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The “Regent”, the French royal diamond

Copy of the Regent diamondCopy of the Regent on the French king's crownThe “Regent” is famous for its mesmerizing beauty and purity, its weight of 140.5 carats and for telling the last twists and turns of the French Monarchy. It was named after its first French owner, Philippe d’Orléans, who served as a regent of the kingdom of France until Louis XV attained his majority on February 1723. He bought this diamond for a few hundred pounds sterling from Thomas Pitt, an English governor of the Madras province in India.

The rough diamond of 410 carats is said to come from the Parteal mine located in the Golkonda region in the South of India. According to the legend, a slave found it and hid it in a bandage; he gave it away to an English captain in exchange for his freedom. But the harmful man killed him after he had got hold of the diamond and sold it to Thomas Pitt who brought it to London where he gave it to the jeweler Harris to be cut. It took the latter two years to get an exceptional brilliant named first the “Pitt” and later on the “Regent”. Harris cut also some smaller secondary diamonds from the original piece of rough that were sold to the Tsar Pierre the Great. Following Saint Simon’s advice, Philippe d’Orléans bought the “Pitt” at the beginning of 18th century and Louis XV wore it for the first time on his headdress at a ceremony. The king had it set on his crown for his coronation in 1722. Thereby the “Regent” became the diamond of France’s kings and adorned Louis XVI’s crown, embellished Queen Marie Antoinette… It was dubbed the “diamond of the tyrant” during the French Revolution and was impounded and displayed at the Garde Meuble National in 1791 where it would be stolen and found a year later in a beam of a hotel on avenue Montaigne.

Apollo Gallery in the Louvre Museum in ParisStolen, sold, worn, impounded, it went back to the elite in power and was left as a security by the first consul Napoleon Bonaparte to fund the Italian military campaign in 1796. Once sacred as Emperor of France, Napoleon Bonaparte had it set on his sabre by some famous goldsmiths of that time, Nitot, Odiot and Boutet. Marie Louise of Austria took it with her when she left France on the run at the fall of the Empire. Her father, the Austrian Emperor Francois 1rst, gave it back to France on 11th April 1814. The “Regent” was preserved under the Restoration and the Second Empire, as a matter of fact the Empress Eugénie had it set on her crown.

After the proclamation of the 3rd Republic, the treasures and jewels of the royal family were scattered and sold at an auction in 1887, surprisingly enough the “Regent” was not among the jewels put up for auction and presented to Boucheron, Bapst and Tiffany & Co.

During the Second World War the historical diamond was hidden behind the marble of a fireplace in the château de Chambord. Since the end of the 19 th century, the “Regent” belongs to the musée du Louvre and its copy can be admired at the Apollo gallery.