By  on October 29, 2010

CHICAGO — Members of Chicago’s upper echelon were clearly impressed. “It’s spectacular,” said J.B. Pritzker, of the 31.06-carat deep blue diamond on display at Graff’s Oak Street location here last week. “I’m really in awe.”

Arriving in Chicago with what one local reporter called a James Bondlike entourage, the Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond, thought to be one of the most expensive in the world, made a brief one-day pit stop between stints at the Smithsonian in Washington and the American Museum of National History in New York.

“It’s the most available, valuable diamond in the world,” said Graff’s chief executive officer for America, Henri Barguirdjian, claiming that it rivals the larger, more famous Hope Diamond. Barguirdjian said a Smithsonian curator estimates the Hope Diamond, a 45.52-carat stone, is insured for $250 million. Though smaller, the Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond is considered internally flawless and of a deeper blue color, he said, adding, “So you guess how much it’s worth.”

Graff’s chairman Laurence Graff purchased the stone in 2008 for 16.4 million pounds, or about $24 million. Not unlike the Hope, the Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond has a storied past, once belonging to the House of Wittelsbach, members of Bavaria’s ruling house. When Bavaria became a republic after World War I, its crown jewels were sold through Christie’s in 1931. Allegedly disappearing before the auction, the stone emerged in Belgium in 1951 and was identified as the Wittelsbach Diamond in 1962.

The diamond’s visit gave Chicago’s society set a chance to gather, gaze and gasp. Pritzker turned out with his wife M.K. Pritzker, who donned a black Yves Saint Laurent sheath dress and sizable diamond hoops recently purchased at Graff to celebrate the 22nd anniversary of the couple’s first date. Meanwhile, Roger Deromedi, the former ceo of Kraft, was spotted perusing jewelry alongside his wife Sandy, and art collector Stefan Edlis stopped by with his wife Gail Neeson.

And as the Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond made its way to New York, Graff as a business is also on the move, planning to open new stores in San Francisco, Beijing and Taipei, among other locations in 2011.

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