The Famous Regent Diamond

Home > Education > World Famous Diamonds > The Regent Diamond

In the middle of 17th century, European monarchs began to express their enormous appetite for grandeur and splendor. The phenomena started during the reign of the French King Louis the 14th. Love of precious stones was rooted in his heart by Cardinal Mazarin. His finance minister Jean Baptiste Colbert was as well an avid collector of gemstones. He used to say to the king: "The gold and diamonds are a good currency; they never change. With this currency, Your Majesty, you can buy everything. Buy yourself a small pebble and raise its price by slightly polishing it.
Famous Regent Diamond
But it is important to choose the right stone and to find good men who are proficient in this field in order to vouch for its quality". Emperor Bonaparte also loved the gems. It's the story of the Regent diamond that is connected to his name. The diamond was discovered in 1701 in the Paritala diamond mine, 240 miles away from Golconda. Before it was cut, the diamond weighed 410 carats. The slave who found the diamond decided to hide it and use the enormous stone to get back his freedom. He cut his leg with a pick, hid the diamond in the wound and covered it with bandages.
A skipper of a British ship agreed to help him to flee and hid the fugitive slave in ship's belly. After the ship sailed, the skipper killed the Indian slave and threw his body into the sea. When the ship arrived to the city of Madras, the skipper sold the diamond to the fortress adjutant William Pitt for twenty thousand pounds.

A different version of this story exists as well. According to the second version, diamond's first owner was a Persian merchant. Later the stone became Pitt's property. Because of Pitt's ownership it is sometimes known as the Pitt Diamond.
But money brought no luck to the skipper; he quickly spent it all and hung himself on ship's boom.
Upon his return to England, William Pitt cut the diamond. The stone now weighted 140.5 carats. The cutting process lasted for two years. Diamond shards created during the cut were sold for seven thousand pounds.

In 1717 William Pitt sold the diamond to the French Regent, the Duke of Orleans for an enormous sum of 135 thousand pounds (3,375 thousand francs). The diamond was christened after its new owner - "Regent". In 1791 upon the decision of the Constituent Assembly an inventory of the crown jewels of France was held. The inventory had to be conducted by the best jewelers in France and was supposed to last until August 1792. During this inventory, Regent's worth was estimated at 12 million francs. While the inventory lasted, treasures were exhibited to the general public on every Tuesday.

In 1792 during the revolutionary furor the exhibition was shut down. The storage in which the royal crown, the scepter and the crown jewelry were kept, was locked and sealed. In the morning of 17 July 1792 a broken seal was discovered. All the locks were intact, but the Bourbon family jewels were gone. Parisian police began searching for Royal treasures. One of the anonymous letters received by the Police mentioned a secret cache on the Widows Boulevard on Champs Elysees. Indeed, Regent was found in a cesspool on the Widows Boulevard along with the famous onyx and agate goblet. After a while, the bandits were arrested. The gang leader and his four associates were sentenced to death.

The French Revolution was in need of money; therefore the diamond was pawned to the Russian diamond dealer Treskow. Only after the Revolution, the diamond was "found" in Berlin and redeemed by Napoleon Bonaparte. Napoleon used it to embellish his sword. After the fall of the French Empire, "Regent" was sold at the auction for six million francs. Today the diamond is French national property and is displayed in the Louvre.