THE MAHARAJA SUNSET: A GOLCONDA DIAMOND RING BY SIEGELSON, NEW YORK
A ring with prong-set Mogul-cut golden diamond; mounted in rose gold
- 1 Mogul-cut golden diamond, weighing 49.31 carats
- Gübelin Gem Lab Diamond Report no. 13030142, dated March 27, 2013, stating that the 49.31-carat oval brilliant is fancy light brown, VVS2 clarity, type IIa.
- Gübelin Gem Lab Appendix to Diamond Report no. 11050108 stating, “The fancy light brown diamond of 49.31 ct. described in the above mentioned report displays an antique shape and cutting style which were often encountered in the 17th and 18th centuries . . . Diamonds such as this 49.31 ct. cushion-shape are endowed with distinct personality and charm which are not found in the more modern brilliant cutting styles.”
- Gemological Institute of America Diamond Grading Report no. 5151284201, dated February 27, 2013, stating that the 49.31-carat oval brilliant is fancy brown-yellow, VVS1 clarity.
- Gemological Institute of America Diamond Type Classification for Diamond Grading Report no. 5151284201 stating that the 49.31-carat oval brilliant diamond has been determined to be a type IIa diamond. “Type IIa diamonds are the most chemically pure type of diamond and often have exceptional optical transparency. Type IIa diamonds were first identified as originating from India (particularly from the Golconda region) but have since been recovered in all major diamond-producing regions of the world.”
For any jewelry connoisseur, the name Golconda evokes the richness and mystery of the legendary gems, superb in quality and transparency, discovered in the world’s earliest and richest diamond mines. First discovered in 400 B.C.E., this area in Eastern India quickly became known for producing spectacular stones, a distinction that remained true for two thousand years. In the thirteenth century, the Venetian explorer Marco Polo wrote, “No country but this [India] produces diamonds. Those which are brought to our part of the world are only the refuse, as it were, of the finer and larger stones. For the flower of the diamonds are all carried to the great Khan and other kings and princes of the region. In truth they possess all the treasures of the world.”
In the seventeenth century, renowned French diamond merchant and author of The Six Voyages, Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, returned from India with enough Golconda diamonds to merit a barony from King Louis XIV. Included in the diamonds acquired by the king was the French Blue, which Tavernier described as, “of the finest water,” referencing the gem’s unrivaled and extraordinary transparency.
Within a century after Tavernier’s visit, the Golconda mines were depleted, but they had yielded some of the most beautiful and illustrious diamonds ever unearthed including The Hope, gifted by Harry Winston to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.; the Koh-i-Noor, now part of the British Crown Jewels, mounted in the Queen Mother’s crown, in The Royal Collection at the Tower of London; and The Regent, considered the finest diamond in the French Crown Jewels, at the Musée du Louvre in Paris.
Now dormant, the importance of the Golconda mines in the history of diamonds is unparalleled. Large diamonds from this source and distinction are seldom seen today and even more rare and desirable are stones maintaining their original cut. The Maharaja Sunset, a 49.31-carat Mogul-cut golden diamond, is a superb example of a Golconda diamond.
Bhupinder Singh, Maharaja of Patiala, adorned with natural pearls and Golconda diamonds, photograph circa 1930.
A map of India in the eighteenth century, when the diamond mines were experiencing their last gasp and Louis XV ruled France. He had the 140.50-carat Regent, one of the last great stones found in the Golconda mines, set into his coronation crown.
The Maharajahs of India have been adorning themselves with jewelry for more than five thousand years. Associating gems and jewels with religious and astronomical significance has been part of their jewelry experience. The ancient Hindus saw their gem-filled subcontinent as a blessing from the gods; to them, the stone’s allure was not solely limited to beauty. The above image depicts the son of a Maharajah riding a Royal Elephant, 1910, and is illustrated in Maharajas’ Jewels by Katherine Prior and John Adamson.