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Famous diamonds

Why have diamonds fascinated us for centuries? These ancient gems surpass all fleeting fashions, and have become symbols of what lasts Forever. Each diamond has its own story, pieced together through time, interwoven with mysteries unknown. 

From the biggest diamond ever discovered, to the oldest, such a precious gem is bound to have exotic tales to be told. Read on for more details about some of the most magnificent diamonds ever known.  

The largest diamond: Cullinan

The Cullinan, weighing in at 530.20 carats, is the largest cut diamond in the world. 

It was cut from a huge 3,106 carat rough diamond, discovered in the Premier mine in Transvaal, South Africa in 1905, the biggest diamond crystal ever found. There was speculation that it had been part of a bigger rough diamond, but a second half is yet to have been discovered. It was named after the owner of the mine, Thomas Cullinan and it was decided that it should be presented to King Edward VII to show solidarity between England and South Africa 

The diamond was one of the most expensive in the world at the time, so risk of theft was high. A steam boat set off with detectives from London guarding the captain’s safe where the diamond was ceremoniously placed. However, it was rumoured that this was a guise, and it had been posted in a plain parcel instead.

The Cullinan was cut by Joseph Asscher and Company of Amsterdam, who examined the enormous piece of rough for some time before determining how to divide it. It eventually yielded nine major, and 96 smaller brilliant cut diamonds. A necklace was made out of the smaller diamonds and handed down through the generations to Queen Elizabeth II. The Cullinan I was set on top of the Sovereign’s sceptre, which was redesigned in 1910 to accommodate it. 

Koh-i-Noor (Mountain of Light)

One of the most famous diamonds in the world, this diamond’s many dazzling facets are windows through history. Theories suggest the gem was first uncovered as early as the 14th Century, making it the oldest known diamond. The name of this diamond means ‘Mountain of Light’ and this oval cut gem weighs 105.60 carats. It was once thought that whoever owns this diamond, would be the most powerful person in the world. 

There are many different stories about the origins of the Koh-i-Noor, many believed it was a gift from god and possessed supernatural powers. The first real evidence of the Koh-i-Noor can be found in the memoirs of Sultan Barbur, the founder and first leader of the Mogul Empire in the 16th Century. 

The diamond passed through many owners in a series of battles over the years. After the break-up of the Persian Empire, the diamond found its way to India. It’s been said to have travelled with a bodyguard of Nadir Shah, who fled with the diamond when the Shah was murdered, to be later offered to Ranjit Singh of the Punjab. After fighting broke out between the Sikhs and the British, The East India Company claimed the diamond as a partial indemnity, and then presented it to Queen Victoria in 1850. 

When the diamond first came to England it went on show in the Great Exhibition, staged in Hyde Park, London of 1851. Thousands were unimpressed with its unusual shape and lack of fire. Consequently Queen Victoria had it recut to a more modern style and shape.  It was later set in the State Crown, worn by Queen Alexandra and Queen Mary, and in 1937 was worn by Queen Elizabeth for her coronation. It is now kept in the Tower of London, with the other Crown Jewels.

Thankfully for the benefit of history, the mineralogists at the time made sure that a plaster mold and cast were made of the original stone before it was cut, so that its historic form was preserved.
Robin Hansen, Curator of Earth Sciences at the Natural History Museum, London

The Idol’s Eye

A diamond shrouded by mystery. Due to its flattened pear shape, the 70.21 carat diamond was thought to be once set in the eye of an idol. It is thought to have been discovered in Golconda around 1600 due to its slight blueish tinge which is common to diamonds found here. 

In 1865 records show that it was first auctioned at Christie’s in London, before exchanging hands in the years that followed from the 34th Sultan of the Ottoman Empire to Harry Winston and the daughter to the founder of the Denver Post newspaper. Its whereabouts today are uncertain.

Although the Idol’s Eye’s true origins will never fully be understood, this diamond’s cryptic past contributes to its beautiful enchantment. 

The Taylor-Burton

A symbol of love for an iconic lady, this beautiful pear-shaped diamond was a gift from Richard Burton to Elizabeth Taylor. 

The diamond was sourced in Transvaal, South Africa, in 1966 and the rough diamond weighed an impressive 240.80 carats. It was purchased by diamond collector, Harry Winston, who commissioned his experienced cleaver to cut the diamond to its elegant pear-shape, which weighs 69.42 carats. Winston sold the diamond to Mrs Harriet Anneberg Ames and 2 years later she put it up for auction. 

Both Cartier and Richard Burton were among the bidders for the beautiful diamond. Eventually it was Cartier who won the auction at a price of $1,050,000. One of the conditions of the sale was that the winner could name the diamond and so it was aptly named the ‘Cartier’. 

It seemed that Richard Burton regretted not placing a higher bid and later purchased the diamond from Cartier, re-naming it the Taylor-Burton diamond. As part of their agreement the diamond was displayed at Cartier’s stores in New York and Chicago where thousands of people lined up to get a glimpse. 

After receiving the magnificent diamond, Taylor decided it was too big to wear as a ring, so had it placed in to a necklace instead. It was later supposedly positioned to cover a scar she had from an emergency tracheotomy operation.

Years later it was sold again at auction for a figure between $3-5 million. Part of the money from the sale was donated by Taylor to fund the construction of a hospital in Botswana.

The Sancy

This pale yellow 55.23 carat shield-shaped diamond is of Indian origin, and is said to be one of the first large diamonds to be cut with symmetrical facets. 

The diamond is named after Nicholas Harlay de Sancy, born in 1546, a financier and Ambassador to Switzerland, appointed by the King of France, Henry III. It was rumored that King Henry III, borrowed the diamond to decorate a small cap he wore to conceal his baldness. 

Due to finanicial issues Sancy tried to sell the diamond many times and eventually sold it to King James I. From there it was sold again and became a crown jewel of France set in a crown for the coronation of Louis XV in 1722. 

During the French revolution the Sancy was rumored to have been pawned to the Marquis of Iranda in Spain from there in ended up with Prince Nicholas Demidoff of Russia. He passed it on to his son who gifted it to his bride on the morning of their wedding. It now resides in the Louvre in Paris. 

The Hope Diamond

This 45.52 carat diamond is one of the most famous coloured diamonds in the world. The deep, lustrous blue evokes tales of fascination, awe and enchantment, along with murder, tragedy and heartache, but its unfortunate reputation of being a cursed diamond does not detract from its spectacular beauty. 

It is thought to be a part of the famous Blue Tavernier Diamond, brought to Europe by Jean Baptiste Tavernier. It was purchased by King Louis XIV in 1668 who had it re-cut in 1673 to a heart shape weighing 67 carats to bring out its brilliance. The diamond was stolen during the French Revolution and remained missing for a number of years. It then reappeared in the history books, smaller and recut sold in 1839 to Hope, an English banker, which is how it got its name. 

After inheriting the diamond, Hope's son displayed it at the Crystal Palace Exhibition in Hyde Park London in 1851. He eventually lost his fortune and the diamond went on to be acquired by an American widow, Mrs Edward McLean, whose family then suffered a series of catastrophes: her only child was accidentally killed, the family broke up, Mrs McLean lost her money, and then died in a mental institution. When Harry Winston, the New York diamond merchant, bought the diamond in 1949, many potential buyers refused to touch it. 

Although the true history of this fascinating diamond can only be read between the lines of historical records, the magic and allure of its illustrious past continues to intrigue today. The Hope Diamond is on display at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. .

Some diamonds fluoresce, which means when viewed under ultraviolet light they emit light and glow. A famous example of this is the Hope diamond which is blue, but under UV light glows bright red
– Robin Hansen, Curator of Earth Sciences at the Natural History Museum, London

The most expensive diamond: The Pink Star

The most expensive diamond to sell at auction is the recent sale of a beautiful pink diamond, known as the Pink Star. It was sold in Hong Kong for more than $71,000,000. Weighing 59.60 carats, it is also one of the largest diamonds to be sold at auction. 

The rose-coloured diamond was mined in 1999 in South Africa, and it took a period of 2 years to cut the diamond. Only a small fraction of the natural diamonds have a natural fancy colour.

Credits

Stock photography: Getty Images


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