Sunday, July 19, 2009

Nassak Diamond

Nassak Diamond

The Nassak Diamond (also known as the Nassac Diamond[2] and the Eye of the Idol[3]) is a large, 43.38 carats (8.68 g) diamond that originated as a larger diamond in the 15th century in India.[4] Found in the Amaragiri mine located in Mahbubnagar, Andhra Pradesh, India,[5] and originally cut in India, the diamond adorned the statue of Shiva in the Trimbakeshwar Shiva Temple, near Nashik, in the state of Maharashtra, India from at least 1500 to 1817.[4] The British East India Company acquired the diamond through the Third Anglo-Maratha War and sold it to British jewelers Rundell and Bridge in 1818.[4] Rundell and Bridge recut the diamond in 1818,[6] after which it made its way into the handle of the 1st Marquess of Westminster's dress sword.[4]
The Nassak Diamond was imported into the United States in 1927, and was considered one of the first 24 great diamonds of the world by 1930.[4] American jeweler Harry Winston acquired the Nassak Diamond in 1940 in Paris, France and recut it to its present flawless 43.38 carats (8.68 g) emerald cut shape.[7] Winston sold the diamond to a New York jewelry firm in 1942. Mrs. William B. Leeds of New York received the gem in 1944 as a sixth anniversary present and wore it in a ring.[7] The Nassak Diamond was last sold at an auction in New York in 1970 to Edward J. Hand, a 48-year old trucking firm executive from Greenwich, Connecticut.[8]


The Nassak Diamond originated in the 15th century in India.[4] Although the date of the original cutting is unknown, the original cutting was performed in India and had sacrificed everything to size while giving the diamond a form and appearance similar to that of the Koh-i-Noor diamond.[4][9] From at least 1500 to 1817, the Nassak Diamond adorned the statue of Shiva in the Trimbakeshwar Shiva Temple, near Nassak, India, on the upper Godavari River.[4] As priests worshiped Shiva through the statue, the diamond eventually acquired its name from its long term proximity to Nassak, India.[4]
In 1817, the British East India Company and the Maratha Empire in India began the Third Anglo-Maratha War. During the Mahratta war, the Nassak Diamond disappeared from the Shiva statue.[4] The war ended in 1818 and the British East India Company was left decisively in control of most of India.

The Nassak Diamond quickly resurfaced in the possession of Bajirao,[10] the last independent Indian Prince of Peshwa, who handed over the diamond to an English colonel named J. Briggs.[4] In turn, Briggs delivered the diamond to the Francis Rawdon-Hastings, the 1st Marquess of Hastings who had conducted the military operations against the Peshwa.[4] Rawdon-Hastings delivered the diamond to the East India Company as part of the spoils of the Mahratta war.[4] The East India Company then sent the Nassak Diamond to England, to be sold on the London diamond market in 1818.[4]
At the London diamond market, the Nassak Diamond was presented as an approximately 89 carats (18 g) diamond of great purity "but of bad form," having a somewhat pear-shape.[4] The diamond further was characterized as a "rudely-faceted, lustreless mass." Despite its appearance, the diamond was sold for about 3,000 pounds (modernly £173 thousand) to Rundell and Bridge, a British jewelry firm based in London.[4]

Rundell and Bridge held onto the diamond for the next 13 years.[4] During that time, the jewelry firm instructed its diamond cutter "to keep as closely as possible to the traces of the Hindu cutter, 'amending his defects, and accommodating the pattern to the exigencies of the subject matter.'" The recut by Rundell and Bridge from 89 3/4 carats (800 mg) to 78 5/8 carats (1,600 mg) resulted of a loss of no more than 10 percent of the original weight of the diamond.[4][11]
In 1831, Rundell and Bridge sold the diamond to the Emanuel Brothers for about 7,200 pounds (modernly £519 thousand).[4] Six years later in 1837, the Emanuel Brothers sold the Nassak Diamond at a public sale to Robert Grosvenor, the 1st Marquess of Westminster.[4] At one point, the Marquess mounted the diamond in the handle of his dress sword.[4] In 1886, the diamond was valued at between 30,000 and 40,000 pounds (modernly between £2.34 million and £3.12 million), due in part to its vast gain in brilliancy from the recut by Rundell and Bridge.[4]

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