new lease of life when it was removed from the tiara and sold together with another 61.08 carat diamond to Canadian socialite Eleanor Loder, who wore the gemstones – which came to be known as ‘The Geminis’ – as a pair of earrings, with stones respectively cut to 54.03 and 61.02 carats. In 1983, the earrings were acquired by a private collector who re-set the Chrysler as the focal point of this dazzling necklace, set with 43 brilliant-cut pear-shaped diamonds.
Having the irresistible draw of a classic heritage stone, the Chrysler diamond has the charm of an older gemstone while still being perfectly cut and brilliant.