The 10 Most Fa­mous Di­a­monds in Mankind’s His­tory

The Luxury Collection - - Contents - -By Naaila Khan

KOH-I-NOOR

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.

HORTENSIA

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.

THE ORLOV

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.

THE FLORENTINE

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.

THE CEN­TE­NARY

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?”

THE RE­GENT

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

Re­gent-di­a­mond

Centenary - Di­a­mond

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