The Moon of Baroda diamond which captivated everyone from Indian royalty to Marilyn Monroe will be offered for sale by Christie’s next month.
The 24.04-carat pear-shaped yellow diamond is estimated to sell for $510,000 – $765,000 – but its storied history and connection to Monroe could easily see it fetch a seven-figure sum in Hong Kong on November 27.
The Moon of Baroda originates from the legendary Golconda mines of southern India, which also produced historic gems such as the Koh-i-Noor diamond and the Hope diamond.
Almost uniquely for a 16th century stone, the diamond was cut into a stunning pear drop shape, and for close to 500 years it is believed to have belonged to the royal Gaekwad family, the Maharajas of Baroda.
In the 18th century the Maharajas gifted the diamond to Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, the only female monarch of the Habsburg dynasty who ruled from 1740 until her death 1780.
The stone was returned to India following her death, where it remained until the 1920s when it was finally sold by the Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad.
In the 1940s the diamond made its way to America where it was purchased by Samuel H. Deutsch, president of a distinguished firm of diamond cutters in Cleveland, Ohio.
But it was in 1953 that the Moon of Baroda first came to major public attention, draped around the neck of the world’s most famous woman.
Marilyn Monroe wore the stone in ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’, in which she played the diamond-obsessed showgirl Lorelei Lee.
The diamond was the largest Monroe ever wore in her lifetime, and the star is said to have gasped “It’s gorgeous!” when she first laid eyes on it.
She wore the gem during her famous performance of the song ‘Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend’, and again later in several publicity photos for the film.
One of those vintage photos is included in the Christie’s sale, signed by Monroe and bearing the special inscription “Thanks for the chance to wear the Moon of Baroda”.
The diamond had been loaned to the movie studio by its owner Meyer Rosenbaum, president of Meyer Jewelry Company in Detroit, who had acquired it earlier in 1953.
The next recorded sale of the diamond took place in 1990, when it trebled its estimate at Christie’s to fetch $297,000, and it is now set to head to the auction block for the first time in over 20 years.
Throughout its history, the diamond is said to have been followed by a curse, which brings bad luck to any owner who takes it across a sea.
Following Monroe’s tragic death from a drug overdose in 1962, U.S gossip magazine The National Insider even ran a spurious cover story with the headline ‘The Curse That Killed Marilyn! Her life became a hell after she wore the diamond”.
However, given that most historic diamonds come with legends and curses, and that Monroe lived for another nine years after wearing the stone, prospective buyers shouldn’t be put off.
“People love a story,” Christie’s expert Connie Luk told The Hollywood Reporter. “I think it’s just a rumor, cause as far as we know, the current owner of the stone, it has been in his hands for more than two decades and he’s doing very well and he’s in good shape and great financial condition. So, I don’t think there’s such a thing as the curse of the diamond.”