AFTER the Wars of Spanish Succession were concluded more than 300 years ago; at Parma, in Italy, Princess Elisabeth Farnese married Philip V of Spain.
While the intrigues of Europe swirled a spectacular wedding gift was making its way from the Philippines to Madrid.
Spain had issued instructions to the Governors of its colonies throughout its overseas empire that suitable wedding gifts were to be sent to Madrid.
A year later in August 1715 a fleet assembled and sailed from the island of Cuba.
The Golden Fleet – 12 ships carrying a fortune in gold bullion and a casket of enormous emeralds– set sail for Europe and Spain.
Unfortunately, ten days later, a hurricane scattered and destroyed most of the fleet off the coast of Florida.
One vessel survived and escaped she was carrying a pear-shaped blue diamond sent by the governor of the Philippine Islands, a gift to the new Spanish Queen.
Blue diamonds were viewed as the ultimate royal gift, blue was identified as the colour of royalty – blue blood – and like the famous Hope and Wittelsbach diamonds the Farnese Blue was found in the Golconda mines of India, which was the sole source of diamonds until the discoveries in Brazil in the 1720’s.
As Elizabeth and Philip’s descendants married into Europe’s royal dynasties. Elizabeth Farnese passed the diamond to her favourite son Philip Duke of Parma (1720-1765), continuing down the line passing through four of Europe’s Dynasties. Documented by Maria Anna von Habsburg (1882-1940) Arch Duchess of Austria the wife of Elias Bourbon, Duke of Parma (1880-1959) caused a detailed inventory of the family jewels such that a record exists charting the fascinating history of these jewels.
Among them the Farnese Blue.
Each year May at Geneva ever since the famed sale of the Jewels of the Duchess of Windsor, Sotheby’s auction house has held the Royal and Noble Jewels sale this year titled “Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels”.
The fascination of pedigreed “Noble Jewels” and their desirability remains strong.
Dr Philip Herzog von Württemberg, chairman of Sotheby’s Europe said: “With its incredible pedigree, the Farnese Blue ranks among the most historic diamonds in the world. From the first minute I saw the stone, I could not resist its magic and as such, it is a huge privilege to have been entrusted with its sale.”
The peerless Farnese Blue a 6.16-carat pear-shaped blue diamond has an estimate of US$3.7m to 5.3m (€2.99m-€4.28m).
The story is priceless.
• Nick Horne, Freelance Correspondent, London