The Regent Diamond

Regent Diamond 1.jpg

This is the Pitt or Regent Diamond [1] and it is in the Greek diadem of Empress Eugenie in Room 705, Denon wing, Level 1, Galerie D’apollon, (Apollo Gallery), the Musée Du Louvre. [2] The Duke d' Orleans Philippe II, the Regent of France for the young King Louis XV from 1715 to 1723 bought it from Thomas “Diamond” Pitt in 1717.

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The parent stone’s early history is unknown and was so to Pitt.

 

One tale, there were several, was it was found by a slave in a Golconda diamond mine 1698-1701 who cut a wound in his skin, hid it inside, bandaged himself up and smuggled it to the coast. He offered an English captain a 50% share to take him and the diamond to Bombay, but the captain murdered him at sea and then sold it to a Bombay Indian diamonds merchant, Ramchand. The captain later, in remorse and depression, hanged himself.

 

It is more likely it came from the mine owners hoping to circumvent the Mughal Emperor (Aurangzeb). From Ramchand on its provenance is better documented, he sold it to Thomas Pitt in 1702 (for about £24,000) who sent a friend in London a model of it

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"To Sir Stephen Evans, Knt.

Fort St. George Nov. 6th. 1701.

 

Sr. This acompanyes the modell of a Stone I have lately seene ; itt weighs Mangs. 303, and cartts. 426. It is of an excellent christaline water without any fowles, onely att one end in the flat part there is one or two little flaws which will come out in cutting, they lying on the surface of the Stone, the price they ask for it is prodigious being two hundred thousand pags. : that I believe less than one " (hundred thousand) " would buy it. If it was designed for a Single Stone, I believe it would not loose about a part in cutting, and bee a larger Stone than any the Mogull has, I take it. Pro rata as stones goe I thinke 'tis inestimable. Since I saw it, I have bin perusing of Tavernier, where there is noe Stone soe large as this will bee when cutt. I write this singly to you, and noe one else, and desire it may bee Kept private, and that you'l by the first of land or sea con- veighance give mee your opinion thereon, for itt being of Soe great a vallue I believe here are few or none can buy it. I have put it " (i.e. the model) " up Inclos'd in a little box and mark'd it S.E. which the Capt will deliver you, my hearty service to you.

 

I am Sr. Your most oblidged humble servant, T. Pitt."

 

Page 238

His friend’s advice,

 

"There is no Prince in Europe can buy itt, soe would advise you not to meddle in itt,"

 

came too late, he had already bought it. [4] 

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[5]

His son Robert (father to William the Elder) brought it to London in 1702 and it was cut by Harris, this took two years and cost £5000. Several small stones from it were sold to Peter the Great of Russia. Other fragments were sold. Fifteen years after acquiring the Ramchand stone Pitt sold the largest stone to come from it to the French Court for £165,000. Pitt had been leasing Mawarden Court (from the church) since 1686. As far as is known the diamond never came to Stratford sub Castle.

The Regent diamond was set into the crowns of Louis XV and XVI for their coronations in 1722 and 1775, worn in a hat by Maria Antoinette, then stolen, recovered, pawned, redeemed, set in the sword pommel of Napoleon I, smuggled to Austria, returned to France, set in the crowns of three more French kings then its current position in the diadem of Empress Eugenie. This was put in the Louvre in 1877, hidden in World War II (1939) in the Loire’s largest Chateau, was missed by a B24 bomber crashing into the grounds, then returned to the Louvre and remains there today.

The Regent is a cushion cut 140.64-carat diamond, 3.2 cm tall, 3.1 cm wide1 the seventh largest of the rarest colour type (it is white with pale blue) and second largest cushion cut. [6]   Its value would exceed £50 million today. [7]

The Louvre claim “it is considered the most beautiful diamond in the world for its purity and the quality of its cut.” [1]

Seventy years after Pitt, Robert Clive like him made his fortune in and from Bengal, was governor of Fort Saint George at Madras, worked for the East India company and favoured diamonds as an investment. He was however less scrupulous and more rapacious, ambitious and ostentatious than Pitt. His wife, Lady Clive, schooled in Wiltshire, had a pet ferret which according to the Salisbury Journal wore a diamond necklace worth £2500 [8] (£ 200,000 pounds today).

Kerry O’Connor

[1] https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl010103121  Both photographs of the Diamond are from the Louvre under their terms of use. © 2016 RMN-Grand Palais (Louvre Museum) / Stéphane Maréchalle

[2] https://www.louvre.fr/en/explore/the-palace/sun-gold-and-diamonds/ The Louvre website

[3] Dalton, Cornelius Neale, Sir. 1915. The life of Thomas Pitt. Cambridge University Press. Portrait, frontispiece. Thomas Pitt by Godfrey Kneller. 

[4] As 3, Chapter XIV

[5] As 3, Chapter XVI

[6] https://internetstones.com/regent-diamond-famous-jewelry.html

[7] https://www.worthy.com/blog/knowledge-center/diamonds/the-regent-diamond/

[8] Dalrymple, William. 2019. The Anarchy. The Relentless Rise of The East India Company. Bloomsbury Publishing.

This article was written as part of Kerry O'Connor's

Local History Photo & Picture Quiz.

Click here to see others in the series

Relevant to this article and also on this website - The Pitt Family of Stratford sub Castle