The 10 Most Famous Diamonds in Mankind’s History
This is the one diamond that every Indian knows of, probably because it’s not in our custody anymore. The Koh-i-noor or ‘mountain of light’ is a large, colourless diamond that was found near Guntur in Andhra Pradesh, India, possibly in the 13th century, originally weighing 793 carats. The earliest recorded mention of the diamond is in the documentation of Babur, the first Mughal ruler of India, passing many hands in its long, complex history.
However, the turning point in its life came when a fight broke out between the Sikhs and the British, and The East India Company claimed the diamond as a partial indemnity, presenting it to Queen Victoria in 1850. Not satisfied with its cutting, which hindered it from shining to its potential, the queen had it recut, which meant
Diamonds have always been mesmerising. They’ve lured explorers for centuries, been at the heart of revolutions, and continue to be central to declarations of love even today. There’s something about diamonds that make them much more than glittering relics of fossilised carbon.
Which is why we’re excited to talk a walk down the history of the most romantic stone in the world; the epicentre of celebration and the purest symbol of love. We picked out 10 of the most exquisite, expensive and famous diamonds in the history of mankind.
a loss of weight of almost 43%. It was then set in the queen’s crown, right in front. Today, the Koh-i-noor is a member of the British Crown Jewels and is kept in the Tower of London.
THE HOPE DIAMOND
The Hope Diamond is not only one of the most famous gems, it’s also the fourth largest blue diamond in the world – a rare blue at that. Weighing 45.52 carats, no one knows exactly when it was discovered but the jewel is believed to have been born in India, where the original, larger stone was purchased in 1666 by French gem merchant Jean-baptiste Tavernier as the Tavernier Blue, from an Indian slave who claimed that the stunner came from the eye of an idol. From then on, the Tavernier Blue was cut and sold to King Louis XIV in 1668, was stolen in 1791, and worn by a Washington
socialite, and got its name ‘Hope’ from a London banking family of that name. After being in Harry Winston’s possession for a while, it now sits pretty in Washington’s National Museum of Natural History, insured for a sweet $250 million.
But the most interesting part? The stone brought bad fortune wherever it went: Hope’s son lost his fortune, Mrs. Mclean, the socialite, suffered a series of catastrophes and lost her money, eventually committing suicide. The reason? Legend says that this diamond was cursed by the Hindu priests of the temple from where it was stolen, but we’ll never know.
THE GOLDEN JUBILEE
With the title of being the largest cut and faceted diamond in the world, the Golden Jubilee Diamond was discovered in 1985, in the Premier mine of South Africa, weighing 545.67 carats. While it was first considered an ugly brown diamond, the “Unnamed Brown” surprised everyone after being used to test a few new tools and cutting methods, turning into a gorgeous yellow-brown. However, the stone only got its grand name when it was presented to the king of Thailand in 1997, for the 50th anniversary of his coronation, thereby earning its name.
If you compared the technicalities, this mere 20 carat stone doesn’t stand a chance against the other renowned stones on this list despite its near perfect cut and unique shape, but this diamond stands out because of its spectacular pale pink hue. It was named after the Queen of Holland who – wait for it – was also the step-daughter of French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. It currently features in Paris’ Musée du Louvre as part of the French Crown Jewels. Needless to say, this gem has seen more than a few revolutions. THE CULLINAN I
Weighing a hefty 530.20 carats, The Cullinan I or the ‘Star of Africa’ was rightly considered the largest clear cut diamond in the world up until the discovery of the Golden Jubilee. The pear-shaped stone is the largest of the 9 diamonds cut from the largest rough diamond ever, the Cullinan diamond (3,106.75 carats!), discovered at the Premier No. 2 mine in Cullinan, modern-day South Africa, on 26 January 1905.
Currently, the Cullinan I is mounted on the head of the Sovereign’s Sceptre in the Tower of London; along with the Cullinan II or the Second Star of Africa (at 317.4 carats), it is the fourth-largest cut diamond in the world, but can be removed and worn as a brooch.
One of the most intriguing diamonds in the world, the Orlov has a blurry past – it is said that it was stolen from an idol, where it featured as one of the eyes, before being stolen in the 1700s by a French deserter. However, many questions remain: First, if this is true, what happened to the other eye? Could it have been the above mentioned Koh-i-noor? Another theory is that the Orlov diamond is actually the legendary stone called the Great Mogul, which was only described by Jean Baptiste Tavernier and was lost forever centuries ago. Whatever the truth, the Orlov diamond is now in the possession of the Russian government and it is set in the Imperial scepter. It is estimated at 189 carats but its historical value cannot be priced.
THE IDOL’S EYE
One of the most mysterious diamonds in the world, the Idol Eye’s entire history is unknown – no one knows where it came from, when it was discovered or who owned it – but there are various legends attached to it. The only clue is its name, “The Idol’s Eye”, and it might’ve originated around 1600 in Golconda, as it matches the characteristics of jewels of that period. The first proof of its existence was its appearance at a
Christie’s sale in London on July 14th, 1865, when it was described as “a splendid large diamond known as the Idol’s Eye set round with 18 smaller brilliants and a framework of small brilliants.” It was knocked down to a mysterious buyer simply designated as “B.B.”. The stone has changed many hands since, both famous and anonymous, and is still believed to be owned anonymously today.
A lost diamond of Indian origin, light yellow hued, nine-sided, 126-facet double rose cut, and weighing 137.27 carats, the Florentine is an enigmatic gem. It’s also known as the Tuscan or the Tuscany Diamond, owing to its documented history which begins when Jean Baptiste Tavernier, the French jeweller and traveller, saw the stone among the possessions of Ferdinando II de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany in 1657.
In the 17th century, the Florentine found possession with the Medici family, but when the last Medici died, the diamond arrived in Vienna, and became one of the Habsburg Crown Jewels. The stone was stolen sometime after 1918 by a person close to the Imperial family and taken to South America with other gems of the Crown Jewels. After this, it was rumoured that the diamond was brought into the United States in the 1920s and was recut and sold.
While most of the diamonds on this list have complicated histories, the Centenary Diamond has a fairly short, yet glittering one. Discovered in the Premier mine in July 1986, with the help of an X-ray imaging system, this massive stone weighed 599 carats uncut, becoming the mine’s third-largest diamond. With a grade of D, it is internally and externally flawless! It’s only beaten by the ‘Star of Africa’, earning the name ‘Lesser Star of Africa’.
The Centenary Diamond was formally unveiled in the rough at the Centennial Celebration of De Beers Consolidated Mines on 11 May, 1988. As for how much it is worth, Mr. Nicholas Oppenheimer, then Deputy Chairman of De Beers, made a declaration in 1991: “Who can put a price on such a stone?”
In 1698, a slave found a 410 carats uncut diamond in the Kollur Mine of Andhra Pradesh, India and hid it inside a large wound in his leg. An English sea captain stole the diamond from the slave, killed him and sold it to an Indian merchant. Today, the Regent Diamond is a 141 carats diamond on display in the Louvre, worth £48,000,000 as of now.
It first adorned the band of Louis XV’S silver gilt crown at his coronation in 1722 (also now at the Louvre), then went to Louis XVI’S crown in 1775. Later, it figured on the hilt of the First Consul’s sword, and then on the Emperor’s two-edged sword in 1812. In 1825, it was worn on the crown at the coronation of Charles X. With an impressive history, it now rests in all its glory at the Louvre.
Hope - Diamond
Koh-i-noor - Diamond
Centenary - Diamond