THE REGENT DIAMOND, SYMBOL OF FRENCH GREAT NATIONS' HISTORY
Just as the Koh i Noor diamond, the Regent diamond has his roots in the old history of India, so is the diamond known as the Regent or Pitt diamond mingled with the modern history of great nations, France.
This superb diamond has been discovered in 1701 in the diamond mines at Partial, about 150 miles from Golconda in Central India. When found by a native miner, it weighted 410 carats. The gemstone was too bulky to be hidden by a person. The finder, however, solved the difficulty of its concealment by cutting his leg and hiding the diamond in the folds of cloths with which he bandaged his wound. He made his way to the coast, and realizing the danger of being found with a stolen diamond he bartered his loot in exchange for free passage to a distant land. The English skipper who made his bargain with him must have placed a sinister interpretation on the terms of the contract, for the poor slave was thrown to the sharks and the diamond sold to a Parsee merchant. The Parsee merchant was evidently a clever financier for the resold the diamond to Sir Thomas Pitt, Governor of Fort St Georges at Madras for about £20,400 (approximately the equal value of £3 million today). Although this transaction was a perfectly honourable one on the part of Sir Thomas Pitt, the implications and critics which met him upon his return to England caused him to lose no time in realizing a profit on the Pitt diamond, as it was named.
Accordingly after a reduction in weight from 410 carats in the rough to a brilliant of 143 carats trough cutting, we find the Pitt diamond sold in 1717 to the Duke of Orleans, the regent of France, who bought it for the French crown jewels for £135,000 (approximately an equal value of £18.5 million today). This famous stone, now called the Regent diamond, retained among the crown jewels of France until 1792.
In 1722, Louis XV wore the Regent diamond during his coronation. Also Marie-Antoinette wore it frequently.
The Regent was stolen in 1792 with other crown jewels from the Garde-meuble in Paris. The thieves however, found such difficulty in disposing of the well-known diamonds that it was abandoned and was found some weeks later in the ditch in the Champs-Elysées. Having suffered no loss of value through this adventure, the Regent returned to its high rank as the first jewel of France. Sometime later, it was pledged by the Republican government to Holland for money with which expenses of the Napoleonic wars were met. Saved by Napoleon, it was mounted in the hilt of his state sword. While a lot of us believe that the nicest diamonds were always worn by women, the history of the Regent Diamond proved the contrary during the Napoleonic period. Empress Marie-Louise take the Regent during her exile, but had to give it back to France and Louis XVIII. Also Empress Eugenie wore the Regent diamond set in a Greek diadem specially made for the diamond.
In 1887, the Regent escaped from the historic sale of the French Crown jewels. Some jewellers as Bapst, Tiffany & Co and Boucheron participated to the sale, to reutilise the gemstones in more modern jewellery designs.
The Regent diamond is now exhibited in the Gallerie d’Apollon of the Louvre in Paris, as a symbol of power of a great nation’s history.
Text ©World Luxury Jewellers.