Interview with Michael Kazanjian: The Kazanjian Red Diamond Visits a Manhattan Museum

A rare red diamond now owned by the Kazanjians Bros. is on display at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

 
Make a date this fall to see one of the most rare—and storied—diamonds in
history. Thanks to the generosity of Kazanjians Bros., diamond jewelers in Los
Angeles, the American Museum of Natural History in New York City is featuring the Kazanjian Red Diamond
in a public display of 25 stones in the museum’s Morgan Memorial Hall of
Gems.

 
The Kazanjian Red is a 5.05 ct. short emerald cut, originally discovered in the
1920s in Litchenburg, South Africa—a complete history can be read in Ian
Balfour’s Famous Diamonds
. The rough
weighed 35 cts. At the time, a diamond dealer paid 280 British pounds (eight
pounds per carat) for it, and shipped the rock to Amsterdam to be cut and
polished by the Goudiv brothers. Many mistook the stone for a ruby because of
its blood-red color.
 
 
After
being cut, the stone had a wild ride for years. It was sent to Tiffany &
Co. in New York, was stolen by the Nazis and sent to Germany, reacquired by
Louis Asscher after being found in Bavaria, sold to Sir Ernest Oppenheimer,
sold again to the Royal Asscher Diamond Co., and in 1970 the stone went MIA.
That is until 2007, when an Asian collector, according to Michael Kazanjian,
chairman of Kazanjian Diamonds, approached his son and company chief executive
officer, Douglas, with the stone. After some research, the younger Kazanjian
determined that this was the missing red, which was—according to Michael
Kazanjian—renamed the Kazanjian Red in the fourth edition of Balfour’s book.

 
Since the Kazanjian’s acquisition three years ago, the stone has been on
display in the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, and now it will reside in
the New York museum for six months, according to Michael Kazanjian.
 


Kazanjian spoke to JCK yesterday in a
phone interview about plans for his precious Red.

 
JCK: When will this stone be for
sale?
MK: We do not have a date yet. We
are enjoying it before it goes into someone’s private vault collection. We have
had some interest [from a potential buyer] in China, from the owner of a
department store chain. We wanted to keep it in America a little longer, but we
might consider it going to other parts of the world. While we purchased the
stone for business reasons, we really wanted to do something that would
ultimately support our Kazanjian Foundation, where money raised benefits young
people, such as through medical needs or scholarships. The majority of the
proceeds from the sale of this stone will go to good causes.

JCK: From whom did you buy the
stone?
MK: We’re careful not to intrude on
the privacy of our clients, so the person’s name shall remain anonymous. I
guess I can tell you that a resident of Asia brought it to our firm.
 
JCK: Will you sell the stone at
auction? If so, which auction house will you call upon?
MK: While we don’t rule out the
possibility of being sold at auction, we would rather deal with a private
family who collects articles of importance. Part of our business is reacquiring
pieces sold years earlier, so we might be able to acquire this stone again if
the buyer is known to us. If sold through a dealer or auction house—where
buyers might not be known to us—we could lose contact with the item.
 
JCK: Once your son became aware of
the diamond, were you immediately sold on the idea of buying it?
MK: I was not prepared to buy it
until [Douglas] had done some research, but he recognized that he had treasure
in his hand.
 
JCK: What did you pay for it?
MK: We are not going to reveal that
number. Let’s just say that I’m not as rich as I once was, but that I am still
rich because I’m holding a rare stone.
 
JCK: What labs issued certificates
for the stone?
MK: It has been certified with
Gubelin Gemlab and the Gemological Institute of America. The diamond needed to
have a dossier.

 The Kazanjian Red Diamond

JCK: How do you feel about your
son’s find?
MK: He’s a young man, and at 33
years of age, this is the greatest accomplishment of his professional career. I
take pride in knowing that he brought something into our family business that
will be the keynote of our success. I cannot imagine acquiring anything more
rare or important than this stone, which is perhaps the rarest of three red
diamonds in existence today between 3 to 5 cts.
 
JCK: What value would you put on
this stone?
MK: People tell me it should be
worth in excess of $50 million—a 3 ct. red stone sold for $25 million. But, I
can’t duplicate it because it’s so rare, so there’s no way to put a value on
it. I can put a value on my home because there are plenty of homes to compare
it to—I can establish its value within 20 to 30 percent, but with this stone,
it’s really whatever someone is willing to pay for it.