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Sell With a Story: Famous Diamonds

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It’s April, and I simply must write about diamonds — particularly these famous diamonds. I learned about them from Stanley Zale, our amazing Vice President of Diamonds and Gemstones.

As many of you know, his family owned a well-known chain of jewelry stores, and Stanley grew up around diamonds. After college, he worked for Zale in New York before working with Louis Glick, a legend of the diamond trade. His family has a personal connection to both of these famous diamonds.

The Incomparable: Lost and Found

Famous Diamonds Rough Yellow
An exquisite diamond in the rough • Source

Discovered in the early 1980s in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo, this 890-carat rough diamond landed in a rubble pile, rejected by a diamond mine. Big mistake. Luckily, a young girl visiting her uncle found it and had enough knowledge to give it to her uncle. He sold it to local African diamond dealers and they, in turn, sold it to Lebanese buyers in Kinshasa.

It traveled to Antwerp where the Senior De Beers Buyer purchased it. Soon after, Sir Philip Oppenheimer, then president of the Central Selling Organization and a De Beers director, sold it to Donald Zale, chairman of the board of the Zale Corporation, the Dallas-based jewelry store chain. He bought the diamond in partnership with Marvin Samuels, of the Premier Gems Corporation, and Louis Glick, both prominent figures in the New York diamond industry.

Famous Diamonds Hanging ring
The magnificent diamond hanging in its gold display stand • Source

Making the Cut

Renowned for his experience and expertise in faceting large stones, Marvin Samuels oversaw the four-year process working with Leo Wins, a master diamond cutter. They achieved extraordinary results. The three owners had hoped the resulting faceted stone would be larger than the Cullinan, at 530.4 carats, the largest diamond in the world. However, to achieve an internally flawless designation, the stone came in at 407.48 carats, making it the 3rd largest diamond in the world.

Beyond its size, one of its most impressive features is its color zoning, a very rare quality in a diamond. The colors appeared pronouncedly in the diamond’s satellite stones, pieces removed to create The Incomparable. These smaller stones ranged from a rich yellow with light brown overtones, to pale yellow and virtually colorless. The Incomparable is primarily medium yellow.

Famous Diamonds Necklace Incomparable
You’ve got to see this in detail! • Source

The Incomparable was finally unveiled in November 1984, coinciding with the Zale’s 60th or Diamond Anniversary. Shortly afterward, the Natural History wing of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC displayed it.

Years later, Mouawad, the luxury jewelers, purchased The Incomparable and created a spectacular necklace to showcase its splendor. In total, the creation holds 637 carats. In 2013, it earned a place in the Guinness Book of Records with its $55 million price tag. It appears that Mouawad still owns it but who can tell. It’s hard to believe such a beauty has yet to sell.

The Zale Light of Peace: A Spark Is Born

In 1969, the Zale Corporation purchased a fine blue-white diamond in Antwerp. It weighed 434.6 carats and came from West Africa, most likely Sierra Leone. Back in New York, it took two years to cut and facet the diamond. It yielded thirteen gems that totaled 172.46 carats. The largest, a pear shape cut with 111 facets, weighs 130.27 carats and has the name the Zale Light of Peace. The twelve smaller gems include:

Famous Diamonds Zale Light of Peace
Photo © Michel Plassart

Shape, Weight

Marquise,  9.11 carats
Marquise,  9.04 carats
R. Brilliant,  6.93 carats
Heart,  3.63 carats
Oval,  3.55 carats
Marquise,  2.73 carats
Pear,  1.83 carats
Pear,  1.55 carats
Pear,  1.51 carats
Pear,  1.13 carats
Marquise,  0.81 carats
Pear,  0.37 carats

Morris Zale, one of the two brothers who founded Zale’s, remarked on the name’s origins. “Once we acquired the diamond, someone suggested that perhaps we could use this great find to make a small contribution to promoting peace. We also felt that it was time for private industry to begin taking a more active role in promoting peace which has, up to now, been essentially a government function.”

Zale Corporation took the money received from many showings, and placed it in a fund. Zale’s donated the proceeds to causes that pursued peace. In 1980 the Zale Corporation sold the Light of Peace to an undisclosed buyer. Donald Zale explained how it came about: “Over the years, we had so many inquiries about the Light of Peace that we put a price on it and said not to call unless you were willing to pay the price … Somebody called.”

What was the price? Who knows but I can assure you it was steep. The Zale Light of Peace is a rare colorless Type IIa diamond graded D VVS1.

Check out Zale’s Tales for more from the industry expert.

Have you had any experience with famous diamonds in your store? What’s the largest, most valuable stone you’ve worked with? Tell us all about it in the comments below!


Elizabeth Raffel

I've been with Stuller since 2013 • Primarily read books on physics and other sciences • Was blown away by 'Breaking Bad' • I believe no woman can have too many boots or too much jewelry • Been writing professionally longer than I care to admit • Studied tailoring after college.