The Blue Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond

The Wittelsbach was a 35.56 carat Fancy Deep Grayish Blue VS2 diamond, cut with an unusual pattern of 82 facets. Since Madrid archives have been destroyed in the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939, the diamond’s earliest record dates from 1664, when it was given by Philip IV of Spain to his daughter Infanta Margareta Teresa, then 15, for her engagement to Emperor Leopold I of Austria. In, 1675 at the young age of 21, Infanta died after being weakened by too many miscarriages. Her husband inherited all her jewels and in turn, left them to his third wife, Empress Eleanor Magdalena, who passed the Great Blue Diamond to her granddaughter, Archduchess Maria Amelia.

Maria Amelia married the Bavarian Crown Prince Charles Albert in 1722, which was a turning point in the pretty uneventful history of the Blue Diamond – it became the family diamond of the House of Bavaria, the Wittelsbachs. But soon after the wedding, the Crown Prince’s father, the Elector Maximilian Emmanuel, who was in financial difficulties, borrowed money from a banker pledging the Wittelsbach Diamond. The diamond was redeemed four years later for 543,781 Guilders, but the Elector died before paying the amount and the Crown Prince – his successor – was left with the duty of paying the debt – which totaled 4,000,000 Guilders including the redemption of the diamond.

The last King of Bavaria to own the blue diamond was Louis III – who reigned until Germany became a republic in 1918. He died in 1921 and that was the last time the Wittelsbach Diamond accompanied a royalty to his final resting place. In 1931, the Wittelsbach Diamond was put to a Christie’s Auction along with other crown Jewels to financially support the royal descendants during the tough economic climate that followed World War I.

But here is where its traces become unclear – the diamond was never sold at the then-famous auction, yet never returned to its display in Munich. After years of speculations, it turns out the diamond was sold by the royal family in Brussels in 1951, then again in 1955. And although three years later it was displayed in the Brussels World Exhibition, it appears no one realized it was the missing Wittelsbach Diamond.

In 1962, a Belgium diamond dealer Joseph Komkommer was asked to examine a stone and immediately recognized the Wittelsbach Diamond. Komkommer formed a group of diamond buyers, who purchased the diamond from the trustees of an estate of an undisclosed identity. In 1964 it was bought by a private collector, and in 2008 the Wittelsbach Diamond was sold at a Christie’s auction to the famous jeweler Laurence Graff for $24.3 million.

Graff re-cut the diamond, losing 4.45 cararts, to 31.06 carats “to remove damage to the girdle and enhance the color.” It is now a Fancy Deep Blue IF (Internally Flawless).

Quite a few experts compare Graff’s actions with a renovation of a famous painting, in order to make it more modern. Yet, others claim the Hope Diamond was also re-cut to improve its color and grading, and by improving the diamond’s beauty with a more modern cut, while documenting the changes made, you can show the advances made in the art of cutting.

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