Bangalore: The famous 17th century Archduke Joseph diamond, which is in Europe for the past 200 years, is up for sale and stands a fair chance of being brought back to India if enough money can be raised to buy the 76-carat Golconda gem valued at Rs 250-300 crore.
The 140 year-old Bangalore-based jewellery house C Krishnaiah Chetty & Sons (CKC&Sons), is one of the three selected concessionaires (one is in U S, the second is in Europe) in the world who can sell it.
"The response has been very encouraging. We have several interested parties. We are even working on shared ownerships, consortiums and trusts. I believe as a consortium we will be able to bring the country`s legacy to be placed in some museum soon," CKS & Sons Managing Director Vinod Hayagriv told reporters.
It is important that the government of India encourages such initiatives since it is a matter of national pride and preservation of one`s culture and heritage. In the U.S., private individuals acquire heritage pieces but place these in museums for general public viewing and future generations to cherish, he said.
The diamond takes its name from Archduke Joseph August (1872-1962), a prince of the Hungarian line of the Hapsburg dynasty. The Archduke was a descendant of Emperor Leopold II, son of empress Maria Teresa.
The mention of Empress Maria Teresa may remind one of the famous Florentine diamond, one of the greatest gems of history and for many years an heirloom of the Hapsburgs.
But while the Florentine was light yellow in colour, Archduke Joseph is a colourless gem. It possesses the most notable characteristics of the finest Goldconda diamonds, namely an internal limpidity. Hence its D-colour certification.
Hayagriv, also Chairman of the All India Gems and Jewellery Trade Federation, says heritage diamonds are a rarity by any definition.The knowledge that this superb gem once belonged to an Archduke of Hapsburg, imparts an aura of intrigue to it.
According to historical records, the limpid transparency and soft luminous quality is characteristic of stones from the legendary diamond district of Golconda now in Andhra Pradesh.
Described in detail by 17th century gem merchant Jean Baptiste Tavernier in the book "Travels in India", mines of this area are believed to have been the source of many of the world`s famous diamonds such as the Kohinoor and the Regents. Unfortunately these mines were depleted in mid 18th century.
The monolith gemstone is believed to have left the Indian shores some time around 1750 and since then has been an heirloom of many European dynasties.
It is believed that Joseph August gave the diamond to his son Joseph Francis (1895-1957) at some point. Records show that in 1933 the gem was deposited in the vault of Hungarian General Credit Bank. Evidence also shows that the stone was sold in 1936 to an undisclosed buyer. During World War II, the diamond escaped the notice of the Nazis.
The whereabouts of the stone remained a mystery till it came up for an auction in London in June 1961. At that time it was believed to be the largest unmounted fine quality diamond to have ever been auctioned in Great Britain, but it was withdrawn from sale when the bidding stopped at 1,45,000 British Pounds.
Subsequently it was reported that a syndicate of Hatton Garden buyers had made an unsuccessful bid for the gem. It came for sale again at Christie`s at Geneva in November 1993 when it was sold to a private estate.
Now CKC & Sons is one of the concessionaires who can sell this incredible gem.
"Indians have to take pride in one`s heritage and restore the history and grandeur for future generations. We at CKC believe that private individuals and families should set up, run and maintain heritage museums with public participation for transparency, longevity and continuation.
"Jewellery belonging to any member of the public should also be allowed to be loaned to heritage museums and shown for short periods to influence artists, designers and photographers", says Hayagriv.