LOS ANGELES, Feb. 5 (UPI) -- Hollywood jeweler Jack Armstrong is putting a 733-carat jewel, the Black Star of Queensland sapphire, on the market -- but he's not willing to let go of it if he doesn't get his price.
The jewel has a history. It is said to be the largest and most valuable sapphire in the world.
It certainly is large -- larger than the late Princess Diana's engagement ring and Louis XIV's 137-carat Crown Jewel, according to Beverly Hills-based art and antiques curator Jack Armstrong.
Its value -- like the value of so many things -- depends on who you ask. As recently as December 2002, it was being described in some press accounts as a $90 million item. The Black Star of Queensland has been on the market for some months, but it did not move as quickly as its seller -- and some in the press -- had anticipated.
"At first we said (we would sell it in) 90 days," said Armstrong. "And we realized that was a mistake because the offers just got better."
However, in a recent interview, Armstrong told United Press International the best offer he had in hand was $31.3 million. He said he is willing to let the Black Star go for $50 million -- but that's rock bottom.
"If I don't get a $50 million offer I'm not going to sell it because I know it's worth that," he said. "If we don't sell it within the next six months, we're not going to sell it."
Armstrong said he has a partner in the enterprise -- "a powerful family from Europe" -- who has told him that he doesn't have to sell the jewel if he doesn't want to.
The Black Star of Queensland sapphire is one of those jewels that are so rare that a mythology inevitably builds up around them.
It was discovered in the 1930s in the famed Anakie sapphire fields in Central Queensland, Australia, when Mrs. Roy McKiney reportedly stubbed her toe on it while she was enjoying a picnic with her family.
In its current state, the Black Stare of Queensland is said to be larger than a hen's egg, and is encircled with 35 cut diamonds on a platinum base. Armstrong said it has a "perfect" white six-point star in its center.
"One in 1,000 star sapphires comes out with a perfect six-point star," he said. "To get it to float in the center of the stone is amazing, and then it's probably 1,000,000-to-1 to get that in the largest star sapphire in the world."
It arrived in America during the 1940s, acquired by the Kazanjian brothers -- Armenian immigrants who became highly successful California-based precious stone jewelers. Their descendants now oversee the Kazanjian Foundation, which has one of the world's premiere collections of precious stones.
Anyone who reads a newspaper or listens to the news knows that economic times are rough all over, but Armstrong said he doesn't expect that will affect the Black Star of Queensland's marketability.
"The people who can afford to buy a $50 million jewel," he said, "I don't think they have to worry about where their next meal is coming from."