Saturday, April 05, 2014

Diamonds are Forever exhibit to explore the history of famous diamonds and the monarchs who possessed them

A history resource article by  © 2014
George Stuart's 1/4 life-sized sculpture of Catherine the
Great in robes of state.  The Imperial Crown of Russia,
created for her coronation, contains 4936 diamonds
including the second largest red spinel diamond in the
world at 398.72 carats.  Her scepter contains the 189.62
carat rose-cut Orlov Diamond which once served as the
 eye of a Hindu deity in a temple in Tamil Nadu, India.

Photo courtesy of
I just made my arrangements to fly down to Los Angeles so I could attend a unique exhibit of museum-quality replicas of world-famous diamonds at the Museum of Ventura County in Ventura, CA opening May 3, 2014.  This exhibit entitled "Diamonds are Forever" will be presented along with a display of George Stuart's 1/4 life-sized sculptures of the monarchs that at one time owned these famous gems.

Scott Sucher, one of the world's foremost experts on the technology of documenting and replicating famous historical diamonds and the gemologist who created the jewels on exhibit will deliver two presentations, "Tracking the Hope Diamond" and "Evolution of Diamond Cutting".  He has images of his full sized diamond replicas on his website http://museumdiamonds.com/.

Some of the replica jewels on display will include the Hope Diamond, the Regent Diamond, the Beau Sancy, the Orlov, the Mirror of Portugal and the famous Koh-i-Noor that was once adorned the Peacock Throne of Shah Jahan, builder of the Taj Majal.

Although the Hope Diamond and the Koh-i-Noor are probably the most famous of these jewels, I actually think the Regent Diamond is one of the most beautiful.  At 140.64 carats, it is not as large in its cut form as either the Hope Diamond or the Koh-i-Noor, but it is reputedly one of the most perfectly cut diamonds in the world since it was cut and faceted back in 1710 CE.

Scott Sucher's museum quality replica
of the Regent Diamond.
The Regent was supposedly found by a slave back in 1698 and, in its rough form, weighed an astounding 410 carats.  The slave found the diamond in the Kollur mine in the Guntur District of India and supposedly secreted the stone inside a large wound in his leg. This gruesome beginning was further compounded by an English sea captain that killed the slave and stole the diamond.  The gem found its way to a diamond merchant who eventually sold it to India's English governor at the time, Thomas Pitt.  Afterward, the diamond was sometimes referred to as the Pitt Diamond.

After many attempts to sell it to various Members of European royalty, including Louis XIV of France, it was purchased by the French Regent, Philippe II, Duke of Orléans in 1717 for £135,000 (£17,385,050 as of 2014),. The stone was set into the crown of Louis XV for his coronation in 1722 and then into a new crown for the coronation of Louis XVI in 1775. It was also used to adorn a hat belonging to Marie Antoinette. In 1791 its appraised value was £480,000 (£48,882,550 as of 2014) - Wikipedia

George Stuart's sculpture of Marie Antoinette who
once used the Regent Diamond to adorn an
elaborate hat that included a sailing ship.
 Photo
courtesy of
In 1792, during the French Revolution, the Regent was stolen along with the other crown jewels of France but was eventually recovered by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1801. Napoleon used the gem to adorn one of his swords.  But when Napoleon died, his second wife, the Empress Marie Louise, took the diamond back to her family home in Austria.

The empress' father returned the stone to France and it was subsequently incorporated into the the crowns of Louis XVIII, Charles X and Napoleon III.  Finally, it was mounted in a Greek diadem designed for Empress Eugenie, it's last fashion makeover, and remains in that diadem today in The Louvre.

Artist/historian George Stuart has created sculptures of most of the people who have touched the Regent and some of these sculptures will be on exhibit along with the replica stones.  Mr. Stuart will also unveil a new figure he has just created of Shah Jahan exclusively for the upcoming exhibit.

I developed the website for Mr. Stuart's Gallery of Historical Figures, a project that began back in 2005 because of my passion for the history these sculptures represent.  Later I was named to the board of directors for the Historical Figures Foundation and continue to serve in that capacity.

Mughal emperor Shah Jahan seated on the Peacock Throne embellished
with the famous Koh-i-Noor Diamond receiving deputations in Delhi.

Image courtesy of the British Library and Wikimedia Commons.
When the executive director of the Foundation told me about a new collaboration with gemologist Scott Sucher of MuseumDiamonds.com who would not only create historically accurate replicas of famous crown jewels for Mr. Stuart's historical figures but appear with Mr. Stuart at a new exhibit featuring the figures with crown jewel replicas, I was intrigued.  I'm sure I will find it to be a fascinating weekend.

The exhibit "Diamonds are Forever" will be on display in the Smith Galleries of the Ventura, CA from May 3 to August 24, 2014.

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