TodayJanuary 18, 2022

Bugattis & Diamonds are forever

The 2007 57th Annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance is a harmonious perfection of classic wealth and emotional art forms. If your taste goes to automobiles, private jets or a 76-carat diamond valued at $30 million dollars, the Concours won’t disappoint.

The first night I attended the Aston Martin party and was shuttled back to the parking lot. I asked the driver if he could take me to the Lodge (Pebble Beach Lodge, of course). He said he was only taking people to and from the party to the parking pit. Diane, a blonde dripping with diamonds, was very congenial and offered to drive me to the lodge.

As we got in the Hummer she introduced me to Ron. Turns out Diane is with Black, Starr, and Frost and Ron is with Pluzenik, two of the most exclusive diamond purveyors in the world. “Come see us in our suite on Sunday” sings Diane sweetly. I’m a woman, I have to.

The Saturday before the Concours is spent at the Monterey Historic races or at unveilings of new cars and luncheons. After a full day, I was trudging back to room 412 at the Lodge, my home for the week. As I get closer I notice a beautiful piece of art: a Bugatti Veyron. I ask the gentleman standing next to it if he would mind if I videoed the car. “That is fine,” he says as he tells me he is not the owner, only the owner’s security guard.

Bugatti’s parent company, Volkswagen, is worlds away as I film this sculpture. The Veyron is the most powerful full-production car in the world, putting out over 1,000 horsepower with a top speed of 255 miles per hour and selling at $1.2 million dollars. It is built in France and named after Pierre Veyron, the winner of the 1939 Lemans.

Anyone who has been to Pebble before will tell you that the best part of the day, Sunday, is from 6 am to 10 am. Being on the 18th and watching all the show cars drive in as the sun rises over the calm bay is a spectacular start to the day. Someone I was standing next to threw out the figure $150,000 to detail one of the Dusenbergs that drove by.

There is a lull during the show from 11:30-1:30. I’d seen all the cars and the swarm of people made it difficult to take any pictures. I decided to go visit my shimmering friends in their diamond suite.

Diane was there and graciously welcomed me into the suite for a bite to eat, “sit and eat and let us show you some spectacular diamonds”. One of her colleagues brought out a strand of diamonds and pointed out that it could be worn as a long strand, or could be unclasped and made into two choker necklaces. A twofer! And only $500,000!

There was a discussion between Diane and said colleague as to how much the diamond necklace around her neck was valued. The difference in price was $150,000, but Diane pointed out that her necklace was the larger version, aka more carats. That’s a lot more neck-lace!

The prize of the event was when Alfredo Molina showed up with his hand in his pocket. The Molina Group (Molina fine jewelers and perfume) acquired Black, Starr & Frost, a purveyor of premier jewelry since 1810, and Molina is CEO. Diane may have been shimmering in jewels, but Molina carried the pinnacle of beauty: the Archduke Joseph diamond, the twelfth largest historic perfect white diamond in the world.

It would have been understandable if Molina had shown it to me, told me it was valued at $30 million and put it back in his pocket. I would have understood. But he didn’t. He allowed me to video the rock, he told me the history of the Archduke.

According to Molina, the Archduke is believed to have originated in India, somewhere between 400 BC and 1,700 AD. The stone was named after a previous owner, Archduke Joseph August (1872-1962), a Prince of the Hapsburg dynasty, the world’s most powerful family from the 12th to the 19th century. It was one of the Hapsburg dynasty clan, Archduke Maximilian, that started the tradition of diamond engagement rings, giving his fiance, Mary of Burgundy, a diamond engagement ring.

As the owners of the classic cars sit on the 18th green outside telling the history of their classic cars by heart, Molina talks freely about the history of the Archduke, “In 1961 the stone was at Sotheby’s, with an asking price of $350,000. It was the largest diamond sold at Sotheby’s, but it had flaws. In 1993 the stone was worth $6.5 million and was 78 carats, 54 points, S1 with 1 fracture on the facet. Three families went in together and recut the stone to 76 carats, 45 points.”

I’m trying to keep up. Molina knows this by heart and he knows his diamonds. The only diamond I own is my 3-carat wedding ring and it’s starting to look really small and I haven’t cleaned it in months! Molina bought the diamond in 1999 and in 2007 re-cut the diamond, again!. Today the diamond is 76 carats, 02 points and has an asking price of $30 million.

Molina presented the 2007 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance winner, Harry Yeaggy from Cincinnati, Ohio with his 1935 Duesenberg SJ Special with a congratulatory diamond for their 2007 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance “Best of Show” win. In 2006 the Best of Show winner was a 1931 Daimler Double-Six 50 Corsica Drophead Coupe, owned by Robert M. Lee and Ann Brockman of Reno, NV. Brockman was presented with a yellow and white diamond heart pendant from the Molina design studio.

It was a good weekend to dream.

Lou Ann Hammond

Lou Ann Hammond is the CEO of Carlist and Driving the Nation. She is the co-host of Real Wheels Washington Post carchat every Friday morning and is the Automotive, energy correspondent for The John Batchelor Show and a Contributor to Automotive Electronics magazine headquartered in Korea. Hammond is a founding member of the Women's World Car of the Year #WWCOTY, and board member of the Women in Automotive.

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