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The first Diamond engagement ring? The story of Maximilian I and Mary of Burgundy

In the 15th century, one royal couple had a significant impact on the diamond industry, playing a pivotal, arguably even a crucial role in the development of diamonds in modern culture.

Maximilian I and Mary of Burgundy were not diamond people in any way. They were not geologists who found diamond resources. They were not diamond mining magnates who built huge conglomerates; they were not jewelers who set their creations with diamonds, and they clearly were not diamond traders renowned for their quick thinking. Yet this 15th-century royal couple had a significant impact on the diamond industry, playing a pivotal, arguably even a crucial role in the development of diamonds in modern culture.
Maximilian I, also known as Archduke Maximilian of Austria, was King of the Romans for 33 years, from 1486 through his death in 1519. He was born outside of Vienna to Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor of the House of Habsburg. As a child, he lived under siege and suffered from starvation. Despite that episode in his life, he was one of the most powerful kings to rule in Europe, creating an empire that stretched from Netherlands in the north to Italy in the south, extending from Spain in the west to Poland in the east – although the empire in this form was never a single, uninterrupted land mass.
The young royal served uncharacteristically as co-king with his father, who went to war against Hungary. In 1493, upon his father's death, Maximilian was also Holy Roman Emperor.
Mary of Burgundy was born in Brussels, the only child of Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, and his wife Isabella of Bourbon. Her father was a wealthy royal with his own set of ambitions. He controlled Burgundy and most of the Low Countries – namely today's Belgium and Netherlands. As the sole child and heir apparent of her father's vast and prosperous reign, Mary was considered a prized wife. Among her many suitors were princes from all of Europe's noble families, particularly those whose fathers felt that the lands Mary would one day control would make for a good addition to their existing domains.
Among them were the future King Ferdinand II of Aragon, when she was just five years old, and Charles the Duke of Berry and younger brother of King Louis XI of France. King Louis XI was especially anxious that she marry his son after her father died in a battle in 1477. At this point, and just shy of her 20th birthday, Mary understood that to protect herself and her duchy; she must marry. Probably turned off by the French and their pressing pursuit, she turned to the other leading power of the time, the Holy Roman Emperor.
Their union was a typical for royals at the time- a marriage of political convenience, a means to meet a strategic end. Regardless, her decision to wed then Prince Maximilian resulted in an event that is etched in history to this day for a very different reason than political history. Maximilian gave Mary a diamond engagement ring. Although this is the earliest documented use of a diamond set in an engagement ring, it is believed that a good number of couples preceded them, though no direct and explicit documentation of such exists anymore, only hints of it.
Nevertheless, due to the great wealth and importance of this marriage, the betrothal with the diamond engagement ring at the imperial court of Vienna in 1477 was documented in writing and painting, as was the lavish wedding, which took place in Ghent on August 16 of that year. Their public standing had a social impact very similar to that of celebrities today: imitation. Mary's diamond engagement ring inspired other wealthy couples of her era. Diamond engagement rings became a trend among them.
According to documentation from the time, engagement rings were not typically set at all. Engagement rings given by Europe's wealthy were made of gold. The European trend of setting engagement rings with a gem apparently started around that time. Due to their extreme rarity – diamonds were mined in India, and only some of them were transported to Europe – diamonds were very high priced, and very few could afford them. This may have strengthened diamonds' status as exceptionally special. Over the centuries, diamonds slowly became more available following the discovery of diamonds in Brazil and later in Africa. The growing availability of diamonds did not harm the desire for diamond-set engagement rings. Instead, thanks to De Beers' "a diamond is forever" marketing campaign, it became more prevalent, to the point that most engagement rings in the US and China are set with diamonds.
Mary and Maximillian had no way of knowing how well-etched in history their engagement would become or even what economic impact it would have, although much of the drive behind their marriage was economic in nature. The marriage between the Burgundy heiress and the Habsburgs started an era of dispute between them and France that lasted until the early 18th century.
Mary saw very little of that. Although she sought to bring greater freedoms to those under her rule, she died after a hunting accident at the age of 25. Like many rulers of the era, Maximilian was a supporter of the arts and sciences. As a proponent of war as a method to achieve greater power, he also had a passion for armor, functional as well as an art form.
In 1496, Maximilian expelled all Jews from large parts of today's Austria, and in 1509 he passed the Imperial Confiscation Mandate, which ordered the destruction of all Jewish literature apart from the Bible.

Maximillian's political legacy shaped much of European history. After his death in 1519, at the age of 59, the Habsburg Empire later morphed into the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which lasted another 400 years. Among his descendants is Queen Elizabeth II, one of the world's greatest diamond collectors 

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5 Tips to Take Better Care Of Your Diamonds

For many people, diamonds are among their most valuable assets. Whether part of an heirloom piece of jewelry or held in a safety deposit box, diamonds are treasures. But like any valuable asset, such as a rare car or real estate, diamonds must be properly maintained in order for them to remain beautiful and to keep their value. Failure to preserve your diamonds in the best possible condition could ultimately cause your diamond jewelry to depreciate over time. Let's take a look at some of the most important tips for keeping your jewelry looking its best over all the years that you choose to enjoy it. 

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The Most Creative (and Outrageous) Products Made with Diamonds

 Diamonds are the epitome of luxury. Although diamonds are traditionally used in jewelry, many designers have created other beautiful and one-of-a-kind items with this precious stone. These unique pieces allow their owners to find new ways of displaying their wealth and creativity. Some of these items have been criticized as an unnecessary extravagance. In this series, we will show more interesting albeit unconventional items that have been made extraordinarily valuable through the presence of diamonds. Here is the fifth par of a list showing some of the most interesting ways that designers are incorporating diamonds into their product lines, transforming ordinary objects into luxury items.

Diamond Pacifier

For the discerning baby on your shopping list, luxury baby and mom brand Suommo offers a $2.5 million bejeweled pacifier shaped out of 18-carat gold and studded with diamonds. The piece is designed to be a baby's first jewel. It converts into a pendant or collar pin once the baby no longer needs it and can be shared with the baby's parent. If this sounds expensive, the company also offers a $12 million crib made out of solid gold.

Diamond Dinner

The world's most expensive meal will set you back $2 million but will send you home with some beautiful diamonds as a parting gift. Ce La Vi restaurant, in Marina Bay Sands Tower in Singapore, is the home of a $2 million luxury dining experience. The meal features an 18-course degustation menu that includes caviar, oysters, and pigeon, paired with a range of expensive wines and champagnes. The lucky couple will bring home a gorgeous set of gold chopsticks featuring 4 carats of round diamonds, as well as a 2-carat blue diamond ring set in rose gold, known as "the Jane Seymour".

Diamond Fruitcake

The world's most expensive dessert is a $1.65 million fruitcake produced by a renowned Tokyo pastry chef. It was sold for Christmas 2015. It apparently took the chef six months to conceptualize the cake's creation and another month to produce it. We know that the cake is adorned with 223 diamonds of various sizes. However, the rest remains a mystery, as the chef has steadfastly refused to disclose any of the other ingredients in his work.

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The Most Creative (and Outrageous) Products Made with Diamonds - Diamond Barbie Doll

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The world's most expensive Barbie doll was made in collaboration with toy maker Mattel and jeweler Stefano Canturi. It coincided with the launch of the 2010 Barbie Basics collection in Australia. Sold for the benefit of cancer research, it achieved a record price of $302,500, making it more valuable than even the first edition Barbie from 1959. The doll was adorned with a necklace of 3 carats of white diamonds and a 1-carat Argyle pink diamond as a center stone. The doll also had a diamond ring.
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True Colors Shining Through

Color is probably one of the most elusive and captivating characteristics of a diamond. Color is graded from D to Z – from colorless to brown or light yellow. The closer a diamond's color is to D, the more colorless it is and the higher its value. Diamonds of different colors will differ dramatically in value.

Color is a difficult characteristic to determine, with surrounding light, color of clothing, time of day and even coffee consumption influencing color perception. Therefore, to keep color-grading as consistent and unbiased as possible, labs use specialized machines to measure and determine color.

Pink, blue or other colorful diamonds – referred to as Fancy Color diamonds – are graded on a different, seven-step scale that indicates the depth of color in the diamond.

While this article discusses white diamonds, Fancy color, which is a unique sub-set characteristic with a dramatically different value proposition, may be discussed in a separate article.

The non-fancy color diamonds, commonly referred to as White diamonds, come in many hues, although most of them have a yellowish tint. Each letter of the 23-step from D to Z scale, stands for a specific color range for a combination of tone (lightness or darkness) and saturation (intensity), creating a value called "depth of color."

Many people wonder why the color scale starts at D and not A. In the past, grading systems broadly divided diamonds into three-color categories - A, B and C. The current and more specific scale starts at D to create a differentiation from older grading systems.

Groups of Color

The first three-color grades - D, E and F - are referred to as colorless. The first and sharpest change in value is between D and E. The G-J color range is known as Near Colorless. They have very small traces of color in them, and only a side-by-side comparison with colorless diamonds will make the color stand out. Under such a comparison, a G-color diamond may still seem colorless and a J-color diamond will exhibit a very faint yellowish tint.

Diamonds graded K-M are faint yellow. Here the yellow tint is more pronounce, although coloration is still difficult to see by the untrained eye. The value of these diamonds is lower. N-R graded diamonds are in the Very Light Yellow group. The last color group is S through Z. These diamonds have a distinctly yellow or brown color. The color, however, is not strong enough to be considered a fancy color diamond.

The Value of Non-Color

The closer a diamond's color is to D, the higher is its value. The declining value primarily reflects the increasing rate of recurrence of lower color diamonds in nature and greater prevalence in the market. As mentioned before, rarity is an important aspect of the value of diamonds.

As part of the Crystal Clear philosophy, it should be clarified how color impacts value. Just like with size, cut and clarity value changes along the grading scale, but unlike the sharp drops seen between ranges shown in our past articles, with color the value decline takes a different form.

The difference in value between a D and an E color diamond is very dramatic and can range from 10% to 40% for If clarity round diamonds. Because the intention here is to explore the idea of value change, we will focus here on round shape, IF clarity, one carat triple excellent diamonds. The value differences will be somewhat different with other cut, clarity, carat combinations, but the principle holds true throughout.

For a 1-carat, round, IF, triple excellent diamonds, the value drop from D to E is 33%, based on an analysis of current market prices. The decline in value between E and F is 11%, a smaller decline. This trend is seen through the color scale - it starts with a strong decline and then the value drop slowly shrinks, as the following table shows.

From the top value D color, there is a steady value decrease that starts as a sharp decline that slowly tapers off as color becomes very low. In other words, in higher colors, color is an important component of value, but in lower colors, the impact of color on value decreases.

Combining Color with other Value Characteristics

Once again, this value hierarchy does not live in disconnect from other value components. The following table compares change in value by color and size – 1 carat versus 0.98 carat, where the price jump is significant.

As you can see, based on current market prices, weight has a stronger impact on value than color. At the same time, the trend in value change remains the same: a sharp decline between the top D color and the following E color that gradually contracts as color grade declines.

The following is a further analysis of value, comparing size and color of IF clarity diamonds:

Color is a special and important part of diamonds. It can have a dramatic impact on the value of a diamond, especially in the better color range. By being aware of this, a well-informed decision can be made when considering the value of a diamond, especially if considering a diamond as part of a wealth preservation belief where transparency is indispensable.

No One should act upon any opinion or information in this website without consulting a professional qualified advisor. 

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