The Wittelsbach is a rare dark blue diamond weighing 35.56 carats. It is pure apart from a few surface scratches that were probably caused during removal from its setting. The diamond has been cut with 82 facets arranged in an unusual pattern — the star facets on the crown are vertically split and the pavilion has sixteen needle-like facets, arranged in pairs, pointing outward from the culet facet.
The first record of the Wittelsbach dates from the latter part of the seventeenth century. One fact is thus certain: the diamond must be of Indian origin. Furthermore, it has been suggested that a diamond of such a rare color must once have formed part of the famous French Blue Diamond, weighing 1121 old carats in the rough, which Tavernier bought in India and later sold to Louis XIV of France. The principal gem which this yielded is the Hope, weighing 45.52 carats, so that technical reasons alone clearly preclude the possibility of the Wittelsbach having been fashioned from the same piece of rough. The sole possibility of a connection between the Wittelsbach and the Hope lies in Tavernier’s French Blue Diamond being merely part of a much larger piece of rough that had at some time been split in two.
The history of the Wittelsbach has been uneventful; for the most part it has been passed down from one royal owner to another. The gem formed part of the gift which Philip IV of Spain gave to his 15-year-old daughter, the Infanta Margareta Teresa, up the occasion of her betrothel to the Emperor Leopold I of Austria in 1664. The bride’s father commanded the treasurer to compose a dowry from a recent acquisition of precious stones from India and Portugal. The resulting selection included a large blue diamond. Unfortunately, the marriage between the Emperor and the Infanta ended with her early death in 1675.
The honor of auctioning the Bavarian Crown Jewels fell to Christie’s in London, who in November, 1931, announced the sale would take place the following month and that the contents would include “a famous blue diamond.” Public interest was remarkable; the sale comprised thirteen lots and lasted for over two hours. The first lot consisted of the blue diamond; and it was apparently considered to be a good start at £3000 and the bidding rose to £5400. Although it was knocked down at that figure to a purchaser named ‘Thorp’ the general impression was that the diamond remained unsold.
Now the mystery of the whereabouts of the Wittelsbach truly begins. Whatever transpired at Christie’s in December of 1931, the diamond did not return to its former place of display in Munich; in its place visitors were shown a worthless piece of faceted blue glass. Rumors included one that the stone had been sold illegally in 1932 through a Munich jeweller and had reappeared in Holland. Later research unveiled the fact that the Wittelsbach had been sold in Belgium in 1951 and that it had changed hands again in 1955. Three years later millions of visitors came to Brussels for the World Exhibition and many must have cast eyes upon the exhibition of jewelry which included a large blue diamond. But not one person appeared to have any inkling that this was in fact a missing famous gem – the Wittelsbach Diamond.
Credit for the recognition of the true identity of the blue diamond must go to the late Joseph Komkommer, a leading figure in the Belgian diamond industry and the fourth generation of a diamond family.
In 1962 Mr. Komkommer received a phone call asking him to look at an Old Mine cut diamond with a view of its recutting. When he opened the package he received a shock — a dark blue diamond is among the rarest and most precious of gems. Mr. Komkommer at once recognized that the diamond was one of historical significance and that it would be sacrilegious to recut it. With the assistance of his son, Jacques Komkommer, he identified the diamond as the ‘lost’ blue diamond that was formerly owned by the House of Wittelsbach.
The diamond is presently said to reside in Bavaria, Germany. Sources: Famous Diamonds by Ian Balfour and Traditional Jewelry of India by Oppi Untracht.
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