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Video: Spectacular! 31-carat diamond on display

  1. Transcript of: Spectacular! 31-carat diamond on display

    NATALIE MORALES, anchor: All right. Well, switching gears here, if diamonds are a girl's best friend, this one certainly takes the cake. It's a 31.06 caret Wittelsbach - Graff diamond. And starting on Thursday it's going to be on display at the American Museum of Natural History here in New York , and Henri Barguirdjian is the president and CEO of Graff Holdings . Henri , good morning. So nice to have you here.

    Mr. HENRI BARGUIRDJIAN: Good morning. Thank you for having me.

    MORALES: This is quite the rock here, as we take a look. It's absolutely just perfect. Give me a little bit of the history of this.

    Mr. BARGUIRDJIAN: Well, it's a very special stone. It was discovered in the late 1600s , sold to the kind of Spain , who gave it to his daughter when she married Emperor Leopold of Austria as part of her dowry. Then it passed through various German royal family, it became the crown jewel of Bavaria , hence the name Wittelsbach .

    MORALES: Mm-hmm.

    Mr. BARGUIRDJIAN: And after the war, all sorts of things happened to it. It went to an auction, it was stolen, disappeared, found again in 1958 .

    MORALES: Wow.

    Mr. BARGUIRDJIAN: Sold privately, and we bought it two years ago at auction, and here we are.

    CURRY: And so you're now auctioning it off, is that what's happening?

    MORALES: Displaying it.

    Mr. BARGUIRDJIAN: No, no, no. We bought it at an auction.

    CURRY: Uh-huh .

By
TODAY
updated 10/25/2010 9:58:44 AM ET 2010-10-25T13:58:44

Diamonds are a girl’s best friend, but if she could choose a lifelong companion, it would have to be the extraordinary 31.06 carat Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond.

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The rare blue diamond, which is going on display Thursday at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, boasts a famous history. Its past owners include King Philip IV of Spain, who used it as part of a dowry for his teenage daughter, Margaret Teresa, in 1664. It went through several royal families and millionaires before going into private hands in 1964. The diamond reappeared to the public in 2008 at an auction, when it was purchased by billionaire diamond dealer Laurence Graff for roughly $23.4 million — the highest price ever paid at auction for a diamond at the time.

The glittering gemstone made an appearance on TODAY, where it was held by TODAY host Natalie Morales. “This is quite the rock here,” said Morales. “It’s absolutely just perfect.”

According to the Gemological Institute of America, the diamond is “the largest Flawless or Internally flawless, Fancy Deep Blue, Natural Color we have graded to date.”

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For a long time, experts wondered whether the diamond was cut from the same stone as the famous 45-carat Hope Diamond, but recent comparisons suggest that the theory is unlikely. Either way, such large rare stones comprise less than one in 10,000 of all diamonds found in nature.

The Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond was originally even bigger. At the time of purchase, the diamond was 35.56 carats, but in January 2010 it was reported that Graff had it recut to improve its color and remove chips and bruises. With its renovations, it lost 4.45 carats, a move that came under heavy criticism. “That stone has a pedigree that is incomparable,” Daniela Mascetti, a senior global specialist in jewelry at Sotheby’s, told the New York Times in January 2010. “The Wittelsbach blue, you knew how it came into existence and in a rather exciting way ... It is a shame to have altered what has been preserved for so many years.”

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Graff, however, compared his renovations to those in the art world. “If you discovered a Leonardo da Vinci with a tear in it and covered in mud, you would want to repair it,” Graff said in an interview with the BBC. “We have similarly cleaned up the diamond and repaired damage caused over the years.”

Even with a few carats shaved off, the Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond remains an impressive beauty, one that the public can now enjoy. “I decided that to create beauty, or acts of beauty, is not a sin,” Graff said. “All we did was remove the blemishes and now it’s true perfection.”

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Photos: All that glitters

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  1. Precious petals

    Diamond and colored gemstone jewels, including a yellow diamond necklace estimated to be worth $2 million to $3 million, will go on the block at Sotheby's "Magnificent Jewels" auction in New York on April 20, 2010.

    This ruby and diamond flower brooch, originally from Van Cleef & Arpels, Paris, in 1967, contains round and baguette diamonds weighing approximately 4.05 carats. The petals are "mystery-set" with calibre-cut rubies, mounted in platinum and 18 karat gold. Van Cleef & Arpels created the mystery setting technique, in which prongs are concealed beneath the gems they hold.

    Estimated value: $60,000 to 80,000 (Courtesy of Sotheby's) Back to slideshow navigation
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    The major highlight of Sotheby's Magnificent Jewels auction will be pieces from the collection of Virginia winemaker and philanthropist Patrcia Kluge, including this platinum, sapphire and diamond ring. The cushion-shaped sapphire, weighing approximately 21.30 carats, is framed by round and single-cut diamonds weighing approximately 5.7 carats.

    Estimated value: $200,000 to $300,000 (Courtesy of Sotheby's) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Diamonds are forever

    The Sotheby's Magnificent Jewels auction will include a pair of earclips set with oval sapphires framed by old mine diamonds weighing approximately 10.75 carats; they are estimated to be worth $100,000 to $150,000. Also on the block: A necklace composed of emerald beads accented by round diamonds weighing approximately 43 carats. It is estimated to bring $150,000 to $200,000. (Courtesy of Sotheby's) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Birds of a feather

    Crafted around 1940, this brooch depicts birds in flight. The wings are set with segments of cabochon moonstones, accented by round and single-cut diamonds and calibré-cut rubies.

    Estimated value: $25,000 to $35,000 (Courtesy of Sotheby's) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Dazzling diamonds

    Sotheby's believes this to be the first necklace set entirely with fancy-vivid yellow diamonds ever to appear at auction. The 42 diamonds weigh a total of 100.17 carats.

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  6. Pear-shaped pair

    These pendant earrings feature pear-shaped emeralds weighing 10.58 and 9.76 carats, and diamonds weighing approximately 2.50 carats, mounted in platinum.

    Estimated value: $350,000 to $450,000 (Courtesy of Sotheby's) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. On the watch

    This pendant watch takes the form of a jardiniere (a decorative receptacle for plants). It includes platinum, rubies, sapphires, emeralds and diamonds. The watch, an oval dial with Arabic numerals, is on the reverse side.

    Estimated value: $30,000 to $50,000 (Courtesy of Sotheby's) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Costly cat

    This bangle bracelet is in the shape of a coiled panther. It is composed of carved boulder opal segments, accented by round diamonds weighing approximately 3 carats, cabochon rubies and sapphire, and emerald eyes.

    Estimated value: $40,000 to $60,000 (Courtesy of Sotheby's) Back to slideshow navigation
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    Dating to about 1890, this brooch/hair ornament is in the shape of a flying swallow. It has diamonds applied with white enamel, mounted in 10 karat gold.

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  10. Verdant valuable

    This Tiffany bracelet, dating to about 1925, includes emeralds weighing 39.60 carats, spaced by square emerald-cut diamonds weighing approximately 9.50 carats, mounted in platinum.

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  1. Courtesy of Sotheby's
    Above: Slideshow (11) All that glitters
  2. Image: Junrey Balawing, Reynaldo Balawing, Craig Glenday, Filomeno Sy
    Bullit Marquez / AP
    Slideshow (48) Guinness World Records 2011

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