By Brecken Branstrator
The 6.16-carat pear-shaped “Farnese Blue” diamond will be on the auction block at Sotheby’s Geneva on May 15. It has made its way through some of Europe’s most important families for the past three centuries.
Geneva--A historic blue diamond that’s been in the same family for more than three centuries will hit the market for the first time this spring.

“The Farnese Blue,” a 6.16-carat pear shaped fancy dark gray-blue diamond, will be offered at the Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels sale at Sotheby’s Geneva on May 15, where it is expected to sell for between $3.7 million and $5.3 million.

It was uncovered in the Golconda mines of India, which also produced the famous Hope and Wittelsbach diamonds.

The stone was given to Elisabeth Farnese, Queen of Spain (1692-1766) and descendant of Pope Paul III, following her wedding to King Philip V of Spain, grandson of Louis XIV, King of France.

The wedding was celebrated in Parma, Italy in 1714, after the War of the Spanish Succession, which had depleted the country’s finances. To be able to offer a suitable dowry for the new queen, the Spanish government sent word to its colonies, demanding they send wedding presents to Madrid.

Then, in August 1715, the Golden Fleet sailed from Cuba: 12 ships carrying a fortune in gold bullion and emeralds. But after only 10 days of sailing, a hurricane destroyed most of the fleet in the gulf of Florida. Only one ship survived.

The emeralds were thought to be lost in one of the sunken ships, but one diamond made its way to Spain: a pear-shaped blue diamond, gifted to the new Spanish queen by the governor of the Philippine Islands. 

For the next 300 hundred years, as Elisabeth and Philip of Spain’s descendants married, the stone was passed down through four of the most important royal families in Europe: Spain, France, Italy and Austria.

Elisabeth Farnese passed it to her favorite son, Philip (1720-1765), Duke of Parma and founder of the House of Bourbon-Parma. When he died, his son Ferdinand inherited the jewel, which then passed to his son, Louis I, made King of Etruria, during Napoleon’s invasion of Italy, followed by his grandson, Charles II, who become Duke of Lucca, following the Congress of Vienna in 1815.

Charles II had a tie-pin setting created for the stone. He abdicated in 1849 and the title of Duke of Parma passed to his son, Charles III, who was assassinated just five years later. The Farnese Blue then was inherited by Charles II’s grandson, Robert I (1848-1907), the last ruling Duke of Parma. 

Robert I sought refuge in Austria after the unification of Italy. During his exile, the diamond was mounted on a diadem that had belonged to his mother, Louise Marie Thérèse of Artois. She had inherited the jewel from her aunt and adoptive mother, Marie-Thérèse de France, the first child of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette and their only child to survive the French Revolution. It is believed that the diamonds that adorn the diadem belonged to Marie-Antoinette herself.

After the death of Robert I in 1907, his son Elias of Bourbon, Duke of Parma, inherited both the diadem and the Farnese Blue.

These jewels even have a written record of their journey, thanks to a detailed inventory of the family jewelry compiled by Maria Anna von Habsburg (1882-1940), Archduchess of Austria.

The Farnese Blue has been kept a secret by the family and family jewelers over the centuries and hidden in a royal casket.

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