FAMOUS DIAMONDS 'ENGLISH DRESDEN'

September 14, 2015

FAMOUS DIAMONDS

'ENGLISH DRESDEN'



The man who gave his name to this diamond was Edward Z. Dresden, of Gracechurch Street, London: he was listed in the Post Office directory simply as 'merchant'. However, as the stone was shipped to Holland for cutting, it is not unreasonable to assume that he was connected with the diamond-dealing firm Gebr. Dresden & Co, of Keizersgracht, Amsterdam.

The 'English Dresden' was found in 1857 in diggings by the Bagagem river in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil, close to where the 'Star of the South' had been found four years earlier. In fact the two diamonds were destined to follow similar historical paths.

Acting on behalf of Dresden, agents purchased the stone in Rio de Janeiro whence it was sent first to London, then to Amsterdam to be cut by Messrs Coster. After a great deal of preliminary study they cut into a finely proportioned pear-shape, both colourless and flawless, which weighed 76 and 1/2 (old) carats, 78.53 metric. Since the rough piece had weighed 119 and 1/2 carats, little more than a third was lost in the cutting.

Modern accounts have testified to the fact that the 'English Dresden' was regarded as a very fine gem. Mr Dresden himself wrote:

"There is no diamond known in the world to come up to it. I matched my drop with the Koh-i-Noor at Garrards one day, and to the surprise of all present, the latter's colour turned almost yellowish: a proof of how perfectly white my diamond must be".

Another person who saw the gem declared:

"It is perfectly pure, free from defects, and has extraordinary play and brilliancy. Indeed the quality of the stone is superior to the Koh-i-Noor. Yet when a half share in this magnificent jewel was offered to a noted West End jeweller for the relatively small sum of £12,000 he declined it".

After this refusal the 'English Dresden' was apparently offered to, and refused by, members of several European ruling houses. Then it came to be much admired by an Indian prince who is said to have visited London in 1863 chiefly for the purpose of adding this diamond to his collection of jewels. He was unable to meet the asking price of £40,000 and was reluctantly compelled to decline the purchase. However, on this occasion he was accompanied by an English merchant from Bombay who, upon seeing Dresden's diamond, immediately expressed a desire to own it. At the time no one paid any attention to his wish, but within a year the merchant found himself in a position of being able to afford to buy the diamond. It chanced that he was a holder of substantial stocks of cotton when, as the result of the Civil War in the United States, there was a steep rise in the price of this commodity. After he had sold off his stock at enormous prices and thus made a fortune, he wrote to Mr Dresden with an offer to buy his diamond.

The handling of the negotiations was entrusted to an agent of the Bombay merchant who took the opportunity of doing a stroke of business on his own account. He persuaded Dresden to accept a figure of £32,000 for the diamond: then he informed the cotton dealer that the original asking price of £40,000 had to be paid without question, thereby lining his own pockets to the sum of £8,000. So this merchant became the proud owner of the 'English Dresden' whose possession he had earlier described as 'the dearest wish of his heart'.

Unfortunately he was destined to enjoy ownership of the diamond for only a short time. He continued to do a substantial business in cotton and found himself a large holder when the price collapsed as suddenly as it had risen. After this misfortune he died and his estate had to be wound up; his executors considered that they were fortunate in being able to recover the £40,000 by selling the diamond to that avid collector, Mulhar Rao, the Gaekwar of Baroda.

The 'English Dresden' remained among the jewels of the rulers of Baroda until 1934 when it was reported to have been acquired by Cursetjee Fardoonji. So far as it is known the diamond still remains in India.




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