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The Sancy Diamond, a pale yellow diamond of 55.23 carats (11.046 g), was once reputed to have belonged to the Mughals of antiquity, but it is more likely of Indian origin owing to its cut, which is unusual by Western standards.

The Sancy Diamond

The shield-shaped stone comprises two back-to-back crowns (the typical upper half of a stone) but lacks any semblance to a pavilion (the lower portion of a stone, below the girdle or midsection).


The Sancy’s known history began circa 1570. Several sources state it belonged to Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy (1433-1477) In 1495 the diamond passed to Charles the Bold’s cousin King Manuel I of Portugal (1469-1521 When Portugal was threatened to come under Spanish rule, claimant António, Prior of Crato fled the country with the bulk of the Portuguese Crown Jewels. He spent his life trying to get allies to regain the Portuguese throne in the French and English courts, and sold the diamond to Nicolas de Harlay, Seignure de Sancy.

Other sources claim that the diamond was purchased in Constantinople by de Sancy. He was popular in the French Court and was later French Ambassador to Turkey. Something of a gem connoisseur, de Sancy used his knowledge to prosperous advantage.

Henri IV, King of France and Navarre

Henri III of France (1551-1589) suffered from premature baldness and tried to conceal this fact by wearing a cap. As diamonds were becoming increasingly fashionable at the time, Henri arranged to borrow de Sancy’s diamond to decorate his cap. Henri IV (1553-1610) also borrowed the stone, for the more practical purpose of using it as security for financing an army. Legend has it that a messenger carrying the jewel never reached his destination, but de Sancy (by then Superintendent of Finance) was convinced that the man was loyal and had a search conducted until the site of the messenger’s robbery and murder was found. When the body was disinterred, the jewel was found in the faithful man’s stomach.

De Sancy later sold the diamond to James I-VI of England, Scotland and Ireland (1566-1625) in March 1605 when it is thought the Sancy acquired its name. It weighed 53 carats and cost 60,000 French crowns. It was described in the Tower of London’s 1605 Inventory of Jewels as “…one fayre dyamonde, cut in fawcetts, bought of Sauncy.” James had it set into the Mirror of Great Britain, with diamonds from the Great H of Scotland.

James II-VII, King of England, Scotland and Ireland

The Sancy was briefly possessed by Charles I, King of England, Scotland and Ireland (1600-1649) and then by his third son James II-VII, King of England, Scotland and Ireland (1633-1701). Beleaguered after a devastating defeat, James took shelter under Louis XIV of France and Navarre (1638-1715) fickle host who tired of his exiled guest. Facing destitution, James had no choice but to sell the Sancy to Cardinal Mazarin in 1657 for the reported sum of £25,000. The cardinal bequeathed the diamond to the king upon his death in 1661.

The Sancy was thus domiciled in France. In 1722 a new crown was created for King Louis XV (1710-1774). It was used at his coronation and was embellished with diamonds from the Royal Collection. The new crown was made by Laurent Ronde, the French Crown jeweller.

Crown of Louis XV

It originally contained a collection of Mazarin Diamonds, Including the Sancy diamond in the fleur-de-lis at the top of the arches, and the famous ‘Regent’ diamond, which was set in the front of the crown, as well as hundreds of other precious diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires.

Louis XV, King of France and Navarre

The Sancy Diamond disappeared during the French Revolution when brigands raided the Garde Meuble (Royal Treasury). As well as the Sancy, other treasures stolen were the Regent diamond, and the French Blue diamond which is known today as the Hope diamond.

The Sancy was in the collection of Vasiliy Rudanovsky until 1828 when purchased by Prince Demidoff for £80,000. It remained in the Demidov family collection until 1865 when sold to Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy, an Indian prince, for £100,000. He sold it only a year later, creating another gap in its history. It reappeared in 1867, displayed at the Paris Exposition, carrying a price tag of one million francs; the gem then vanished again for forty years.

The Sancy Diamond with the French Crown Jewels

The Sancy next surfaced in 1906 when bought by William Waldorf Astor, 1st Viscount Astor, from famous Russian collector A.K.Rudanovsky. The prominent Astor family possessed it for 72 years until the 4th Viscount Astor sold it to the Louvre for $1 million in 1978. The Sancy now rests in the Apollo Gallery, sharing attention with the likes of the Regent and the Hortensia Diamonds.