Famous Diamonds: the Story of the Sancy Diamond

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The story of the Sancy diamond, which is on display at the Apollo Museum in Paris.

No other diamond has had such a confused history or so many previous owners as the Sancy diamond. The diamond is pear shaped, light yellow in color, brilliant cut and originates from India. It isn’t the largest diamond in the world by a long shot at 55.23 carats. But it has proven to be one of the most desirable diamonds for numerous reasons during it’s more than four hundred and forty year history.

It’s also appropriate that its story begins and ends in France. Although these days it is available for the general public to view and it is not only a treasure for the elite. Much of the history of the Sancy diamond is speculative or unknown. For this reason I have based my article on documented evidence rather than possible mythology.

The Sancy diamond is named after Nicolas Harlay de Sancy. Sancy was the French royal ambassador to Switzerland in 1575. Apart from being a politician and diplomat he was also a financier and lawyer. It is unknown where and when Sancy purchased the diamond, however it is known that Sancy sold the diamond, along with other gemstones to King Henry III of France in January 1589. The diamond was taken to England by the French ambassador ( brother of Sancy) M.de Monglat, and sold to James I for 60,000 ecus. The diamond is documented as being part of the crown jewels at the Tower of London on the March 22 1605.

Charles I of England.

In 1625 James I successor Charles I inherited the crown jewels, including the Sancy. However he desperately needed armament to fight a conflict between the royalists and parliamentarians. So he asked his royal consort Queen Henrietta Maria to go to the Netherlands, taking along with her the Sancy and other jewels to negotiate the purchase of ammunition. She was unsuccessful but did manage to contract loans with the Duke of Epernon a wealthy French nobleman. When the loans could not be paid back the duke retained the Sancy diamond. The duke sold the Sancy to Cardinal Mazarin who was minister of the crown of France in 1642. Mazarin was also a wealthy land owner and patron of the arts. After he died the Sancy and another famous diamond called the Mirror of Portugal were bequeathed from Mazarin’s estate to the French crown.

 Queen Henrietta Maria: the consort queen.

In 1722 the Sancy and the regent diamond were set in the crown of Louis XV for the king’s coronation ceremony. The regent diamond was considered the principle diamond in the French crown. After the French revolution and the execution of King Louis XVI in 1793, the Sancy diamond was pawned to the Marques of Iranda in Madrid for the sum of 1,000,000 Francs. Prince Nicholas Demidoff who was a wealthy Russian industrialist, bought the Sancy for an unknown sum. His son Paul Demidoff inherited the Sancy who then gifted the diamond to his Finnish bride Aurora Stjernvall,( Aurora Karamzina) as was a Nordic wedding custom. Paul Demidoff died in 1840; his wife who was a philanthropist and supporter of charities then remarried and lived in Helsinki. It’s not known what happens at this point, however the Sancy reappears in 1867 at the exhibition of Paris where it was exhibited by the French jeweler Bapst.

Aurora Karamzina owned the Sancy diamond in the early eighteen hundreds.

The Sancy was bought by Sir Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy, an Indian businessman who had the diamond until 1880’s. Jejeebhoy sold the sancy to Lucien Falize, an archeologist and historian. In 1892 the Sancy was bought by William Waldorf Astor (the American minister for Italy) for his wife. Waldorf became a British citizen and eventually Viscount Astor. His wife became Lady Astor and their daughter-in-law became the first woman member of parliament at the House of Commons in 1919. The Sancy was first exhibited at the Louvre in 1962 together with the Hope and Regent diamonds. The fourth Viscount Astor sold the Sancy to the Banque de France and Musees de France in 1978 for 1 million dollars. The Sancy diamond is now exhibited along with the Regent and Hortensia Diamonds at the Gallerie d’ Apollon in Paris.

Photo's from commons.wikimedia.com and flicker.com

1 comment

Dr. Johnson C Philip
Posted on Apr 22, 2010