For gem lovers—or just about anyone with some time to kill on the Upper West Side—a visit this fall to the American Museum of Natural History’s Morgan Memorial Hall of Gems is in order. The rare Kazanijian Red Diamond made its sparkly debut there last week, a 5.05-carat emerald-cut crimson beauty with an astonishing history.
Cut from a 35-carat piece of rough discovered in Lichtenberg, South Africa in 1926 during the “diamond rush” years, the stone was initially not thought to be particularly valuable by Amsterdam-based jewelers the Godvius brothers. But upon further cutting and polishing, they uncovered a brilliant jewel that was quite literally the definition of a diamond in the rough.
During World War II, however, the diamond’s story took a turn for the worse. Kept in a safe in Arnhem, when the Nazis occupied the Netherlands in 1944, they seized it along with other valuables and sent it to Germany. Once the war ended, U.S. Army General Joseph McNarney found the red diamond in a Bavarian salt mine and believed it to be a ruby. But Louis Asscher (of Asscher cut diamond fame), commissioned to help identify war loot, identified it correctly. It spent the next few decades in various private collections, until the Kazanjian Bros. purchased it in 2007.
Only two other red diamonds of this size exist in the world today: the trilliant-cut 5.11-carat Moussaieff Red and the 5.03-carat De Young Red. To give you an idea of how much a red diamond like this is worth: at an auction in Hong Kong in 2004, a 0.91-carat red diamond was sold for just over $1 million. Red diamonds are among the rarest, and despite their relatively small size (large stones are hardly ever found), some of the most expensive diamonds.
The Kazanijan Red Diamond will be on display through March 13, 2011—visit www.amnh.org for more info.