Arcot diamonds, once a famous pair owned by the British royalty!!

18.8 ct Golconda diamond “Arcot II”retailjewellerindia.com

Among the world famous diamonds of Indian origin  a pair of Arcot diamonds  gifted away by the the Nawab of Arcot (Tamil Nadu, India) to the visiting dignitaries of the  British royal family  -   Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg, consort of King of Great Britain George III (1760-1820)  may be considered the best.  But unfortunately with the passage of time and ownership,  this famous pair underwent recut  and lost their reputation as the best diamond pair in the world.  They were  two exceptionally beautiful pear-shaped diamonds whose luster and brilliance would set them apart.  


These two superior quality diamonds   were of Golconda origin mined in Kollur mines (now defunct and is in Andhra state) and initially owned by the royal family of  Arcot  nawab whose capital was  Arcot, a small town near Chennai (Madras). The rulers were the allies of the English  company  with whom they had military alliance.  It is mentioned that  Nawab  Azim-ud-Daula,  was presumably the  first recorded owner and was the one who in 1777 made   a nazrana, a sort of gift  to the English rulers as a taken of his appreciation of their military help when he was facing threats from neighboring rulers. The above interpretation is not accepted by many historians. According to some Nawab Muhammad Ali Khan Walajah who had a close rapport with the EIC   gifted  all the five diamonds to the British.  It included five diamonds to Queen Charlotte and two of these stones were the great pear-shaped diamonds. The Nawab gave this gift to the British  for their help during his tumultuous period  while ruling the land. 

Arcot diamonds set in a  brooch/internetstones.com

Above image Arcot diamond pair According to Ian Balfour  vide  his book ''Famous Diamonds'' describes the tiara as:
…'' of bandeau form, together with the round brilliant and no less than 1421 smaller diamonds. The tiara was pierced to form a design of pavè-set scrolls with arcading, and with clusters of naivetĂ©-shaped diamonds between the sections, tapering slightly at the sides, with baguette diamond banding framing the large center stone and with diamond baguettes dispersed singly throughout the ornament''. The diamonds were separable and could be removed and worn from a bar brooch .............

Upon the Queen  Charlotte’s death in 1818, instead of handing over his mother's vast collection of jewelry to his sisters including the diamonds, King George IV took possession of his father's estate along with mother's jewelry.  He also  had a royal crown commissioned for him decorated with  Arcot diamonds. Later the crown was remade for Queen Adelaide, consort of William !V.

After the demise in  1834 of King George IV, for unknown reasons jewelers  Rundell & Bridge was entrusted with the job of  selling the diamonds as per the wish of  Queen Charlotte. At the sale proceedings at Willis’s Room in St. James’s, London on July 20, 1837 the Arcots,  along with a round brilliant diamond (believed to be the infamous Hastings – and the Nassak diamond) were all sold to the first Marquess of Westminster for £11,000.As  the time went by  famous stones became  part of what was called  the Westminster Tiara specifically made by  Parisian jeweler Lacloche for the Marquess’ family.
Westminster Arcot diamonds. .pinterest.ch


King George IV of England. artuk.org

The famous  Westminster Tiara was put up for sale in 1959 by the    third Duke of Westminster under compelling financial strains. The Duke had to pay heavy taxes on his estates. At the  auction held by Sotheby’s and Harry Winston the diamond went to the high bidder at £110,000. Dismantling the tiara, Winston   recut the stones to improve their clarity and brilliance and consequently  the final weight of the two stones became 30.99 carats and 18.85 carats respectively. The famous pair was split into two different pieces. 

Arcot diamonds were  sold separately as rings, the larger stone, now known as Arcot I, was purchased in 1959 while the smaller one, now labeled the Arcot II, found its new owner in 1960. Both  the bidders were  Americans. The larger stone  later reappeared as  a pendant in a Van Cleef  & Arpels necklace. In November 1993 it was sold to  at Christie’s, Geneva.   Sheikh Ahmed Hassan Fitaihi of Saudi Arabi, became  the new owner of the Arcot I and he paid  a record price of £918,243 to get its possession, a legacy of Arcot Nawabs.   

As for  “Arcot II” of the Nawab of Carnatic  that was possessed by Queen  Charlotte of the British royal family,  it was sold for a whooping sum of Rs 23.5 crore ($3,375,00). at the New York auction of 2019.  The auction titled “Maharajas and Mughal Magnificence” had on offer 400 royal objects from the Al Thani Collection of Qatar’s royal family;  most of the pieces were once owned by the famous Indian royal families.