The world of gemstones often hides captivating stories within its glittering depths. One such tale is that of the Sherman Diamond, a remarkable piece of jewellery with a rich history. From its origins as a gift of gratitude to its place in the National Gem Collection, the Sherman Diamond holds significance as a dazzling accessory and a symbol of appreciation and family heritage.
The Meeting of Two Generals
In the annals of history, chance encounters between influential figures often lead to extraordinary outcomes. Such was the case in 1873 when Union General William Tecumseh Sherman found himself in the presence of Khedive Isma’il Pasha, the esteemed ruler of Egypt.
General Sherman, renowned for his strategic brilliance and military acumen during the American Civil War, embarked on a journey that would bring him face-to-face with Khedive Isma’il Pasha. This meeting was not merely a casual encounter but an opportunity for the two generals to engage in profound discussions on matters of military importance. With his wealth of experience and strategic insights, Sherman offered valuable advice to the Khedive on the restructuring of the Egyptian military.
The exchange of military knowledge and experiences between Sherman and Isma’il Pasha established a deep understanding and appreciation between the two generals. In light of the invaluable counsel provided by General Sherman, Khedive Isma’il Pasha sought to express his deep appreciation in a tangible and heartfelt manner. Gratitude mingled with respect, prompting the Khedive to offer a gesture that would forever connect the Sherman family to the ruler of Egypt. This act of gratitude would go on to shape the narrative of the Sherman Diamond, an extraordinary gem with a story steeped in history and appreciation.
The Sherman Diamond: A Token of Appreciation
In 1874, amidst the joyous celebration of love and commitment, Maria “Minnie” Sherman, the eldest daughter of General William Tecumseh Sherman, exchanged vows with Lieutenant Thomas Fitch. Little did they know that their union would be graced with a gift that would forever intertwine their love story with a remarkable piece of jewellery.
It was during this momentous occasion that Isma’il Pasha presented Maria Sherman with a gift that would mesmerize generations to come. Maria was bestowed with an extraordinary treasure: the Sherman Diamond necklace, accompanied by matching earrings, a testament to the enduring bond between nations and the power of appreciation.
The Sherman Diamond, nestled within the necklace and earrings, exuded a radiance that captivated all who beheld it. The remarkable craftsmanship showcased an 8.52-carat pear-shaped diamond at the heart of the necklace, surrounded by an exquisite halo of 15 round diamonds, each enhancing the brilliance of the central gem. The matching earrings complimented the necklace’s design, forming a harmonious ensemble that adorned Maria with unparalleled elegance.
Division and Transformation
Following the wedding of Maria “Minnie” Sherman and Lieutenant Thomas Fitch, the magnificent Sherman Diamond necklace and earrings took on new significance as a cherished family heirloom. With the desire to ensure fairness and unity among General Sherman’s daughters, the decision was made to divide the jewellery equally among the four sisters. This act of equality not only honoured the deep bond shared by the Sherman siblings but also ensured that the legacy of the Sherman Diamond would continue to be cherished by each generation.
In 1878, the Sherman family turned to the expertise of Tiffany & Co., entrusting this renowned jeweller with their precious family heirloom was a testament to their confidence in the skilled artisans’ ability to breathe new life into the remarkable gemstones.
With precision and artistry, the skilled artisans at Tiffany & Co. embarked on a remarkable journey to reimagine the Sherman Diamond jewellery. Each diamond was meticulously examined, and its inherent beauty and brilliance were accentuated through thoughtful design choices. The result was four pendants and four pairs of earrings, each possessing a unique style and character while maintaining equal value. This transformation not only honoured the individuality of each daughter but also showcased the timeless allure of the Sherman Diamond in a new and captivating form.
The New Home of the Sherman Diamond
The Sherman Diamond, with its rich history and profound symbolism, has remained a cherished generational heirloom within the Sherman family. Passed down through the years, it has served as a tangible link to the past and a testament to the enduring bond between family members.
In 1987, Cecilia McCallum Bolin, a member of the Sherman family, made a generous and heartfelt decision. In honour of her mother, Mary Sherman McCallum, Cecilia decided to donate the Sherman Diamond pendant to the Smithsonian Institution. This act of generosity ensured that the diamond would find a new home where it could be preserved, cherished, and shared with the public.
The Sherman Diamond pendant, now an esteemed part of the National Gem Collection, features an exquisite 8.52-carat pear-shaped old mine cut diamond, radiating brilliance and elegance. Surrounding this centrepiece are 15 round old mine cut diamonds, skillfully arranged in a graduated pattern, further enhancing the allure of the pendant. Suspended from a bail adorned with two additional round diamonds, the pendant exudes a sense of grace and sophistication.
While the Sherman Diamond boasts a near colourless hue, it is not without its unique characteristics. Upon closer examination, one may notice the presence of distinctive large black inclusions within the stone. These natural features add a touch of individuality and intrigue, making each facet a testament to the diamond’s journey through time. With its striking pear shape and exquisite detailing, the Sherman Diamond remains a treasured gem within the National Gem Collection, offering a glimpse into the intricate world of fine jewellery and the enduring legacy of the Sherman family.
Featured image: Chip Clark / Smithsonian Institution