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Austrian imperial jewel to go up for auction for 15 million

A diamond that was once owned by Archduke Joseph of Austria (1872-1962) is expected to fetch between 15 and 20 million euros when it goes on sale at auction house Christie's next month.

The gem was put in a vault of the Hungarian General Credit Bank in 1933 by his son, the Archduke Joseph Francis, and was sold three years later to an anonymous buyer who left it in a safe during World War II, escaping the attention of the Nazis.

It finally resurfaced in 1961 at auction in London and was offered for sale in November 1993 at Christie's Geneva where it fetched $6.5 million.

Regarded as one of the world's most historic diamonds, the 76.02 carat Archduke Joseph is expected to make well in excess of $15 million when it goes up for sale in Geneva.

"It's a 76.02 carat cushion-shaped D-colour diamond (considered to be the most flawless), from the famous Golconda mines in India," Christie's senior international specialist Jean-Marc Lunel said.

The colourless gem, which is about the size of a domino and more than half an inch thick, is to be exhibited from October 13 in New York, Hong Kong and Geneva before the auction in Switzerland on November 13.

The diamond has the same provenance as other illustrious jewels including the Koh-i-noor – part of the crown jewels held in the Tower of London – and the Regent, believed by many to be the finest diamond in the French crown jewels and now in the Louvre museum in Paris.

All three jewels come from the now closed Golconda mines, which produced the purest gems, Mr Lunel said.

Since it was sold in 1993 the diamond has changed hands privately, but Christie's declined to comment on the identity of the current owner.

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