We publish courtesy of National Jeweler
Author: Michelle Graff
New York—The 31.06-carat fancy deep blue Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond, property of London diamantaire Laurence Graff, will linger in the United States for a bit longer.
On Thursday morning, the diamond went on display at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York City. It has its own private viewing room in the museum’s Harry Frank Guggenheim Hall of Minerals, complete with material detailing some of the storied stone’s history. It will remain at the museum through Jan. 2.
“If, as they say, diamonds are a girl’s best friend, this would be her very, very best friend,” AMNH President Ellen Futter said at a Thursday morning event at the museum marking the unveiling of the stone.
Prior to this exhibition and the diamond’s recent display at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., the Wittelsbach-Graff (above) had only been on public display once between 1931 and 2008, when Graff purchased the astounding blue stone at Christie’s London for a record $24.3 million.
Now the million-dollar question—or, in the case of this rare gem, the $24 million question—becomes: Where will the Wittelsbach-Graff go next?
Graff President and Chief Executive Officer Henri Barguirdjian, who was present at the unveiling Thursday morning, said that after the exhibition closes at the AMNH, the plan is to ship the diamond back to London. Beyond that, nothing has been determined regarding the future of this centuries-old stone.
“Mr. Graff hasn’t decided yet what the next step is,” Barguirdjian said. “A lot of people are interested (in acquiring the diamond) but it’s whether or not we decide to sell it. It’s a very special, historical stone.”
The origins of the Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond can be traced back to the mines of India in the 1600s. Its first known owner was Philip IV, King of Spain, who gifted it to his favorite daughter, Infanta Margarita Téresa, when she became engaged to Austria’s Leopold I. The young princess is perhaps best known for her depiction in the Diego Veláquez painting, “Las Meninas,” or “The Maids of Honour.”
Following her death at the age of 21, her jewels became the property of her husband Leopold, thereafter passing through subsequent marriages and eventually ending up in Bavaria’s ruling House of Wittelsbach in the 18th century. It was here that the diamond earned its original moniker.
After World War I, the members of the ruling House of Wittelsbach lost ownership of the diamond. It eventually resurfaced in 2008, when Graff bought it at Christie’s and affixed his name to the diamond. He re-polished the stone to remove chips and nicks, bringing it to its current carat weight of 31.06 and making it of flawless clarity.
At Thursday’s unveiling, George Harlow, curator of the exhibit and the museum’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, noted that the Wittelsbach-Graff is a Type IIb diamond, meaning there is no measurable nitrogen in the stone but boron is present. Nitrogen is the element that can give diamonds a yellowish cast while boron makes them blue.
He said there are very few known blue diamonds in the world of comparable size and color saturation. Others include the 45.52-carat Hope Diamond and the 30.62-carat Blue Heart.
The Wittelsbach-Graff and the Hope, also a Type IIb diamond, were simultaneously on display at the Smithsonian for a short time. While it is was once thought that the two stones could have come from the same piece of rough, scientists at the Smithsonian were able to dispel that theory.