The English Dresden
In 1857, by the River Bagagem in the state of Minas Gerais, not far from the discovery site for the Star of the South, a flawless 119.50 carat diamond was found. An Englishman named Edward H. Dresden purchased the rough diamond in Rio de Janeiro. He knew he found an exquisite piece and sent it to London for evaluation.
In London, people knew a thing or two about diamonds. One of the things they all agreed on was that this stunning piece deserved a master cutter. Therefore, the diamond went to Amsterdam, to Coster Diamonds. Owner Martin Coster had made quite a name for himself by polishing the Koh-I-Noor for Queen Victoria (1852) and the Star of the South. Mr. Voorzanger, who also cut the two other famous diamonds, again had the honor to polish this remarkable stone. He polished the large white stone into a beautiful pear cut, reducing the diamond to 78.53 carat. So, it’s still a big rock.
Mr. L. B. Voorzanger (left) cut the English Dresden. Together with Mr. J. A.
Fedder (right), he polished the Koh-I-Noor diamond
Compared to the Koh-I-Noor
The English Dresden is often compared to the Koh-I-Noor. Both are big famous D-colored – therefore, colorless – diamonds. And both were cut by the same polisher. Mr. Voorzanger of Coster Diamonds did a great job of polishing the English Dresden. When Mr. Voorzanger finished polishing it, Mr. Dresden was thrilled with the results. He wrote in an account that “his” diamond was the best diamond in the world after seeing the resulting stone. It was so pure! Even the (colorless!) Koh-I-Noor appeared yellowish next to the perfect white English Dresden.
The English Dresden (left) is often compared to the Koh-I-Noor (right) from
the British Crown Jewels.
Who wants to buy a big flawless diamond?
Who saw the gem was awestruck by its transparency and exquisiteness. Everyone loved the pure diamond, but as you can imagine, a diamond this clear, this well polished and this size come with a price tag. It was offered for sale to various members of European Royal Families, but they all declined. The English Dresden remained unsold for quite some time.
After a few years, an anonymous Maharaja heard of this unbelievable white diamond. He went to London in 1863 with the intention of buying the English Dresden. Yet, he went home disappointed since he didn’t want to spend £40,000 on it. Note that in this time, this was the equivalent of 4,9 million pounds (or over 5,4 million euros / 6,1 million dollar). Though the Maharaja didn’t purchase it, his travel companion did. An English cotton merchant accompanied the maharaja from Bombay. When he saw the English Dresden, he fell madly in love with the diamond and was set on buying it. As soon as the deal was completed, the English Dresden made its journey to India. However, before the diamond was paid off, the merchant unexpectedly suffered heavy losses in his cotton business. He lost a lot of money, gained many debts and died not much later. To pay off his debts, the merchant’s descendants had to sell the English Dresden.
Only one prospective buyer left
So who wanted to buy that rare and very valuable white diamond? There was one person that came to mind. A little while ago, Mr. Dresden sold the “Star of the South” to Gaekwar of Baroda, Mulhar Rao. He was a keen collector of jewelry and agreed to buy the diamond for the asking price of £40,000. In 1880, the Kaekwar of Baroda mounted the English Dresden and the Star of the South together in a very special necklace. The necklace remained in the family and in 1948, it was modified by adding even more diamonds. The Maharani of Baroda, the well-known Sita Devi, wore the modified necklace at her husband’s birthday party.
Pink background: Star of the South - Green background: English Dresden.
Both diamonds are incorporated into the impressive necklace.
Why the name English Dresden
As you may have guessed by now, the diamond in this story is named after its first owner. But it was probably styled the “English Dresden” to distinguish it from a couple of other (also famous) diamonds. Diamonds like ‘the Dresden Green’, ‘the Dresden White’ and ‘the Dresden Yellow’ have nothing to do with this stone. These three were named after the city of Dresden (Germany) where they were kept. To this day, the English Dresden is one of the most valuable diamonds in the world, even though its present whereabouts are unknown.