The Sancy Diamond is an unusual gem for a number of reasons. This 55.23 carat diamond is a pale yellow color and the cut is a modified brilliant in the shape of a shield. The stone itself has no pavilion, just a symmetrical pair of crowns back to back. But far more than all of these features, the Sancy Diamond is one of the most highly sought diamonds of all time, by royals and aristocrats alike. Such desirability led the diamond to vanish from the public eye numerous times.
The diamond’s history first begins in 1570 in Turkey, although the stone probably originates in India. The French Ambassador to Turkey, Nicholas Harlay the Seigneur de Sancy, purchased the diamond in Constantinople and brought it back to France. Henry III later borrowed the diamond from de Sancy as a decoration to the cap he wore to cover his baldness. Henry IV used the diamond for less vain reasons, such as collateral to secure funds to raise an army.
There is a famous story describing how a messenger of Henry IV’s was assigned to carry the diamond from destination to destination. At one time the messenger never reached his intended stop. Henry IV, convinced the messenger wouldn’t have betrayed him, conducted a search for the man until his murdered body was recovered. After an autopsy, it was discovered that the diamond was in the man’s stomach.
De Sancy sold the diamond to James I of England in 1605 where it remained until 1669. Charles I was shortly in possession of the diamond before he was beheaded in 1649 for treason against England and the Sancy Diamond was eventually passed onto his son, James II. After a terrible defeat in the battle of Boyne, James II fled to France where he sold the diamond to Cardinal Mazarin to pay off some of his debts and the diamond was handed over to Louis XIV. During the French Revolution, the Sancy Diamond was among the jewels that were lifted from the royal treasury, along with the Hope Diamond.
The diamond does not reappear again until 1828 when it was purchased by Prince Demidoff and stayed in that family until it was sold in 1865 to Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy only to disappear a year later. The Sancy Diamond resurfaced for the Paris Exposition in 1867, before dropping off the face of the earth yet again. The Sancy Diamond appeared in 1906 when it was purchased by William Astor, whose family maintained possession of the diamond until it was sold to the Louvre in 1978 and has been placed on display with the French Royal Jewels in the Apollo Gallery. The diamond has remained firmly in view ever since.
See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 of the Monday Mystery series.
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