The Niarchos Diamond is named after its last known owner, Greek shipping magnate Niarchos Stavros Niarchos (brother-in-law to Aristotle Onassis), who purchased the diamond from Harry Winston in 1958 for two million dollars and presented it to his wife Charlotte Ford.
It is a 128 carat pear shape diamond, thought to be D colour and at least VVS clarity. The man who cut it, Bernard de Haan, called it the “Ice Queen” as he said that the rough diamond was so clear as to be hard to spot in a bucket of ice cubes. A 39 carat emerald cut diamond from the same piece of rough was graded by the GIA as D colour VVS1 clarity, suggesting that the Niarchos is of similiar quality. It is a type IIa diamond, the purest and most structurally perfect type of diamond.
It is perhaps the fifth largest D colour pear shape diamond in the world.
The Niarchos was found at the Premier diamond mine, the same mine as where the Cullinan diamond (3106 carats rough) was found in 1905, and also the Taylor Burton diamond (68 carats cut), the Premier Rose (353 carats rough) and the Centenary Diamond (599 carats rough).
The Niarchos was found in May 1954, on the grease table at the recovery plant of the Premier Mine. The rough diamond weighed 426 carats, and appeared to be internally flawless, and slightly chipped at one end. Sir Ernest Oppenheimer said that it was of the most perfect colour of any diamond he had ever seen.
The diamond was sold to Harry Winston for three million dollars, at the time the largest single sale ever made by the Diamond Trading Company.
Winston took on the task of cutting the diamond. The first decision was whether to cut many small diamonds, or fewer large diamonds. After weeks of debating, it was decided to cut one large diamond. Winston considered that the opportunity to create one stone of historic value was more important than making smaller diamonds, which would have been easier to sell.
- Bernard de Haan was tasked with cutting the diamond. He was descended from a family of diamond cutters in Amsterdam. He made about three hundred lead models of the rough to assist with the planning of the cutting.
The first off-cut gave a 70 carat fragment, which was polished to a 27 carat marquise cut. The second step also gave a 70 carat piece, which was polished into a 39.99 carat emerald cut (mentioned above). What was left was a 270 carat piece of rough, which was to become the 128 carat pear shape Niarchos Diamond, with 58 main facets and 86 girdle facets.
It was unveiled to the world in 1957, and named the “Ice Queen”. It was purchased by Stavros Niarchos for his wife. He also purchased the two smaller gemstones mentioned above. Niarchos and Ford eventually divorced, but she returned the diamond, which was renamed after Niarchos. He lent it to several exhibitions over the years, including the “Jewel Box 1966” exhibition in South Africa in 1966.
In 1991 the 39 carat emerald cut diamond was sold at Sotheby’s in New York for 1.87 million dollars. This diamond is today known as the “Ice Queen”. Since the death of Stavros Niarchos in 1996, no further information on the Niarchos Diamond has been forthcoming.