The online news portal of TV5
GENEVA - A diamond coveted by kings, queens and princes for centuries, used to reinforce alliances between nations and pawned to pay off royal debts sold for 9 million Swiss francs ($9.57 million) at Sotheby's in Geneva on Tuesday night.
The auction house called the "Beau Sancy" diamond "one of the most important historic diamonds ever to come to auction", reflecting its role in the fluctuating fortunes of Europe's royal families for more than 400 years.
"The legendary Beau Sancy is a truly magical stone that has entranced generations of royal owners and continues to exert a powerful influence over all who see it," said David Bennett, Sotheby's chairman of jewelry in Europe and the Middle East, in a statement.
No fewer than five bidders, from North America, Europe and Asia, competed for the stone, driving the price to nearly five times above its pre-sale low estimate of 1.85 million Swiss francs in an eight minute battle before it was bought by an anonymous bidder, Sotheby's said.
The buyer paid 9,042,500 Swiss francs or $9,699,618 including the buyer's premium for the diamond.
The stone, a 35-carat modified "pear-shaped double rose cut" diamond belonging to Georg Friedrich, Prince of Prussia and head of the former ruling dynasty of the German empire, had been expected to fetch $2 million to $4 million.
"You are buying an historic work of art -- you are not buying a diamond," said Philipp Herzog von Wuerttenberg, chairman of Sotheby's Europe, following the sale.
According to Sotheby's, the queen had long coveted the stone, especially after learning that de Harlay had sold a larger diamond called the Sancy, and now part of the Louvre Collection, to King James I of England.
She escaped to the Netherlands, and to settle her debts her possessions were sold. This included the Beau Sancy, which was acquired by Prince Frederick Henry of Orange-Nassau for 80,000 florins, the largest expenditure in the state budget of 1641.
Following Mary's death in 1660, the Beau Sancy was pawned to settle her debts. But in 1677 the stone reentered the Treasure of the House of Orange-Nassau following the wedding of William III to Mary II Stuart.
The couple ascended the throne of England in 1689, meaning the Beau Sancy entered the collection of the Queen of England. But since the couple had no children, the diamond returned to the Netherlands.
The diamond remained in Berlin after the last king of Prussia fled to exile at the end of World War One in November, 1918. At the end of World War Two, it was transferred to a bricked-up crypt for safe-keeping.
($1 = 0.9401 Swiss francs)