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Top 5 most expensive diamonds: No. 2 – The Sancy

June 22, 2017/ BY Frank van Poorten

The Sancy is a light yellow diamond of 55.23 carat. This “Pale Yellow” diamond appears almost white and fluorescents even a little pinkish. The Sancy is one of the first diamonds ever cut with symmetry in the facets. Something that is really remarkable about this diamond is that it has no upper or lower edge. It was cut with two identical tops. The Sancy was never valued, which means there is no exact price attached to it. However, the combination of its beauty and the history behind it, make the Sancy truly invaluable.

There are many stories revolving around the Sancy. Which stories are true and which aren’t I cannot guarantee. However, I can tell you the ones that are most likely.

Picture of Charles the bold and the Sancy diamond

The history of the Sancy

In 1477, the special yellow diamond enters the stage for the first time. During a lost battle of Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, the stone was plundered as some sort of war trophy. The stone was presumably then brought to Portugal. Almost a century later, in 1570, the diamond rose to the surface again. The passionate diamond and gemstone collector Nicolas de Harlay, Seigneur of Sancy, got his hands on the diamond. He names the diamond and takes it back to France.

Diamond for rent

Harlay knew very well he owned a special diamond. He, therefore, decided to rent the diamond instead of selling it. The first tenant was Henry III, son of Henry II and King of France.

Picture of Henry the 3rd with the Sancy diamond

Diamond as collateral

Henry III was quite vain. He hid his baldness by wearing a hat with a diamond on it. From that moment on, the Sancy was a regular guest at the French Court. As well his successor, Henry IV, was a great admirer of the stone. With permission from the owner (Harlay), Henry IV wanted to use the diamond as collateral in order to pay his soldiers.

However, the stone never reached its place of destination. The messenger who carried the Sancy was robbed and killed. When the courier seemed to be untraceable, people started searching for him. Once they found his body, the diamond was gone. Yet, Harlay was convinced of his messenger’s loyalty. At the autopsy, however, the diamond was recovered. In his loyalty to protect the Sancy, the messenger had swallowed the stone so it wouldn’t get lost.

Picture of Charles the first with the Sancy diamond

Diamond for sale

In 1596, Sancy’s seigneur had some financial setbacks. Though it pained his heart, he decided to sell the diamond. King James I of England was very interested and bought the stone. For almost 100 years, the Sancy Diamond lives in England.

Charles I, James’s son was beheaded in 1649. His wife Henrietta Maria gave the Sancy Diamond to the Count of Worcester. The count returned it to the English court. This is how the diamond ended up in the hands of James II. After losing the disastrous Battle at Boyne in 1690, James fled with his possessions to France. And so, the Sancy returned to France again.

Picture of King Louis the 14th with Sancy diamond

The Sancy returns to France

James sought his salvation at the French court. Louis XIV was a nice and generous host, but taking care of the royal family in exile was expensive. To compensate the costs, James II sold the “Pale Yellow” to his diamond addicted cousin, King Louis XIV. He gave James 25,000 pounds for the diamond. This made an indelible impression on the seller because of the value of diamonds in a time of distress. 

The diamond was stolen again

Finally, some quiet times arrived for the stone. In 1792, at the start of the French Revolution, the quiet times abruptly came to an end. Together with some other diamonds, including the Blue Hope, the Sancy was stolen from the French treasury.

The Sancy continues to return

In 1828, the Sancy reappeared again. A French dealer sold the diamond to the Russian Prince Anatole Demidoff. The prince, later on, sold the stone in 1865 for an amount of 100,000 Franks to the French jeweler G. Bapst. Later on, the Sancy was exhibited in Paris. However, it had a new price tag: The Sancy was for sale for 1,000,000 Franks.

Picture of Nancy Astor and the Sancy diamond

In 1906, the Sancy was purchased by William Waldorf Astor. It was a wedding present for his son and his wife Nancy Langhorne. The newlywed Mrs. Astor wore the diamond often as a tiara. In 1961, the Sancy was one of the highlights of the French gemstone exhibition. In 1964, the son of the Astor family inherited the diamond. Three years later, he sold the Sancy to the Louvre, where it is still exhibited today.

The Sancy’s special color

In addition to the remarkable grinding shape, the Sancy also has a special color. The “Pale Yellow” color is caused by the presence of nitrogen atoms in the carbon from which the diamond is built. Yellow diamonds, like other colored diamonds, are quite rare and very pretty.

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