The Wittelsbach diamond is one of the very few diamonds still in existence that can claim a 17th century royal provenance along with spectacular beauty and exceptional clarity. It became known as the Wittelsbach-Graff diamond after London jeweler Laurence Graff purchased it at a Christie’s auction in 2008 for $23.4 million.
India was the world’s only known source of diamonds from 4 BC until 1723. Diamonds were mainly mined in Hyderabad before being sent to Golconda for sorting, although Bihar was the main source of high-quality blue diamonds. It is almost certainly the original source of the Wittelsbach diamond, but there is no record of its true origin. There is some speculation that the Hope diamond and the Wittelsbach both came from a larger piece of rough Bihar gemstone, but there is nothing to back that up.
For most of its existence, the Wittelsbach has been handed down from one royal family to the other. Early records of the diamond’s genealogy were destroyed sometime between 1936 and 1939 during the Spanish Civil War. The earliest documented record of its ownership was in 1664 when Philip IV of Spain added the Wittelsbach to his daughter’s dowry, the Infanta Margareta Teresa, upon her engagement to the Emperor Leopold I of Austria.
Ownership of the Wittelsbach passed over to the Emporer upon the Infanta’s early death in 1675, and he subsequently passed it along to his new wife, Empress Eleanor Magdalena. The Empress managed to outlive her husband, and bequeathed the rare blue diamond to her granddaughter, the Archduchess Maria Amelia.
Upon Maria Amelia’s marriage to the Bavarian Crown Prince Charles Albert in 1772, the diamond became a part of the House of Bavaria, then taking its name from the Wittelsbach family. It remained a part of the family fortune until 1918 when Louis III abdicated the throne after Germany became a republic. His death marked the last time the Wittelsbach diamond was associated with royalty.
The Lost Years
Louis III left his family impoverished. In 1931, the State gave permission for a selection of the Crown Jewels of the House of Wittelsbach to be sold to help their financial situation. Christie’s in London put the diamond up for auction, and this is where the Wittelsbach fell off the radar. Although speculation was rampant about the location and ownership of the diamond, nobody really knew where it was.
In 1962, a Belgian diamond jeweler by the name of Joseph Komkommer was asked to look at an older diamond with an eye to a recut of the stone. Upon opening the package, he was stunned to see the Wittelsbach. Knowing it would be a huge blow to the history of the stone and the diamond industry’s heritage to cut it, he gathered a consortium of diamond buyers to purchase the Wittelsbach. In 1964, the stone passed to a private collector.
A New Life for the Wittelsbach
The Wittelsbach diamond found itself back on the auction block at Christie’s in 2008 where jeweler Laurence Graff purchased it. Much to the shock and dismay of diamond buyers and jewelers around the globe, Graff had the stone recut to remove the nicks and scars produced by many changes to the diamond’s settings over the years.
The recut reduced the size of the diamon from 35.56 to 31.06 carats, but there were many more changes. Although the stone’s original heritage and unique cut were lost during the process, the stone’s value and ratings skyrocketed. The Gemological Institute of America changed the diamond’s grade from “fancy deep grayish-blue” to the more desirable “fancy deep blue,” and recertified its clarity from “very slightly included” (VS1) to “internally flawless” (IF).