The Red Cross

This canary yellow cushion-shaped diamond weighs 205.07 (metric) carats. It is said to have weighed 375 carats in the rough and to have come from one of the Kimberly mines in 1901. The largest rough found that year weighed only 307 carats, but two more weighing 337 and 363 carats, had been discovered at the De Beers Mine in 1899. Whichever may be correct - the date of the discovery or the rough weight - ther is no doubting that the Red Cross Diamond is a typical South African stone.

The original group of dealing firms who bought the output of the De Beers presented the diamond as a gift to the art sale held in London by Christies in 1918, on behalf of the British Red Cross Society and the Order of St. John. The gem had been cut in Amsterdam, The Times wrote:

"Large and square-shaped, it has been cut with many facets and is of that pale canary yellow colour which is so sought after by Indian Princes. The play of the stone is very vivid. In artificial light it is much more luminous than a white stone. After exposure to brilliant light it emits the rays it has absorbed, and thus becomes self-luminous in the dark. Another rare feature is that a Maltese Cross is distinctly visible in the top facet. Hence the double appropriateness of its name, the Red Cross Diamond."

The Red Cross brough 35,575 and was the highlight of the third day of the sale. The total proceeds were 52,238. It was reported that:

"The hope expressed by the auctioneer that this jewel would fetch 'a price worthy of its name' was fulfilled. The first bid was 3000, from which a quick advance was made to 6000. Thence by two hundreds, to 9000; and at 10,000 it was knocked down to S.J. Phillips. On behalf of the anonymous purchaser they state that he is willing to hold the diamond for one month at the purchase price of 10,000, at the disposal of any buyer who will guarantee to hand it back to the British Red Cross Society and the Order of St. John to be used as the societies think best for the benefit of their funds."

Sometime later it was stated that a member of a European royal family had bought the Red Cross; however, it was an undisclosed American businessman who put it up for sale half a century later. In June of 1973 the stone was auctioned in Tokyo, but the highest bid reached just 820,000, so it was withdrawn from sale. The auctioneers had expected it to sell for 2,000,000. Since then the diamond has had a number of owners all over the world, and most of the diamond trade has been aware that it was on the market and many have viewed it. In November of 1973 Christie's put it up for sale in Geneva, the same year as the attempted Tokyo auction. It was then deposited in Switzerland before again being put up for sale in 1977. The identity of the present owner remains unknown. Sources: Famous Diamonds by Ian Balfour, Diamond Cuts in Historic Jewelry - 1381 to 1910 by Herbert Tillander, and Diamonds - Famous, Notable and Unique by GIA.

The cutting style is what is known as a 'Stellar Brilliant' due to the eight needle-like facets on the pavilion of the stone, pointing outward from its culet facet. The Regent, the Tiffany Yellow, the Polar Star, the Koh-I-Noor and the Wittelsbach, among others are all examples of 'Stellar Brilliant' cuts, and all of them (save for the Koh-I-Noor and Wittelsbach which are slightly oval in shape) are cushion-shaped diamonds.