Lot 508: The Ashoka Diamond, Harry Winston The cushion modified brilliant-cut diamond weighing 40.45 carats, within a
April 17, 1996
New York, NY, USA
Description: platinum and diamond ring mounting. Accompanied by G.I.A. report no. 8730624 stating that the diamond is D color, Internally Flawless. Estimate on Request The present diamond was named in honor of the king Ashoka Maurya, who ruled India from approximately 268-233 BC. Until about 300 BC, India was comprised of several kingdoms. With the threat of Western conquerors, Ashoka"s grandfather, Chandragupta Maurya, formed a federation of all north Indian kings to ensure this region would be protected. Ashoka broadened the dynastic rule to encompass nearly all of India. By associating himself with the Buddha and Buddhist law, Ashoka legitimized his authority, and his edicts proclaiming the law of the land are found inscribed on pillars and rock surfaces throughout all of India but the far south. Legend has it that Ashoka left his ruling seat to become a Buddhist monk. Without such a strong and respected leader, the vast rule of the Mauryan empire eventually dissolved. Diamonds were first found in India about 3000 years ago, and until the 1720s, it was the world"s only significant source of diamonds. The Ashoka Diamond originated in the Golconda region (now Hyderabad) of southern India. This region has produced many of the of the world"s most famous diamonds. Jean Baptiste Tavernier, the father of the world"s gem trade, made the first of many trips to India in 1631, becoming the first European to observe and document mining techniques there. An early mention of an Indian diamond trade, however, comes from a Sanskrit manuscript known as the Artha-Sastra (The Lesson of Profit), which mentions diamonds being taxed as a source for royal revenue as early as the late fourth century BC. Harry Winston first purchased the 42.47 carat Ashoka diamond from an Indian dealer in 1947. The stone was subsequently sold and repurchased by Mr. Winston several times. In 1977, he recut the diamond to 41.37 carats and resold it as a ring. It then was in the collection of the famous Mexican actress, Maria Felix, who sold it privately. It was subsequently sold at auction as the Property of a Gentleman at Sotheby"s in St. Moritz in February of 1988. The current weight of 40.45 carats reflects a repolishing in March of 1988. The term Golconda is used in the diamond trade to describe those rare stones that are exceptionally transparent and colorless. The limpidity of this beautiful stone is a testament to its origin in the now exhausted Golconda mines. Its unusually elegant cut and shape, combined with its flawless quality and interesting provenance make it one of the rare diamonds of the world. Provenance: Harry Winston The Collection of Maria Felix Property of a Gentleman, sold by Sotheby"s in St. Moritz, February, 1988, lot 835. Literature: Laurence Krashes, Harry Winston: The Ultimate Jeweler, New York, Harry Winston, Inc. and The Gemological Institute of America, 1988, p.57. Gleason, Barbara, editor, Notable Diamonds of the World, Diamond Promotion Service, New York, p.5.