There are few diamonds with a story quite as colourful as The Golden Canary, formerly known as The Incomparable, formerly known as The Golden Giant. It was discarded early in the 1980s by diamond miners in the Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly known as Zaire, in a pile of rubble that was considered too bulky to be worth scanning for diamonds. The state-run miner (MIBA) literally threw it away.
Thankfully the yellow gem was found by a young girl playing outside her uncle’s house in the nearby town of Mbuji Mayi, in Kasai-Oriental Province. The rescued diamond is making headlines because, after being sold several times, then cut, then sold again and re-cut, it’s now being sold again.
Bidding for the Golden Canary Diamond will start at just $1 on 7 December 2022- a deliberate move by the auction house to provoke fierce bidding – but is expected to reach its high estimate of $15m.
It’s gone through a few changes in identity and appearance, but in its latest incarnation, the 303.10-carat, internally flawless, fancy deep brownish-yellow, pear modified brilliant diamond is to be auctioned by Sotheby’s New York.It’s not quite the biggest polished diamond, and it’s nowhere near the most valuable, but it does hold the record for being the largest flawless or internally flawless diamond ever graded by the Gemological Institute of America. That’s a pretty good claim to fame, but in truth it’s not quite what previous owners had hoped for.
A small conglomerate – Donald Zale of the Dallas-based jewellery store chain, Marvin Samuels, of the Premier Gems Corporation, and Louis Glick, a big name in the New York diamond industry – bought the stone and had high hopes that it would eclipse the Cullinan 1, also known as The Great Star of Africa, as the largest clear-cut diamond in the world.
Cullinan 1, a 530.2-carat pendeloque-cut 74-facet brilliant diamond, is the most valuable single stone in Britain’s Crown Jewels and sits in King Charles III’s royal Sceptre with Cross. The trio of owners were determined to cut the irregularly-shaped 890-carat monster into a polished stone of 531 carats. Thereby claim a new world record. Marvin Samuels is quoted as having said: “Never forget it, 531 carats. That indelible, non-negotiable 531, and only one chance to get it.” But it wasn’t to be. Two years into the long four-year process of studying and cutting the stone it became clear that perfection – the removal of internal inclusions – was going to trump size. In the end they settled for a 407.48-carat stone, graded by GIA as “shield-shaped step cut, internally flawless” and known as The Golden Giant. Plus 14 smaller stones. The Golden Giant was put up for auction at Christie’s London but failed to reach its $20m reserve. It later appeared on eBay, in 2002 but again failed to sell.
Fast forward to 2013, and the same flawless 407.48-carat yellow resurfaces as the pendant of the world’s most valuable necklace (certified by Guinness World Records), courtesy of Swiss jeweller Mouawad, suspended from 18-karat rose gold branchlets with a 91 white diamonds (229.52 total carat weight) and a $55m price tag. Apparently it attracted a lot of attention from Asian and European buyers, but it’s not clear what happened between then and its reappearance now as the Golden Canary Diamond. New name, and new cut, this time weighing in at 303.1 carats. It’s shed over 100 carats, but advances in cutting technology have improved its shape, enhanced its depth of colour and brightened the hue. Sotheby’s New York will auction the Golden Canary on 7 December, and it has made much of the fact that there will be no reserve, but don’t expect a bargain.