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Museum to Display Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond in 2010

Dec 15, 2009 7:39 AM   By Jeff Miller
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RAPAPORT...  The Smithsonian Institution will display the Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond at its National Museum of Natural History from January 28, 2010 through August 1, 2010. This will be the first time it has been available to the public in more than 50 years. A 31.06-carat diamond of rare deep-blue color, the Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond will be exhibited in the National Gem Collection in the Hall of Geology, Gems and Minerals, where the renowned Hope Diamond is on permanent display.

"The Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond is an object of intrigue and legend, certainly one of the great gemstones of the world," said Jeffrey Post, the curator of the National Gem Collection. "We are thrilled to present this icon of history — and gemology — to the public for the first time since it was displayed at the Brussels World's Fair in 1958."

The Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond has an illustrious history, dating back to 1664, when it was given by Philip IV of Spain to his daughter, the Infanta Margarita Teresa, upon her engagement to Emperor Leopold I of Austria. In 1722, the diamond passed to the Wittelsbachs, who were members of the ruling House of Bavaria; it was here that the diamond derived its name. After World War I, Bavaria became a republic and the crown jewels of the House of Wittelsbach were eventually sold at a Christie's auction in 1931.

In an incident that has never fully been explained, however, the Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond disappeared before the auction and was replaced by a worthless piece of blue, cut glass. The actual Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond resurfaced in Belgium in 1951 and was eventually displayed — without attribution — at the World Exhibition in Brussels in 1958. The diamond was correctly identified in 1962 by Joseph Komkommer, a Belgian gem expert.

In December 2008, the 35.56-carat stone was acquired by Laurence Graff for $24.3 million at an auction in London. Graff's expertise in gemology enabled him to see the potential in repolishing the stone, bringing more life and color to it, while also making it internally flawless. The process brought the stone to its current, lower weight of 31.06 carats. Throughout the very delicate process of repolishing this famous stone, great care and attention was taken to retain its original features. Since then, it has achieved the top certification of internally flawless, type IIb, deep-blue. According to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), the diamond "is the largest, flawless or internally flawless, fancy deep blue, natural color we have graded to date."

"To have two of the world's most historical stones — the Wittelsbach-Graff and the Hope Diamond — displayed together, is a testament to the stones' history and importance," said Graff, the chairman of Graff Diamonds International Ltd. "I believe the diamond's appearance at the Smithsonian will represent another significant chapter in its remarkable history."

As a rare blue diamond from the 17th century, the Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond's properties suggest a possible link to the same mines in India that produced the 45.52-carat Hope Diamond, which is recognized as the most near-perfect example of a blue diamond in existence.

"During the Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond's residence at the museum, special tests will be conducted by our research team in the Smithsonian's state-of-the-art laboratories to determine whether these two gemstones share a provenance," said Post. "Whether or not the Hope Diamond and the Wittelsbach-Graff Diamonds are related, the most important thing for our visitors is that they will have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to view the two most extraordinary blue diamonds in the world."

More information about the museum is available at www.mnh.si.edu.

LH

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Tags: Belgium, GIA, Graff, India, Laboratories
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