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Diamond of Louis XIV, Le Grand Mazarin, sells for $14.6 million

A piece of "French royal treasure" went under the hammer with the auction of the 19.07-carat Grand Mazarin diamond in Geneva. The jewel once graced the crowns of Louis XIV, Emperor Napoleon and Empress Eugenie.

Le Grand Mazarin diamond (Getty Images/AFP/C.J. Ratcliffe)

The 19-carat diamond sold for 14.4 million Swiss francs (€12.35 million, $14.6 million) when it was auctioned in Geneva on Tuesday night.

Christie's Auction House described the pale pink diamond, dubbed Le Grand Mazarin, as a "timeless symbol of beauty" and a "witness to 350 years of European history."

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The gem was originally mined from Golconda in south-central India in the 17th century. It bears the name of Cardinal Mazarin, who served as chief minister under Louis XIII and Louis XIV in France. The Italian-born Mazarin left the stone to Louis XIV in his will, with the so-called Sun King taking ownership of the diamond in 1661. It has since passed to several other kings and queens. It was featured on the crown worn by Louis XVI, the ruler beheaded during the French revolution in 1792.

Portrait of Louis XIV (Imago/United Archives)

Louis XIV, the first French ruler to own Le Grand Mazarin

Following the years of revolutionary turmoil, it also adorned the crown of Emperor Napoleon after 1804. Le Grand Mazarin was also owned by the Emperor's nephew, Napoleon III, and was worn by his wife and the last Empress of France, Eugenie, who died in 1920.

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Napoleon III suffered a key defeat from Prussia in 1871, which ended his empire and eventually forced him to seek refuge in England. The French Crown Jewels, including Le Grand Mazarin, were left behind and auctioned off in 1887 to pay off war debts to the newly formed German Empire.

Neither the people selling the diamond nor the new owners were identified by Christie's.Before the sale, the auction house's chairman for Europe and Asia, Francois Curiel, described it as "the diamond with the most prestigious and historic provenance still to be in private hands." 

Meanwhile, Christie's said the largest diamond ever offered at an auction sold at their event Tuesday, for 33.5 million Swiss francs (€28.7 million, $33.8 million).

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dj/sms (AFP, AP)

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