A Brief History

Queen Henrietta Maria's Crown by Thomas Cletscher, Dutch Court Jeweler

The Sancy Blood Diamond

It is understandable how a visitor to the French Crown Jewel collection housed at the Louvre could overlook the Sancy Diamond. A mere 55.232 carats and surrounded by a simple circle of white gold, it resides in its case like a shy little sister alongside its grander siblings, the stately Regent and the peach-blossom Hortensia. Yet, if diamonds could speak, none could match the Sancy for the wild tales it could tell. Like the Scheherazade of diamonds, it would keep a listener spellbound with a thousand-and-one stories of war and intrigue, pomp and ceremony, and the foibles and follies of the monarchs, lords, ladies, moneymen, and schemers who owned, lusted after, and even killed to posses it.

In this first comprehensive history of one of the world's most coveted gems, historian Susan Ronald brings to vivid life the Sancy Diamond's 600-year odyssey-a labyrinthine journey that begins in the fabled mines of Golconda, India, and wends its way across three continents and through some of the most spectacular events in European history.

Once the largest white diamond in the Western world, the Sancy was thought to impart invincibility to whoever wore it. Paradoxically, it was also believed to be the source of an ancient curse that visited a violent death to any who owned it. Over the centuries, the diamond adorned the crowns of several French royals and was worn as a lucky hatpin by King James I of England. In the fifteenth century, it was lost on the field of battle by Charles the Bold of Burgundy only to be found by a Swiss soldier who sold it for one florin to a priest from Basel. In the sixteenth century, while en route to be pawned to raise a mercenary Swiss army, it was ripped from the vitals of King Henry IV's hapless courier who had swallowed it in order to conceal it from robbers. Won and lost by the kings of Portugal and lusted after by several Spanish monarchs, the elusive Sancy was hotly pursued for decades by England's Elizabeth I, stolen from the Louvre and secreted under the floorboards of a Parisian garret during the French Revolution, and was instrumental in Napoleon's meteoric rise to power.

In The Sancy Blood Diamond , Susan Ronald traces the stone's progress as it passes among the royal and noble houses of Europe, from John Galeazzo di Visconti, Duke of Milan in the fourteenth century, to England's Charles I, France's Louis XVI, a Russian prince of serf origins, and ultimately, the British Astors. Along the way, she explores the origins of the legend of the Sancy curse, and, working from original sources, she conclusively solves the riddle of the Sancy's two disappearances-one, for 120 years, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and then again, following the French Revolution.

An enthralling narrative account of a magnificent gem and the passions it spawned among many of the giants of European history, The Sancy Blood Diamond is must reading for anyone interested in power and greed, and history buffs of every stripe.

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