(Last Updated on : 31/01/2014)
In the year 1875 the future Edward VII, the Prince of Wales sailed to India for a royal tour of the colony. The worldly son of Queen Victoria enjoyed the hospitality of devoted brocade-clad maharajas who took him on wild hunts in privately owned forests and invited him to lurid parties where champagne streamed freely. An observer of the tour is said to have remarked those diamonds. The prince was overjoyed while returning to England on board the HMS Osborne. It weighed down with beds of gold, baths of silver, and casks of diamonds, rubies and the emeralds were seemed to be abundant in India. These gems were compared with the blackberries in England.
India was looked upon as a land of milk and honey since time immemorial. The land was rich with rivers of diamonds and palaces decorated with gold. Fabulous temple treasures glistened in the sparkling light of innumerable little lamps and deities studded with jewels held court under gem-spangled covers. Even today, the treasury of many Indian temples overflows with unexpected riches that resist description. Around the beginning of the 17th century probably, the Idol's Eye diamond was unearthed in the mines of Golconda. This succulent stone possesses a blue tint, weighing 70.21 carats that is typical of the finest Indian diamonds.
In 1607, the East India Company as a repayment for his debts apprehended it from Rahab, a Persian prince. It appears to have acquired its name from a fable describing it as an eye of an idol in the Temple of Benghazi in the Ottoman Empire. According to that story, an Ottoman ruler had kidnapped Princess Rashida from her lover, the raja of Kashmir. The Idol's Eye, from the raja's treasury, was given as release for her safe return.
On July 14, 1865, it was offered for sale at Christie's in London. And it was described in their catalogue as "a splendid large diamond known as the Idol's Eye set round with 18 smaller brilliants and frame-work of small brilliants". An unknown buyer named 'B.I3.' bought it at the auction. It is supposed that the gem later passed on to Abdul Hamid II, the 34th Ottoman sultan. The Young Turks, a group of opponents in 1909 overthrow this tyrannical ruler eventually. They were within his own people. He decided to send his jewels to a safe place for future use, as he was aware of the unpredictable political situation. Enclosing them securely, he entrusted them to a servant but unfortunately for the sultan, the acquisitive vassal sold these jewels in Paris. In all probability this is how the Idol's Eye came to be one of the many large diamonds in tenure of the Parisian dealer, Solomon Habib. Habib put them up for auction in Paris on June 24, 1909.
After the Second World War, a Dutch dealer who sold it in 1946 to the renowned New York jeweler Harry Winston bought the Idol's Eye. In the year 1947, when India was taking extravagant strides towards independence, the Idol's Eye was sold by Winston to May Bonfils Stanton, the daughter of Frederick G Bonfils, publisher of the 'Denver Post'.
Stanton known for her beauty, loved jewelry and from a very young age she began collecting it. It is reported that she lived alone in her lavish home and every morning when she sat down to a solitary breakfast, laid out on her monogrammed china, the Idol's Eye sparkled around her neck. In 1962 when she was in her eighties she died, and 'Parke-Bernet Galleries Inc' of New York auctioned her collection. The profits of the sale went to the various charities she had favored.
The Chicago jeweler Harry Levinson for $375,000 bought the Idol's Eye. Levinson offered the diamond for a public sale in 1973. During the sale he withdrew the diamond when it failed to reach his minimum asking price of $1 million. Laurence Graff, the London jeweler, in 1979 bought the Idol's Eye. Graff sold the stunning gem along with the 41.94-carat Emperor Maximilian diamond in January 1983 and also a 70.54-carat fancy yellow diamond, named after the Ottoman sultan, to a buyer who remained unidentified. The sale is thought to be one of the most expensive diamond transactions of all time as a single purchaser bought the three stones.