Falling head over heels for a girl’s best friend
February 11, 2002
When you live in Aspen, there is a certain understanding of the rich.
Big houses, big sport utility vehicles, big furs. It’s such a part of life up here that we don’t notice it when it’s right in front of us, sipping a latte and walking a poodle with a pink collar.
So it wasn’t really a big surprise to hear that a 76-carat diamond would be stopping in Aspen for a brief vacation. But it gave me pause to learn that I’d get to hang out with the diamond (oh, and its owner) on behalf of The Aspen Times.
Here’s the thing: diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but I’d rather spend quality time with man’s best friend. I haven’t spent a lot of time with my nose pressed up against jewelry store display windows, but I’ve got names for my future dogs picked out already.
On the other hand, we’re talking about a rock worth $25 million – make that $27 million if you include the necklace with which it comes. I called Alfredo Molina, the owner of the Archduke Joseph Diamond. My excitement about this former lump of coal grew exponentially.
As casually as I could, I mentioned to a friend that I had a date with the 12th largest white diamond in the world. His response was first, “Your boyfriend can’t afford it,” and second, “I hate it when people flock to see something so materialistic.”
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And that’s when I blew my cover and shouted, “Come on! It’s a diamond, and I’m a woman!”
I hustled over to the Residence hotel for my chance to see and (I hoped) hold it.
I was shown into a large hotel suite, past a tall, gun-toting bodyguard. Molina, of Molina Jewelers in Phoenix, introduced himself, and we sat down to examine all 76 carats of the flawless diamond.
It’s a stone with history. Taken from the Golconda mine in India sometime between 400 B.C. and A.D. 1700, the diamond takes its name from a previous owner, the Archduke Joseph August, who lived from 1872 to 1962. August was a prince in the Hungarian line of the Hapsburg dynasty. Some say he may have received it as a gift from Prince Albert and Queen Victoria, since many of the major diamonds mined at Golconda ended up as part of the British crown jewels.
The Archduke is the first known owner of the diamond, and it’s believed that he gave the diamond to his son, Joseph Francis, who later placed the gem in the vault of the Hungarian General Credit Bank. Records later show that the stone was sold in 1936 to an undisclosed buyer and has been kept discreetly ever since.
In fact, Molina wouldn’t tell me who sold him the diamond, aside from saying it belonged to a royal family in Asia, and took him two and a half years of negotiating before he acquired it. His family’s work in jewelry dates back 350 years, and they specialize in the sale of “important collections” from around the world.
Molina handed me the gem from a velvet pouch, and pointed out its clarity, “antique cushion” cut and its “Super D” color – the highest color rating for a diamond. I put down my notebook to give the stone my full attention (I figured it would be a major faux pas to drop a $25 million diamond). The next thing I knew, Molina was displaying the necklace, a single strand of 57 diamonds. He attached the Archduke Joseph Diamond and stood up to place it around my neck.
Not too heavy and just flashy enough, wearing it was a little surreal: This is the kind of thing you most often see in a glass case, from behind velvet ropes.
I racked my brain to come up with a piece of clothing hanging in my closet that would look appropriate with the necklace. Later on, a friend said, “Where do you wear a $27 million necklace? And what do you wear it with?”
Well, Daisy Fuentes and Natalie Cole have worn it, so I guess they have answers to those questions, but I sure don’t. Anyway, it didn’t look too bad with my black T-shirt. Molina and I kept chatting about the stone while it hung around my neck.
In the course of the next 15 minutes, I discovered that trying on a $14.3 million Burmese ruby ring and a $1 million canary diamond ring isn’t so daunting when you’ve already got a total of 150 carats in diamonds on. Ho-hum, I’m a socialite already.
Molina brought the impressive collection of stones, including a blue diamond, sapphires and emeralds, to Aspen as part of “Vogue Takes Aspen” week. He said one local had an appointment to view the diamond on Saturday to consider buying it.
“It will be bittersweet when we sell this stone,” he said. “But my philosophy is that you should always buy the best there is. As long as you’re buying the best there is, you’ll never go wrong.”
Alfredo Molina, you’re my new best friend.