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Rare Beauty Shows Up in Washington

Diamond goes on display at Smithsonian



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    The Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond.

    A rare beauty that disappeared from the public eye some 50 years ago is making a dazzling appearance, alongside what could turn out to be her show-stopping sister.

    The famous Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond has arrived at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and will share the limelight with the renowned Hope Diamond until August 1. Some gemologists believe these two extraordinary gemstones may have been born of the same mother lode.

    Once known as simply “the Wittelsbach” diamond, the 35.56-carat deep-blue stone has quite an intriguing past. Its known history dates back to 1664, when the King of Spain gave it to his daughter before her marriage to the Emperor of Austria. Sometime later it ended up among the crown jewels of the ruling Wittelsbach family in Bavaria. After World War I, the Bavarian crown jewels were confiscated by the new government and auctioned off. Mysteriously, before the auction, the Wittlesbach diamond was replaced by a worthless piece of cut glass. The real gem did not resurface until it turned up in display at the World’s Fair in Belgium in 1951.

    In December 2008, famed diamond dealer Laurence Graff bought the stone. He repolished it to bring up more of its shine and color, and at its new weight of 31.06 carats, the flawless deep-blue stunner will be displayed alongside the 45.52-carat Hope Diamond for the next six months here in Washington. While at the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History, a research team will test the properties of both diamonds to try to figure out if they are linked to the same mine in India.

    Sisters or not, officials at the Smithsonian say these eye-catching beauties will give visitors a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to view the two most extraordinary blue diamonds in the world.

    UPDATE:  Well, not all stories can have a fairy-tale ending.  The Post reported Friday that the two stones are not cut from the same stone.  From the Post article:

    "There is an uncanny resemblance, but they are different," said [Smithsonian curator Jeffrey] Post, who announced his team's findings on Thursday at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. "They are not part of the same crystal or rough. Perhaps they are distant cousins, but not brothers and sisters."