23 October 2017

On the Block: Le Grand Mazarin at Christie's

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Next month, one of the most important gems from the former French crown jewel collection will be sold at Christie's in Geneva. The Grand Mazarin, an old mine brilliant-cut diamond with a pale pink color that weighs in at 19.07 carats, was owned by generations of French kings and emperors.




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The diamond takes its name from Cardinal Mazarin, the Italian-born Chief Minister to Kings Louis XIII and Louis XIV. Mazarin was a wealthy man and a lover of gemstones, and toward the end of his life, he amassed an astonishing collection of diamonds. Numbering eighteen stones in all, the cache included several stones that had once belonged to European royals, including Scottiah and English monarchs from the House of Stuart. Eight of the stones were square-cut diamonds, and the Grand Mazarin was the largest of that set. The Grand Mazarin is said to have been sourced from one of the greatest diamond mines of all time: the Golconda mine in India, which also produced the Koh-i-Noor Diamond and the Regent Diamond.


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When Cardinal Mazarin died in 1661, he bequeathed his eighteen diamonds to King Louis XIV. Both Louis and his wife, Maria Theresa, wore the Grand Mazarin. The diamond was stolen during the revolution in 1792, but it was later recovered, and Napoleon had it set in a magnificent tiara made for his second wife, Marie Louise.


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By 1887, France had divested itself of kings and emperors for good. The crown jewels were exhibited at the Louvre Museum and subsequently sold at auction. In the sale, the Grand Mazarin was purchased by Frederic Boucheron, founder of the famed French jewelry house. Since then, the diamond has been in the hands of private collectors -- until now.


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The diamond, which was most recently part of a private collection in Europe, will be sold at auction at Christie's on November 14. The estimate for the historic lot remains unpublished, available only on request, but press reports suggest that the diamond is expected to fetch between six and nine million dollars. I think I'm one of many who hopes that the diamond will be purchased by the Friends of the Louvre Museum, a group that has helped reunite other pieces from the crown jewel collection with the museum. The Grand Mazarin could join other diamonds from the Mazarin collection, including the important Sancy Diamond and two diamonds currently set in a corsage ornament that belonged to Empress Eugenie. Fingers crossed!