The 17th century French merchant and adventurer, Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, was among the first to be intrigued by fancy coloured diamonds. In 1669, he sold the ‘Tavernier Blue Diamond’, also called the ‘French Blue’, to Louis XIV. In the first half of the 17th century, he was the first who made a reference to pink diamonds. Moreover, in 1642, he mentioned a very large rough pink diamond, weighing over 200 carats, shown to him by Moghuls in the Kingdom of Golconda. This diamond, named ‘The Grand Table’ and valued at 600,000 rupees at the time, is still the largest pink diamond recorded to date. The French merchant also purchased two pale pink diamonds around 1668 and drew pictures of the stones in his travel book.
Since the 17th century, the value of coloured diamonds increased considerably. Fancy coloured diamonds are rarer than their near colourless counterparts as their hues come from a disturbance during the formation process of the stone deep in the earth. For all coloured diamonds except pinks, the colour comes from trace elements that interfere during the formation of the crystal. A diamond is composed of pure carbon; it is the intrusion of another atom that causes the colour: nitrogen for yellows, boron for blues. Concerning pink diamonds, the colour is a consequence of a distortion of the crystal structure during the formation of the stone.
Although other rare coloured diamonds, such as pink and red, are found in India, Brazil and Australia, blue diamonds are primarily recovered from the Cullinan mine in South Africa.
‘Apollo and Artemis’
“Leto bore Apollon and Artemis, delighting in arrows,
Both of lovely shape like none of the heavenly gods,
As she joined in love to the Aegis-bearing ruler”.
Hesiod, Theogony, 7th century BC, lines 918–920
In Greek mythology, Leto (Latona in Latin), daughter of the Titans Coeus and Phoebe, had a liaison with Zeus and became pregnant with twins. When Hera, wife of Zeus, discovered this, she forbade Leto from giving birth on terra firma, the mainland, any island or any place under the sun. Leto eventually found the barren floating island of Asterios, later named Delos, which was neither mainland nor a real island, and gave birth there, promising the island wealth from the worshippers who would flock to the obscure birthplace of the splendid god who was to come. Leto gave birth to Artemis, the elder twin, without difficulty, but she laboured for nine nights and nine days with Apollo, according to Homer.
Artemis, Diana for the Romans, became one of the most venerated of the Ancient Greek deities. She was the goddess of the hunt, wild animals, wilderness, childbirth, virginity and protector of young girls. She was often depicted as a huntress carrying a bow and arrow, and deer and cypress were sacred to her.
Apollo is one of the most important of the Olympian deities in classical Greek and Roman mythology. The ideal of the kouros, he has been recognised as the god of music, truth and prophecy, healing, the sun and light, and poetry. In Hellenistic times, as Apollo Helios, he became identified among Greeks with Helios, Titan god of the sun, and his sister Artemis similarly equated with Selene, Titan goddess of the moon.
These magnificent fancy coloured diamonds are so exceptional that they deserve to be named after a god and goddess. Moreover, as the stones are quite similar in shape, dimension and weight, the names of a twin brother and sister are justly appropriate.
‘The Apollo Blue’
Some of the earliest and most historical blue diamonds, such as the Hope and Idol’s Eye, are believed to have originated in the ancient mines of India. In more recent times, the only mine to produce blue diamonds with any regularity is the Cullinan mine in South Africa. When in full production, less than 0.1% of diamonds sourced showed any evidence of blue colour, according to the Gemological Institute of America.
“Thomas Cullinan discovered the Cullinan mine in 1902, which at that time was named the Premier mine. Established on the second largest kimberlite pipe by inherent value, the Premier mine gained immediate prominence as a quality producer of large colourless diamonds and also rare blue diamonds. Annual production from the Premier mine was the largest in the world for the mine’s first decade of operation. Perhaps one of the greatest finds in the mine’s history is the Cullinan diamond. The Cullinan diamond is the largest colourless diamond ever discovered with a weight of 3,106 carats which has since been cut and polished into nine major stones, including 96 minor stones. Two of them currently reside within the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom”.
Excerpt from the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles website
The Cullinan I weighing 530.20 carats and the Cullinan II weighing 317.40 carats are set in the Royal sceptre and the Imperial State Crown of the United Kindgom. The Cullinan mine is also the source of several important blue diamonds: the ‘Blue Heart’, a 30.62 carat Fancy Deep Blue gem discovered in 1908, now at the Smithsonian Institution, the 27.64 carat Fancy Vivid Blue ‘Heart of Eternity’, unveiled by Steinmetz in 2000, and the ‘Blue Moon of Josephine’, a superb 12.03 carat Fancy Vivid Blue stone sold for a record price per carat for any gemstone at USD 48.5 million (USD 4 million per carat) at Sotheby’s Geneva in November 2015.
“According to the records of the GIA Laboratory, the 14.54 carat Pear Brilliant diamond has been determined to be a type IIb diamond. Type IIb diamonds are very rare in nature (from our experience, less than one half of one percent) and contain small amounts of boron that can give rise to a blue or grey colouration… Historically, the ancient mines of India produced occasional blue diamonds but today the most significant source is limited to the Cullinan (formerly Premier) Mine in South Africa.
Among famous gem diamonds, the 70.21 carat Idol’s Eye and the 45.52 carat Hope are examples of type IIb”.
Excerpts from the GIA type IIb classification letter
Fancy coloured diamonds are exceedingly rare in nature, but the intensity of the colour is also an important quality of the stone. The Gemological Institute of America grades fancy coloured diamonds as such: Faint, Very Light, Light, Fancy Light, Fancy, Fancy Intense, and Fancy Vivid. Fancy vivid colours are the most sought-after. The amazing stone offered in this auction displays a very bright and deep fancy vivid blue colour. Even in the category “Fancy Vivid”, one can find different levels of intensity; the saturation and hue of this stone are absolutely mesmerising.
“Diamonds obtain their colour from so-called “colour centres”. They are single or multiple non-carbon atoms that replace carbon in the structure of the diamond, causing a disturbance in the structure and sometimes giving rise to the colour. The distinctive blue colour in diamonds is attributed to trace amounts of the element boron in the crystal structure. Minute traces of boron are required to create the colouration. Less than one boron atom per million carbon atoms is sufficient to produce the blue colouration”.
Excerpt from the Natural History Museum website
Blue attracts and fascinates people and this is no exception when occuring in a diamond. Fancy vivid blue diamonds have a beauty that is incomparable to that of any other gem. They are greatly admired and eagerly sought after by collectors and connoisseurs alike.
Often the blue colour is not evenly distributed, and on occasion almost entirely absent, therefore it is a professional challenge for the diamond cutter to encapsulate a beautiful pure even blue colour. He will spend months studying the rough in order to guarantee the greatest standards of proportionality, colour and beauty, and to bring out this captivating colour, making fancy vivid blue one of the nature’s rarest endowments of colour in diamonds.
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