The Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond
The Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond is a 31.06-carat (6.212 g) deep-blue diamond with internally flawless clarity. Laurence Graff purchased the Wittelsbach Diamond in 2008 for £16.4 million. In 2010, Graff revealed he had had the diamond cut by three diamond cutters to remove flaws. The diamond was now more than 4 carats (800 mg) lighter and was renamed the Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond. There is controversy, as critics claim the re-cutting has so altered the diamond as to make it unrecognizable, compromising its historical integrity.
“The Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond is an object of intrigue and legend, certainly one of the great gemstones of the world,” said Jeffrey Post, curator of the National Gem Collection at the Smithsonian’s Natural Museum of History.
The truth is, there are gaps in what we know about this diamond’s genealogy, and it’s precisely this enigmatic air that makes the Wittelsbach even more alluring. The New York Times explained that the grayish blue diamond likely traveled from India to Europe sometime in the 17th century. The news source noted that many believe Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, a 17th-century traveler, and trader, is the one who brought the stone to the West. Some have also speculated the Wittelsbach and the Hope diamond may have come from the same larger rough stone, but there is still no evidence of that theory being true. Considering the fact that India was the only source of diamonds up until the 1700s, it’s safe to say that this blue stone was found there – specifically in the Golconda mines.
Early records regarding the stone’s history were destroyed during the Spanish Civil War, so there’s limited knowledge about its ownership. Nonetheless, once the Wittelsbach made its way to Europe, it passed through royal hands several times. The New York Times revealed that in 1664, King Philip IV of Spain offered the beautiful gem to his daughter, Infanta Margarita Teresa, for her dowry when she became engaged to the Emperor Leopold I of Austria. The Infanta died just 11 years later, however. Thus, the diamond was given to the King’s wife, Empress Eleanor Magdalena, who then passed it on to her granddaughter, Archduchess Maria Amelia. When Maria Amelia wed the Bavarian Crown Prince Charles Albert in 1772, the Wittelsbach diamond was incorporated into the Bavarian crown jewels, lending it an even more historically significant existence. It remained under the ownership of the House of Bavaria for over a century.
When Bavaria became a republic following World War I, the crown jewels were distributed in different directions. The Wittelsbach was put up for auction by Christie’s in London, but no buyers came forward. This is where the mystery around the diamond begins – in fact, after the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair, the stone disappeared.
A dazzling rediscovery
One question remained for years: Where did the Wittelsbach go? According to PrimeStyle, the inquiry remained unanswered until 1962, when Belgian diamond jeweler Joseph Komkommer was tasked with evaluating a mystery diamond for recutting. Imagine his surprise when he opened the package to find the Wittelsbach. Komkommer wasn’t keen on the idea of cutting it, and in fact, was worried that doing so might compromise it’s value and importance to the overall diamond industry. Therefore, he sought out a slew of interested buyers to acquire the diamond and secure its original state.
Just two years later, though, the stone was purchased by a private collector, and once again fell off the radar. The Wittelsbach diamond finally reappeared in 2008 at a Christie’s auction. It was then that billionaire jeweler Laurence Graff bought it for a record-breaking $23.4 million. Considering the fact that, according to the New York Times, the diamond was only expected to rake in $15 million, the sale certainly made headlines. At the time, the fancy grayish-blue stone weighed 35.56 carats – but not for long…