The Farnese Blue diamond sent to auction for the first time

By Rose Adams | 26 Mar 2018 | Wealth, Culture

The 6.16 carat diamond has been passed down through four of Europe’s most important royal families

img tempus
* The Farnese Blue is a 6.16 carat pear-shaped blue diamond and one of the most historic on earth [image Credit: Courtesy Sotheby’s]

The Farnese Blue, a 6.16 carat pear-shaped blue diamond and one of the most historic on earth, has emerged on the market for the first time ever, after being kept solely within the same family for more than three centuries. The opulent gem is set to be auctioned in Sotheby’s sale of Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels in Geneva on 15 May with an estimated value of £3.7m.

The historic heirloom was originally gifted to Elisabeth Farnese, Queen of Spain, following her wedding to King Philip V of Spain, and has been passed down through some of the most prominent royal families in Europe – Spain, France, Italy and Austria. What makes this rock even more special is the secrecy of its existence – only the closest royal relatives and jewellers were made aware of the diamond, which was preserved in a royal casket. Blue has often been identified as the colour of the Kings and during the 17th and 18th centuries, blue diamonds were viewed as the ultimate royal gift.

“It is difficult to put into words the excitement of holding between thumb and forefinger a gem discovered centuries ago, knowing it originated in the legendary Golconda diamond mines of India," said David Bennett, chair of Sotheby's International Jewellery Division and co-chairman of Sotheby’s Switzerland. "This stone has witnessed 300 years of European history, and in colour is reminiscent of historic Golconda blue gems such as the Hope Diamond.”

Related: Diamond expert Vashi Domínguez on why bespoke is the only form of luxury

img tempus
* The Farnese Blue, a historic 6.16-carat pear-shaped fancy dark grey-blue diamond [image credit: Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels Sotheby’s Geneva]

“With its incredible pedigree, the Farnese Blue ranks among the most important historic diamonds in the world. From the first minute I saw the stone, I could not resist its magic and as such it is a huge privilege to have been entrusted with this sale,” added Philipp Herzog von Württemberg, chairman of Sotheby’s Europe and managing director of Germany.

Since Sotheby's landmark 1987 sale of the Jewels of the Duchess of Windsor, Wallis Simpson, the diamond market has experience a continued and ever-growing interest in royal and aristocratic items. In 2007 Sotheby's held its first auction of 'Noble Jewels' in Geneva. 

Over the last decade, Sotheby’s, one of the world's largest brokers of fine and decorative art and jewellery and collectibles, has sold more than 1100 lots of this type, raising almost £200m in this category alone. Some examples of the jewels that have been sold include the Beau Sancy – a 34.98-carat modified pear double-rose cut diamond worn by Marie de Medici in 1610 which sold for £6.83m in Geneva in May 2012, and the Donnersmarck tiara, featuring 11 exceptionally rare Colombian emerald pear-shaped drops, which raised £9million in May 2011.