Diamond jamboree as Bonnie Prince Charlie’s gem auctioned off

The Beau Sancy diamond has never been owned by a non-royal. Picture: Getty
The Beau Sancy diamond has never been owned by a non-royal. Picture: Getty
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A YELLOW diamond brooch once owned by Bonnie Prince Charlie and a rare stone worth £3 million are among jewels going under the hammer at auction today.

The diamond, which was given to the illustrious Corsini family by the pretender to the throne during his time in exile, is part of the brooch expected to fetch up to £300,000 in the sale in Geneva.

However, perhaps the most significant piece in Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels sale is the 35-carat Beau Sancy diamond.

Passed down through the centuries on to the crowns of monarchs in France, England, the Netherlands and Prussia, the diamond forms part of the gems collection owned by queens, film stars and billionaires that is being sold off.

David Bennett, one of the sellers at Sotheby’s, said: “The Beau Sancy is one of the most fascinating and romantic gems ever to appear at auction. One client I showed it to was moved to tears by it.”

The pear-shaped diamond’s royal connections date back to 1604, when it was bought for Henri IV of France at the insistence of his wife Marie de Medici who wore it atop her crown at her coronation.

Later that century it was acquired by the Dutch and used to seal the wedding of Willem II of Orange Nassau to Mary Stuart, daughter of Charles I of England. Stuart pawned the rose-cut gem to finance her brother Charles II’s fight for the throne.

In 1702, the first king of Prussia gave it pride of place in the new royal crown and it has passed through generations of the House of Prussia until today.

“We’ve sold much larger diamonds, but it has this wonderful romantic history, an unparalleled royal history – it has never been in non-royal hands,” said Mr Bennett.

The two-day auction opened yesterday with the sale of the jewellery collection of Suzanne Belperron, one of the most influential jewellery designers of the 20th century, who died in 1983.

Also featuring is the diamond brooch given by Bonnie Prince Charlie to the Florentine Corsini family.

The brooch features a 7.33-carat yellow diamond within a border of near-colourless “cushion-shaped” diamonds.

The prince’s attempts to regain the British throne for the Stuart dynasty failed, and following the Battle of Culloden in 1745 he went into exile in France and Italy, where he is thought to have offered the gem to the Corsini family in gratitude for their support.

Meanwhile, a collection of 70 jewels belonging to billionaire philanthropist Lily Safra was auctioned for charity yesterday.

Brazil-born Safra, 77, was married to the Jewish-Lebanese banker Edmond Safra who died in a blaze at his Monte-Carlo penthouse in 1999.

The Elton John AIDS foundation and a children’s hospital in Israel are among 20 charitable institutes to benefit from the sale of the gems, many of them created specially for Safra by renowned Paris jeweller JAR.