A Famous Diamond Comes to Auction for the First Time

The Light of Peace diamond could make auction history.

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Christie’s auction house has announced the resurfacing of The Light of Peace Diamond, once known as the “Zale Light of Peace.” The remarkable 126.76-carat pear-shaped diamond will appear at auction for the first time, continuing its lifelong philanthropic efforts. The Light of Peace’s journey began with the Zale Corporation’s long-time, worldwide quest for a once-in-a-lifetime diamond. In 1970, a Belgian diamond company contacted Morris Zale, one of Zale’s founders, with just such a diamond. After negotiations, the Zale Corporation acquired the 435-carat rough diamond, which was approximately the 14th largest diamond ever discovered, and the diamond’s quest for peace was only just beginning.

The massive rough diamond had only just been discovered in West Africa in 1969 before its purchase by Zale. Any natural diamond takes planning and time to be properly cut, but a diamond this size is on a completely different level. Zale entrusted the cutting of the diamond to their most experienced diamond cutter, Mr. Alex Franckel. He meticulously studied the diamond for nearly a year, creating lead and lucite castings to determine the optimal way to cut it and maximize its potential. With extensive planning behind them, the diamond-cutting process itself took another full year to complete. Thirteen smaller diamonds, totaling 172.46 carats, were created from the extraordinary rough diamond. The largest of these 13 diamonds, a pear-shaped, weighing 130.27 carats and with D color grade and VVS-1 in clarity. This magnificent miracle of nature was christened the “Light of Peace.”

The Zale Corporation chose the name “Light of Peace” to symbolize its commitment to promoting peace and to show that private enterprise, not just government, could make a positive change for global peace. To further this mission, they established a special foundation dedicated to peace and made an initial donation of $250,000. Zale then arranged showings of the diamond and used the proceeds of the ticket sales to establish a fund for peace-supporting missions through the foundation. The foundation’s funds were to be administered by Arthur J. Goldberg, a former Supreme Court justice.

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In 1980, the Zale Corporation sold the “Zale Light of Peace” to an anonymous buyer for an undisclosed amount. However, reports from The New York Times suggested that the corporation made a profit of $6 million from the sale. Explaining the decision to sell the diamond, Donald Zale said: “Over the years, we had so many inquiries about the diamond that we put a price on it and said not to call unless the enquirer were willing to pay the price … Somebody called.”

Fast forward to the present day, and the Light of Peace Diamond takes center stage at Christie’s Magnificent Jewels auction as part of New York Luxury Week, from June 2 to June 6. The Light of Peace Diamond is estimated to sell between $10 million and $15 million. At some point in its life, the Light of Peace underwent s slight recutting to reach its now 126.76-carat weight and internally flawless clarity rating, even further increasing its value.

Beyond its remarkable physical attributes and extreme rarity, the Light of Peace Diamond carries with it a legacy of philanthropy and goodwill. The Zale Corporation’s initial purchase of the diamond was driven by their desire to give back, and they used the proceeds from exhibitions to establish a fund supporting peace missions. The current owners of the diamond continue this tradition by donating a portion of the auction’s proceeds to the USA for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.