Century-old yellow diamond ring may sell for $600K

A rare, yellow diamond ring, which has been traced back to the 19th century and Hawaii's King Kalakaua, is offered during a Feb. 17 jewelry auction.
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Yellow diamond ring from Hawaiian royalty offered during Feb. 17 auction

OAKLAND, Calif – On Sunday, Feb. 17, Clars Auction Gallery will present an extraordinary 34.28 carat fancy light yellow old mine cut diamond and platinum ring, VS2 (GIA), as part of the firm’s Fine Art, Decorative Arts, Asian Antiques and Jewelry sale.

Bidding for Clars’ auctions is available in person, by phone, absentee and live online at Live.Clars.com and through Liveauctioneers.com and Invaluable.com. Clars Auction Gallery is located at 5644 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland, CA 94609.

This rare 34.28 carat Old Mine Cut fancy light yellow diamond and platinum ring from the historic Spenger Collection, will be offered at Clars on February 17.

This rare 34.28 carat Old Mine Cut fancy light yellow diamond and platinum ring from the historic Spenger Collection, will be offered at Clars on Feb.17.

The yellow diamond ring comes to the sale from the historic Spenger Collection of the San Francisco Bay Area. Frank Spenger founded Spenger’s Fresh Fish Grotto in 1890 and, for over 125 years, it reigned as one of the most popular and successful restaurants in the Bay Area and the country overall. 

Frank Spenger acquired this diamond ring in 1950 and, for years, carried it in a specially tailored pocket to show to his patrons. Following his passing, the ring resided in a special viewing case in the Diamond Bar of the restaurant.

This yellow diamond ring is offered with an estimate of $400,000-$600,000.

The history surrounding this diamond is as almost as rich as the ring itself. 


The royal Hawaiian connection

King David Kalakaua

King David Kalakaua (center) aboard the American cruiser USS Charleston, bound for San Francisco in 1890. On the King’s left hand is believed to be the 34 carat diamond ring. Pictured on left is Col. G.W. Macfarlane, Colonel of the Royal Military Staff and Royal Chamberlain and on the right Col. R.H. Baker, Aide de Camp and Member of the Royal Military Staff. (Photo credit: Hawaii State Archives)

Several people have spent years researching its provenance which is believed to date back to King Kalakaua of Hawaii. In preparation for Queen Victoria’s Jubilee celebration in England in 1887, it is believed that the King purchased this ring for Queen Kapiolani to wear to this auspicious event. He reportedly purchased this ring from an Australian diamond merchant. The merchant was also the Charge d’Affairs for Australia in London at the time. (It is also believed that King Kalakaua purchased a second, similar ring for Princess Lili`uokalani to wear to the event – this ring has never surfaced.) Upon their return to Hawaii, it is believed that the existence of the ring was kept quiet by the now-deposed Royal Hawaiian family due its value and political climate at the time. In late 1890, King Kalakaua traveled to San Francisco bringing the ring with him. He was a known gambler. Upon his arrival he went to Crocker Bank in San Francisco and took out a loan on the diamond ring. On his journey to Southern California to Santa Anita Racetrack, he contracted pleurisy and was returned to San Francisco where he passed away in January 1891. The ring remained held at Crocker Bank.

Diamond ring provenance

After the required seven-year waiting period, Crocker Bank released this ring for private sale. At that time a gem dealer in Texas purchased the ring. He held this ring until 1950 when it was sold privately and Frank Spenger acquired it. While much of the history prior to Crocker Bank is assumed based on experts' research, the fact remains the ring holds one of only a handful of diamonds in the world of this size and quality.

Queen Kapiolani attending Queen Victoria’s Jubilee in 1877

Pictured here is Queen Kapiolani attending Queen Victoria’s Jubilee in 1877. She is dressed in her peacock-feathered gown, displaying the decoration of the Royal Order of Kamehameha I. On her left hand is believed to be the 34 carat diamond ring. (Photo credit: Hawaii State Archives

Preview of this ring is available by appointment only. For more information and to schedule a preview, contact Claire Pena, Director of Jewelry and Timepieces at Clars. (510-428-0100, ext. 104).  Clars February 17, 2019 sale will begin promptly at 9:30 a.m. A complete online catalog will be available 10 days prior to the sale. For more information, visit www.clars.com or email info@clars.com.

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