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The Red Cross Diamond

The ninth largest diamond in the world is called the Red Cross Diamond. The stone is a canary yellow cushion shaped diamond from the De Beers Kimberley mines in South Africa and weighs 205.07 carats. The original rough stone was found in 1901 and is said to have weighed some 375 carats.

What is a canary yellow?

Canary yellow diamonds are extremely rare. For the gemmologically inclined, they fall within the group of diamonds known as type 1b. Whilst, like 98% of all diamonds, nitrogen is present as an impurity within these stones, canary yellow diamonds only contain these nitrogen impurities as single atoms within the chemical structure rather than as clusters of two, three or four atoms. These single nitrogen atoms absorb visible light at the blue end of the spectrum, thus producing the intense yellow colour known as canary yellow. This only occurs in 0.1% of all diamonds. Another interesting feature of these stones is that they fluoresce.

Up for auction

The original group of dealing firms who bought the output of the De Beers mine in 1901 presented the diamond as a gift to the art sale held in London by Christie’s in 1918, on behalf of the British Red Cross Society and the Order of St. John. The Times newspaper reported,

“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."

Unknown owner

At the auction the stone sold for a hammer price of £35,575, a princely sum in those days. Over the years the stone found its way into the hands of a European royal and years later was purchased by a US businessman. In 1973, bidding on the diamond at a Tokyo auction did not exceed £820,000 (it had been expected to fetch £2 million) and the yellow diamond remained unsold. It was then deposited in Switzerland before again being put up for sale in 1977. The identity of the present owner remains unknown.

Find out about the world's 8th largest diamond.

If you have any large canary yellow diamonds, or indeed any other diamonds for that matter, please contact Simon Rufus at Grand Auctions in Folkestone, Kent for a free auction valuation