I spent some time in the Bronx courthouse near Yankee stadium last week at a hearing over the world’s most comprehensive collection of naturally colored diamonds. I did not, alas, get to take home any samples.
The Aurora Pyramid of Hope, a rare collection of 295 naturally colored diamonds.
Published: March 30, 2012
In the mezzanine gallery of the Natural History Museum in London are some of its cherished treasures: the 1,384-carat Devonshire Emerald; a replica of Queen Victoria’s Koh-i-noor diamond; and the Aurora Pyramid of Hope, a rare collection of 295 naturally colored diamonds.The emerald was once the property of a 19th-century Brazilian emperor, and the original Koh-i-noor, under guard in the Tower of London, is one of the crown jewels. The Aurora collection has somewhat humbler roots.
It was put together in the 1980s and ’90s by two men, Harry Rodman, a veteran gold refiner from the Bronx, and Alan Bronstein, a diamond dealer from New Jersey. Together they assembled the world’s most comprehensive grouping of colored diamonds and exhibited them at prestigious museums like the Smithsonian Institution in Washington and the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
But these days the fate of that collection and other gems is being decided on the fourth floor of Surrogate’s Court in the Bronx, a few blocks from Yankee Stadium.
Mr. Rodman died in 2008 at 99, and now his family is battling Mr. Bronstein over who is rightfully entitled to Mr. Rodman’s half-share of their collections, valued by one appraisal at more than $14 million.
The question is complicated by the fact that Mr. Rodman made seven wills in the last decade of his life and by the intermingling of family and business ties.
In addition to being Mr. Bronstein’s partner, Mr. Rodman in 2001, at 92, married Mr. Bronstein’s 81-year-old mother, Jeanette, his longtime friend and neighbor.