127-Carat 'Light of Peace' Diamond to Continue Its Legacy of Helping Refugees

Back in 1970, the Zale Corporation purchased a 435-carat rough diamond, which was subsequently cut into the 127-carat, internally flawless, D-color sparkler known today as the "Light of Peace." At the time, Zale's founders Morris and William Zale saw the diamond not only as a source of corporate pride, but also an opportunity to promote the company’s ideals and goals.

The Zales arranged showings of the diamond to the public, with the ticket sales providing funding for peace-supporting initiatives, including assistance to refugees. A progressive notion at the time, the Zales believed that private enterprise could make a more meaningful contribution to society by promoting the ideals of peace. Previously, only governments played that role.

The benevolent brothers enlisted former Supreme Court Justice Arthur J. Goldberg to administer the foundation's funds, which included an initial grant of $250,000.

On June 7 at Christie's New York, the "Light of Peace" enters the limelight one more time as the top lot of the auction house's Magnificent Jewels sale. The pear brilliant-cut diamond is expected to fetch between $10 million and $15 million, with a portion of the proceeds going to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The gem is being sold without a reserve.

The New York Times reported in a 1970 story that the 2-inch by 2-inch rough was about to be fashioned into a pear-shaped diamond that was expected to weigh 150 carats. At the time, that carat weight would have ranked it as the second largest pear-shaped diamond in the world. The Times added that the finished diamond would be exhibited throughout the country, with the proceeds from ticket sales going to a foundation dedicated to peace.

Zale Corp. entrusted the cutting of the diamond to one of its experts, Alex Franckel, who took a year to study the rough. He reportedly made multiple castings of the diamond in lead and lucite so he could visualize in advance the best way cleave the diamond. In addition to the mammoth hero stone, the original rough diamond yielded 12 significant satellite stones, ranging in size from 0.37 carats to 9.11 carats.

Zale Corporation sold the diamond formerly known as the "Zale Light of Peace" in 1982 to an unnamed buyer, the same buyer who will be offering it for sale at Christie's auction in June.

Other notable lots from the upcoming sale include the following:

A fancy vivid blue cushion modified brilliant-cut diamond weighing 3.10 carats, set in a platinum ring. Presale estimate is $4.2 million - $5.2 million.

A pendant featuring a cushion mixed-cut sapphire weighing 71.27 carats and accented with 10 round brilliant-cut diamonds in a platinum and 18-karat yellow gold setting. Presale estimate is $3 million - $5 million.

A fancy vivid blue cut-cornered rectangular modified brilliant diamond weighing 2.97 carats and set in a platinum ring. Presale estimate is $2.5 million - $3.5 million.

Credits: Images courtesy of Christie's.

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