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A lot of stars are shining at The National History Museum of Los Angeles this month; but they are not Hollywood actors, they are famous jewels. They include Madonna’s diamond tiara that she wore in her wedding to Guy Ritchie, a diamond necklace given to actress Terry Moore by Cary Grant and the notorious Kazanjian Red Diamond. All of these jewels are extravagant and they each have a past. That is part of the mystique of precious jewelry: the stories behind them. Out of all of these jewels the Kazanjian Red Diamond has the most sordid tale of all.

 The Kazanjian Red Diamond was unearthed in a diamond field in South Africa in 1927. During this time, thousands of people flocked there to look for diamonds in the Lichtenburg mines. This rare gem is one of only three blood-red diamonds that are known to exist. When the diamond was discovered it was a 35 carat stone that sold for $40 a carat. It wasn’t until the Amsterdam-based jewelers the Goudvis brothers began cleaning it and cutting it did they realize what they actually had; one of the rarest of gems: a blood red diamond.

The Goudvis brothers sent the stone to New York to try and find a buyer for the diamond, but no one was willing to pay their asking price. So, they sent the diamond back to Arnhem, the Netherlands and placed it in a safe. Then, the war broke out. The diamond was stolen in Arnhem during World War II when the Nazi’s were occupying the Netherlands. The gem was hidden there for years with other stolen treasures in a salt mine close to Adolph Hitler’s Bavarian home in Berchtesgaden.

Upon discovery of the salt mine, American soldiers thought the remarkable gem was a ruby. The rightful owners of the diamond perished in the war and their family was in debt, so when the military returned the gem to the Goudvis family, they sold the diamond to a private collector in the United States who kept the diamond safe for 37 years. The Kazanjian Brothers Incorporated purchased the diamond from an undisclosed buyer in 2007 and renamed it the “Kazanjian Blood Red Diamond”.

This exquisite gem attracts the most attention at the exhibit, which is running until February 1st. Yet, all of the gems on display are breathtaking, each with their own story to tell.