The Farnese blue diamond has come to light recently after being privately kept within the same family for 300 years. It will be offered for sale by Sotheby’s in Geneva.
A wedding gift for the Queen of Spain
The diamond was originally given to the Italian-born Queen of Spain, Elisabeth Farnese, when she married King Philip V of Spain. Blue diamonds were regarded at the time as the perfect royal gift. She received the diamond from the governor of the Philippine Islands. Governors of the Spanish colonies were encouraged by the Spanish government to send wedding presents to Madrid. It was passed down to her descendants, and as they married into other European dynasties, the diamond traveled all across Europe.
For much of its history, it was kept privately in a casket by those who owned it. Few others knew of its existence.
The blue diamonds from Golconda
The pear-shaped 6.16 carat blue diamond must have come from the Golconda diamond mines in India, which were the only source of diamonds until discoveries were made in the 1720s in Brazil. The color of the diamond is similar to that of other Golconda blue diamonds such as the Hope diamond.
Golconda was known to the Europeans since the days of Marco Polo as a trading center for diamonds. A group of local mines produced some of history’s most celebrated diamonds that survive in museum collections, include the Koh-e-Nor, the Hope, and the Regent.
When a fleet of Spanish ships sailed from Cuba in 1715 carrying gold and diamonds, the ship carrying the blue diamond was the only one to survive the onslaught of a hurricane in the Gulf of Florida.
A detailed inventory of the family jewels was compiled by Maria Anna von Habsburg, wife of Elias of Bourbon, Duke of Parma. The Duke of Parma inherited the diamond from his father, Robert 1, and was the last known owner. This inventory reveals something about this diamond’s history.
Sotheby’s sale in Geneva
Sotheby’s will be offering the diamond for sale in Geneva in May 2018 on behalf of descendants of Queen Elizabeth. Its pedigree makes it one of the most historic diamonds in the world.
The upper estimate is set at 5 million Swiss francs or $5.27 million. The Chairman of Sotheby’s International Jewelry Division believes that it may sell for even more than this. In 2017, most of the jewels sold in Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels fetched more than the top estimate. Sotheby’s feel honored that they have been asked to handle the sale of the diamond.
The Farnese Blue will go on an international tour to various cities such as New York, Geneva, London, Singapore and Taipei before the auction. It can also be seen by the public when it goes on display at Sotheby’s Hong Kong showroom. The stone has existed through 300 years of European history and its sale comes at a time when interest in gems with royal provenance is at its height.