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Famous Crown Jewels: The Sancy Diamond

The Sancy Diamond, or the Sancy Stone has traveled through the hands of numerous kings and queens, and is arguably one of the most famous historical diamonds. Despite being rumoured to carry a curse, it left quite a mark on several royal family members and was even believed to grant special powers of invincibility to those who wore it as jewelry. The Sancy gem is a pale, natural yellow diamond that weighs 55.23 carats. It is most noticeable for having no pavilion, which is a rather unique feature. It was cut and faceted into a pear shape with two crowns placed on top of one another. The unusual diamond was also one of the first large diamonds to be cut with symmetrical facets. It is believed that the diamond was first owned by the Duke of Burgundy, Charles the Bold, who supposedly lost the famous stone during a battle in 1477.

The Sancy Stone
The Sancy Stone

Some believe that the Sancy Stone originated from Persia where it was once owned by the Mughal Empire, but based on its unusual cut, many also believe it to be of Indian descent. Nicolas de Harlay who was the Seigneur de Sancy, purchased the large yellow diamond in Constantinople in 1570. At the time, Harlay was a well known jewelry collector and the French Ambassador for Turkey. He was also quite popular amongst the French noblemen and royalty. It was during one of his adventures, that Harlay used his gem knowledge to acquire the Sancy Stone to increase his popularity among his peers.

During the time of Harlay's acquisition of the Sancy Stone, Henry III was reigning over France. Henry III, like many men, was struggling with an unfortunate loss of hair and often attempted to conceal the fact by wearing a hat on head to cover his baldness. At this time, diamonds were becoming increasingly fashionable, so Henry III decided to borrow the Sancy Stone from Harley and wear it as a jewelry decoration on his hat. When Henry IV came into power, the Sancy Stone was borrowed once again, but this time it was used to finance Henry the IV's army. Legend has it that Henry IV asked one of his trusted servants to deliver the famous diamond as collateral for more soldiers, but the messenger never reached his final destination. Many believed the servant ran off with the valuable gem, but Henry's faith in him was so strong that he sent others to investigate the servant's disappearance. The search was called off once they found the body of the messenger and accusations of treason followed. There was no trace of the diamond.

The diamond was widely believed to have been stolen during a confrontation, but the results of an autopsy later revealed that the Sancy Diamond was swallowed by the loyal soldier before he was killed in action. The diamond was then recovered from the servant's stomach. Nicolas de Harlay finally sold the Sancy diamond to King James I of Scotland in 1605. At this time, the diamond officially became known as 'The Sancy' (or so it is believed). It was also listed in the Inventory of Jewels located in the Tower of London and it was described as, "one fayre dyamonde, cut in fawcetts, bought of Sauncy". The Sancy was quite revered by the King and was often worn as a jeweled pin.

The Regent Diamond
The Famous Regent Diamond

The Sancy Stone continued to remain with English royalty for many years, until it fell into the possession of King Charles, who involuntarily disproved the Sancy's myth of immortality when he was later beheaded. Afterwards, the stone briefly came into the hands of the Earl of Worcester before making its way back to the new monarch, King James II. In 1690, King James II lost the battle of Boyne which forced him to flee for safety to nearby France. James was so devastated by his defeat that he turned to King Louis XIV for refuge. However, King Louis soon grew weary of James and withdrew all his financial support. King James II was regretfully left with no other option but to sell the beloved Sancy Diamond. It is claimed that he sold it to Cardinal Mazarin for just £25,000.

The Sancy remained in France for almost a century until 1792, when it was stolen from their Royal Treasury (Garde Meuble), along with the Regent Diamond and the French Blue Diamond, which was better known as the 'Hope Diamond'. Soon after the loss of the diamond, the Sancy faded from the public eye. Finally, in 1828, the Sancy resurfaced when it was acquired by Russian Prince, Anatole Demidoff. The Prince is said to have purchased the diamond for around £88,000. The jewel remained with Demidoff until he died and it was later sold to an Indian Prince, Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy for an approximate £100,000. It is believed that the Sancy was soon sold again, but to whom and for how much remains a mystery to this day.

The Sancy Diamond later remerged at the Paris Exposition in 1867. It was exhibited with a whopping price tag of 1 million francs. It is uncertain whether the Sancy was sold during the expo, but it somehow resurfaced 40 years later when William Waldorf Astor, the 1st Viscount Astor, was to purchase the Sancy and present it as a wedding gift for his son's bride. His son's bride, Lady Nancy Astor, wore the Sancy in her tiara. Later, the tiara and diamond were put on display for several state occasions. The Sancy was passed down through many generations of the Astor family. In 1978, it was sold by the 4th Viscount Astor to the French Louvre for $1 million. Today, the Sancy remains in the Louvre along with the Regent Diamond. They are currently exhibited in the Apollo Gallery, an area exclusively dedicated to King Louis XVI.

  • First Published: December-17-2014
  • Last Updated: August-30-2017
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