diamons

Legendary, flawless 76-carat diamond could fetch more than $15 million

Oct. 12, 2012 at 11:02 AM ET

A flawless 76.02 carat diamond of noble lineage and originating from the world’s oldest and most prestigious diamond mine is expected to fetch more than $15 million when it hits the auction block this November.

“It can be hard to visualize exactly how big a 76.02 carat diamond is,” Christie’s Head of Jewelry Rahul Kadakia told TODAY.com.

“It's about the size of a quail's egg, and completely pure and clear in color,” said Kadakia, who is overseeing Christie’s highly anticipated sale in Geneva.

The diamond expert brought the gem to the TODAY show Friday along with other items up for auction, including a watch owned by Eric Clapton and a 100-carat pair of yellow and white diamond earrings.

“This thing is huge,” exclaimed host Matt Lauer as the diamond was unveiled.

“You told me not to drop it, but I said, ‘aren’t diamonds the hardest substance in the world?’” he asked.

“They are hard but they are also brittle,” Kadakia warned as the more than 400-year-old stone was passed around with care.

The colossal gem is known as the Archduke Joseph Diamond, named after its one-time owner the Archduke Joseph August of Austria, Palatine of Hungary (1872-1962).

“Do you have any nicknames for it?” Savannah Guthrie quipped, suggesting “Joe” as a possible moniker.

“We call it ‘The Big Joe’,” joked Kadakia.

Famous mine

The gem comes from India’s now closed Golconda mine, sharing its origins with the most illustrious and famous diamonds in the world, including the Koh-i-noor, in the Royal Collection at the Tower of London; the Regent, which is considered the finest diamond in the French Crown Jewels, at the Musée du Louvre in Paris; and the Hope, at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C.

Known for their special whiteness, Golconda diamonds are universally recognized as the best in the world.

The Archduke Joseph Diamond “is the finest and largest stone from the Golconda mines available for sale today,” said Kadakia.

Christie's /
The colossal diamond that Christie's will put up for auction in Geneva on November 13 was once owned by the Archduke Joseph August of Austria, Palatine of Hungary (1872-1962), and was subsequently named after him.

“$15 million is a very fair estimate and we do hope that we will achieve a new record price,” he said, adding that he expected it to go for $20 million.

Today host Lauer asked him who would bid on the diamond.

“And are they single? Just kidding...” said Guthrie.

“We would have important clients from the Middle East, museums, important agents, Asian collectors, Russian clients, so the market is very healthy right now for big diamonds,” said the Christie’s expert.

Prices soar

Prices for rare and exquisite diamonds have soared in recent years as increasing numbers of investors buy  them as collectibles.

While the Archduke Joseph Diamond appears set to make its current owner a hefty profit, it would have to sell for more than three times its expected price to become the world’s most expensive diamond sold at auction.

The current leader is The Graff Pink. The exceptionally rare 25-carat pink diamond was sold for more than $46 million in 2010 to London jeweler Laurence Graff who named it after himself.

Graff also bought the world’s second most expensive diamond in 2008 for more than $24 million. The Wittelsbach Diamond is a 17th century sky blue gem that was once given as the wedding dowry of a Spanish princess.

The sale of Elizabeth Taylor’s 33-carat diamond ring last December highlights how quickly records are being eclipsed. Given to her by her husband Richard Burton, the ring fetched $8.8 million, briefly setting a new per carat record for a colorless diamond that has already been beaten.

Noble lineage

Christie’s Kadakia told the TODAY hosts that the diamond’s Golconda heritage paired with its noble lineage were “ a very big deal.”

AFP - Getty Images /
The Archduke Joseph Diamond is

Although it is not known exactly when the diamond entered the House of Habsburg, it was officially recorded as the property of the Archduke Joseph August.

It is believed that he passed the diamond on to his son Archduke Joseph Francis in 1933 when records show him depositing it into the vault of a Hungarian bank.

An anonymous buyer purchased the stone three years later and left it in a safe during World War II, where it fortunately escaped the attention of the Nazis.

After disappearing from the world stage for decades, it reappeared at a London auction in 1961.

It was last sold at a Christie’s auction in Geneva to an anonymous buyer in 1993 for $6.5 million.

“If it does go on to make more than $15 million, that is quite a return on investment,” said diamond expert Kadakia. "In what other type of asset could you expect that kind of return over 19 years?”

Diamonds on display

Serious gem collectors and curious bling-lovers alike can view the famous stone this weekend at Christie’s in  New York City.

In addition to the Archduke Joseph Diamond, the free exhibition will feature more than 350 other precious jewels.

After its stop-over in New York, the diamond will go on display at Christie’s Hong Kong prior to landing in Geneva and going up for auction — and possibly making history  — on November 13.

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