Diamond at heart of royal upheavals up for sale

Tue Feb 28, 2012 12:39pm EST
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - A diamond coveted by kings, queens and princes for centuries, used to reinforce alliances between nations and pawned to pay off royal debts goes on sale at Sotheby's in Geneva on May 15.

The auction house called the "Beau Sancy" "one of the most important historic diamonds ever to come to auction," reflecting its part in the fluctuating fortunes of Europe's royal families for more than 400 years.

The stone, a 35-carat modified "pear double rose cut" diamond belonging to Georg Friedrich, Prince of Prussia and head of the former ruling dynasty of the German empire, is expected to fetch $2-4 million.

"It's a stone that appeals to me greatly as a survivor of all those tumultuous events," said David Bennett, chairman of Sotheby's jewelry in Europe and the Middle East.

"Stones from royal collections hardly ever appear at auction. In my career this is an absolute one-off," he told Reuters by telephone from New York.

Bennett, who sold a pink diamond for $46.2 million in 2010 which was a record for any jewel at auction, said estimating the value of a stone like the Beau Sancy was difficult given its rarity.

The diamond originated from the mines in India near Golconda and was acquired by Nicolas de Harlay, Lord of Sancy, in Constantinople in the 1500s, explaining its name.

In 1604 it was bought for 75,000 livres by French king Henry IV as a gift for his wife, Marie de Medici.   Continued...