May 8th 2019 8:35 am | by Svetlana Pantelic | Posted in Blog
All diamonds symbolize elegant beauty, but some go above and beyond to adorn royalty, inspire conspiracy and make a lasting impression on the world. From the world’s largest diamond to the crowning jewels of royalty, here is the list of the most famous diamonds the world has ever seen:
The Hope Diamond is an antique blue 45.52 carats diamond. Widely considered the most famous diamond in the world, the Hope Diamond received its name from Henry Thomas Hope and was discovered centuries ago in the southern region of India.
Long before the fabled bad luck united with its owners, the Hope Diamond has an illustrious history. It was believed to have a great mystical power that surrounded this unusual size and unique color, a deep indigo blue. The Hope was reputedly used to adorn the statue of a Hindu idol.
The history of the stone which was eventually named the Hope diamond began when the French merchant traveler, Jean Baptiste Tavernier, purchased the diamond. This diamond, which was most likely from the Kollur mine in Golconda, India, was triangular and crudely cut. Its color Tavernier described as a “beautiful violet.”
Tavernier sold the diamond to King Louis XIV of France in 1668 with 14 other large diamonds and several smaller ones. In 1673 the stone was recut by Sieur Pitau, the court jeweler. In the royal catalog, its color became described as an intense steely-blue. And the stone became known as the “Blue Diamond of the Crown,” or the “French Blue.”
It was set in gold and suspended on a neck ribbon which the king wore on ceremonial occasions.
In 1791, after an attempt by Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette to flee France, the jewels of the French Royal Treasury were turned over to the government. During week-long looting of the crown jewels in September of 1792, the French Blue diamond became stolen.
Several references suggest that it became acquired by King George IV of the United Kingdom.
At his death, in 1830, the king’s debts were so enormous that the blue diamond was likely to be sold through private channels.
The first reference to the diamond’s next owner is found in the 1839 entry of the gem collection catalog of the well-known Henry Philip Hope, the man from whom the diamond takes its name.
In 1901 it was sold to a London dealer who quickly sold it to Joseph Frankels and Sons of New York City. The diamond was next sold to Selim Habib who put it up for auction in Paris in 1909. It did not sell at the auction but was sold soon after to C.H. Rosenau and then resold to Pierre Cartier that same year.
Cartier had the diamond reset and took it to the U.S. where he left it with Mrs. McLean for a weekend. This strategy was successful.
The sale was in 1911 with the diamond mounted as a headpiece on a three-tiered circlet of large white diamonds.
Sometime later it became the pendant on a diamond necklace as we know it today. Mrs. McLean’s flamboyant ownership of the stone lasted until her death in 1947.
Harry Winston Inc. of New York City purchased Mrs. McLean’s entire jewelry collection, including the Hope diamond, from her estate in 1949.
For the next ten years, the Hope diamond was shown at many exhibits and charitable events worldwide by Harry Winston Inc including as the central attraction of their Court of Jewels exhibition. On November 10th, 1958, they donated the Hope diamond to the Smithsonian Institution, and immediately the great blue stone became its premier attraction.
According to the Smithsonian Institute, the Hope Diamond is priceless because it is irreplaceable. As of 2009, it became reportedly insured for $250 million (the equivalent value in 2019 is $292 million.
It was rumored, according to the legend that jewelers, thieves, and owners of the blue stone had back luck associated with them.
But experts say that this is nothing but superstition. The stories surrounding it are interesting, and it is true that some of its wearers died tragically, but the “legend” that it became stolen from a cursed statue was fabricated sometime during the Victorian era, probably as a marketing scheme.
The Cullinan is the largest gem-quality diamond ever found. It became discovered at the Premier Mine on 26th January 1905. The rough diamond was nearly flawless and named the Cullinan in honor of Sir Thomas Cullinan, the founder of the Premier Mine, who was visiting that very day. Louis Botha, premier of the Transvaal, a province of South Africa, persuaded his government to buy the diamond for approx. The $1 million and presented it to England’s King Edward VII as a token for granting Transvaal its constitution.
After its discovery, the massive diamond became named after Sir Thomas Cullinan, owner of the mine where it became found. It became a global sensation and became purchased by the Transvaal Colony government. The original Cullinan diamond price was £150,000. Because the diamond had been irreplaceable, the government decided to ensure it for ten times the amount of its purchase.
Soon after that, the Cullinan Diamond size changed forever. It was cut into three segments by Asscher Brothers of Amsterdam, and eventually, further divided into nine large stones and 96 smaller fragments.
The two largest gems became kept for England’s regalia, and the rest had given to Asscher as payment. King Edward bought one of the large-scale gems for his consort, Queen Alexandra.
The Transvaal government bought the remaining stones and pieces and presented the other six large-scale gems to Queen Mary in 1910. Two of the small stones became presented to Louis Botha, who gave one to his daughter when she turned 17.
The Cullinan I or Star of Africa diamond is the largest cut diamond in the world. Pear-shaped, with 74 facets, it is set in the Royal scepter (kept with the other crown jewels in the Tower of London). When the Cullinan became first discovered, some signs suggested that it could have been part of a much larger crystal, but no discovery of the ‘missing half’ has ever been authenticated.
The largest, most prestigious segment of the original stone is the Cullinan I diamond. The 530.2 carats, the pear-cut stone is also known as the Great Star of Africa. It had set in the head of the British Scepter with the Cross, but it became configured so that it may be removed and hung as a pendant, either on its own or from the Cullinan II diamond in a brooch. Both of the diamonds have been fitted with tiny platinum loops on their edges to allow British heads of state to wear them.
The second largest stone ever found is the Excelsior, which was 995.2 carats in the rough.
Excelsior diamond, until the discovery of the Cullinan diamond in 1905, the world’s largest-known uncut diamond. When found by a worker loading a truck in the De Beers mine at Jagersfontein, Orange Free State, on June 30, 1893, the blue-white stone weighed about 995 carats. After a study, the Excelsior diamond was cut (1904) by I.J. Asscher and Company of Amsterdam into 21 stones ranging in weight from less than 1 carat to more than 70 carats.
Each of these gems became sold separately.
The shape of the stone was out of the ordinary flat on one side and rose to a peak on the other, somewhat like a loaf of rye bread. It became believed that this is what inspired the diamond to be named Excelsior, meaning higher.
Discovered in India’s Golconda mines in 1650, the Great Mogul Diamond may be the most mysterious and wondrous among the Great Diamonds. It was the largest diamond ever found in India, the 787-carat rough stone.
It became also called the Disappearing Diamond, as no one knows its true fate.
French jewel trader Jean-Baptiste Tavernier was one of the first European traders to see the stone. He described the Great Mogul Diamond as a rose-cut stone, sporting a flaw at its bottom and a small blemish within. The Great Mogul Diamond became lost in the late 1740s following the assassination of its owner, Nader Shah.
The diamond’s current whereabouts are unknown. There are many legends regarding its fate. And it is widely believed that the famed Orlov Diamond, or possibly the Koh-I-Noor Diamond, were cut from it. A more probable explanation is that it was stolen and cut into smaller gems to disguise its origin.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel The Sign of the Four has the ex-convict Jonathan Small stealing the Great Mogul twice—once in 1857 and finding and stealing it again in 1888—only to throw it into the River Thames before being captured by Sherlock Holmes and the police.
The unusual shape of the Orlov, the pattern of its facets and the presence of this blemish intriguingly suggest that this diamond can become identified with a long-lost legendary stone – The Great Mogul. When a comparison had become made between Tavernier’s drawing of the Great Mogul and the photographs of the diamond in Kremlin, it immediately became apparent that there are similarities. The first lies in shape.
It had recalled that The Orlov described as resembling half a pigeon’s egg and that Tavernier was referring to the Great Mogul as presenting ‘the form of an egg cut in half. ‘Throughout history, there cannot have been many diamonds of such an unusual form. Secondly, the pattern of facets of the two stones is not dissimilar. Thirdly, the previously-mentioned slight indentation that exists in the Orlov must correspond to Tavernier’s note to that effect that ‘there are a slight crack and a little flaw in it.’
The story of the Great Mogul would appear to have no known ending, and that of the Orlov has no clear beginning – further historical evidence that they are probably the same diamond.
The Orlov diamond gets its name from Count Grigory Grigoryevich Orlov, one of the lovers of Empress Catherine the Great (1762-96), who purchased the diamond for a staggering 1,400,000 florins equivalent to 400,000 rubles and presented it to the Empress, with a view of regaining her love and favor. Even though the Empress accepted the present, his wishes did not materialize, but the Empress in return gifted him a marble palace at St. Petersburg, in the same spirit of generosity she showered on all her lovers. Empress Catherine named the diamond after Count Orlov and got it mounted on the Imperial Scepter, in which setting it is preserved up to this day, among the treasures of the Kremlin Diamond Fund.
Koh-I-Noor is one of the oldest and most famous diamonds in the world.
The history of the Koh-I-Noor diamond goes back in history to more than 5000 years ago.
It had become believed that the diamond was first mentioned more than 5000 years ago in a Sanskrit script, where it was called the Syamantaka.
It is worth mentioning that there is only speculation that the Syamantaka and the Koh-I-Noor are the same diamond. After this first written mention, for over 4,000 years the diamond is not mentioned.
Up until 1304, the diamond belonged to the Rajas of Malwa, but back then, the diamond was still not named Koh-I-Noor. In 1304, it belonged to the Emperor of Delhi, Allaudin Khilji.
In 1339, the diamond became taken back to the city of Samarkand, where it stayed for almost 300 years. In 1306 in a Hindi writing, a curse had become placed on the men who will wear the diamond: “He who owns this diamond will own the world, but will also know all its misfortunes. Only God, or a woman, can wear it with impunity.”
In 1849, after the conquest of Punjab by the British forces, the properties of the Sikh Empire were confiscated.
The Koh-I-Noor was transferred to the treasury of the British East India Company in Lahore.
The diamond became handed to Queen Victoria in July 1850.
After the diamond became handed to Queen Victoria, it was exhibited at the Crystal Palace a year later. But the “Mountain of Light” was not shiny as the other cut gemstones of that era and there was a general disappointment regarding it.
In 1852 the Queen had decided to reshape the diamond, and it became taken to a Dutch jeweler, Mr. Cantor who cut it to 108.93 carats.
Queen Victoria wore the diamond occasionally afterward. She left in her will that the Koh-I-Noor should only be worn by a female queen.
If the ruler was a man, his wife would have to carry the diamond. After Queen Victoria’s death, the Koh-I-Noor became part of the Crown Jewels.
The gem remains the property of the British crown, and now is in HM Tower of London and it’s a popular tourist attraction.
The Tiffany Yellow Diamond is the second-largest Canary Yellow diamond in the world and has been owned by Tiffany & Co since 1878.
The Tiffany diamond set in the Bird on a Rock brooch designed in the early 1960s by Jean Schlumberger is one of the four designs in which this legendary diamond has appeared.
In honor of Tiffany’s 175th anniversary in 2012, the one-of-a-kind gem became reset into the eye-catching necklace, which is the style Lady Gaga wore. It features over 100 carats of white diamonds.
Following in the footsteps of Audrey Hepburn, Lady Gaga is the third women to ever wear the famous Tiffany 128-carat yellow diamond at Academy Awards 2019.
Only two other women have ever worn it before – the first was Mrs. Sheldon Whitehouse at the Tiffany Ball in Newport, 1957. Mary Whitehouse wore the diamond in a necklace among the 1,200 guests in attendance (the total value of jewelry worn at that ball is said to have reached $20 million). Mary, who summered at Eastbourne Lodge, was the lucky winner chosen to wear Tiffany’s six hundred-thousand-dollar diamond necklace, which they were advertising. The guards that Tiffany sent to accompany the diamond took their job so seriously that they attempted to follow her into the bathroom. It was only through the help of Tiffany’s social secretary that they were talked out of it and save a mortified Mrs. Whitehouse.
Four years later in 1961, it was the turn of Audrey Hepburn to wear the diamond, this time set in a necklace designed by Jean Schlumberger. It was, quite aptly, in promotional photographs for Breakfast at Tiffany’s that Hepburn wore the necklace, and the whole look – black Givenchy dress, black gloves, and a diamond tiara to match the necklace – has since become one of the most recognized in fashion history.
In its 144 years, Lady Gaga is only the third woman to have worn the Tiffany Diamond, and both previous outings were over half a century ago. Its appearance on the Oscars red carpet marks the diamond’s first awards ceremony appearance, though the precious gem is no stranger to media attention.
Elizabeth Taylor’s pear-shaped diamond, also known as the Taylor Burton diamond, has a fascinating history. Before we delve deeper into the stone’s story, let’s take a look at just a few basic facts.
By far the best known of Richard Burton’s purchases was the 69.42-carat pear-shaped, later to be called the Taylor-Burton Diamond. It has been cut from a rough stone weighing 240.80 carats found in the Premier Mine in 1966 and subsequently bought by Harry Winston.
After the rough piece of 240.80 carats arrived in New York, Harry Winston and his cleaver, Pastor Colon Jr. studied it for six months. Markings were made, erased and redrawn to show where the stone could be cleaved. There came the day appointed for the cleaving, and in this instance, the usual tension that surrounds such an operation was increased by the heat and glare of the television lights that had been allowed into the workroom. After he had cleaved the stone, the 50-year-old cleaver said nothing – he reached across the workbench for the piece of diamond that had separated from it and looked at it through his horn-rimmed glasses for a fraction of a second before exclaiming ‘Beautiful!’
This piece of rough weighed 78 carats was expected to yield a stone of about 24 carats, while the large piece, weighing 162 carats, was destined to produce a pear shape whose weight had originally been expected to be about 75 carats.
The stone was put up for auction on October 23, 1969. When Elizabeth Taylor heard about the upcoming sale, she had to see it, so it was flown to Gstaad, Switzerland for viewing, and then back to New York for the auction. Taylor’s husband, Richard Burton, had set his maximum bid at $1 million, and had his lawyer, Aaron Frosch, bidding via telephone from London. To further maximize his chances of winning, he had Al Yugler of Frank Pollock and Sons jewelry bidding in the auction room.
Despite Burton’s efforts, Robert Kenmore of Kenmore Corporation, which is the parent company of Cartier jewelers, won the auction. Some other underbidders included jeweler Harry Winston, Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, and the Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah. The final price was $1,050,000, which translates to about $6 million in 2019 US currency.
This sale beat all previous diamond prices by miles: The previous record price for a diamond was set in 1957, at $305,000.
A condition of the original auction stated that the diamond’s buyer got the privilege of naming it. Naturally, the stone was christened as the Cartier Diamond.
Cartier jewelers didn’t own the gem for long though. When Richard Burton found out that he had been outbid, he was livid. He later wrote of his response in his diary, stating that
“I turned into a raving maniac and insisted that he (lawyer Jim Benton) get Aaron on the phone as soon as possible. Elizabeth was as sweet as only she could be and protested that it didn’t matter, that she didn’t mind if she didn’t have it, that there was more in life than trinkets, that she would manage with what she had.
I screamed at Aaron that villain Cartiers, I was going to get that diamond if it cost me my life or 2 million dollars, whichever was bigger. For 24 hours the agony persisted, and in the end, I won. I got the bloody thing. “
The next day, the diamond was sold to Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor for 1.1 million dollars. It was named “The Cartier-Burton Diamond” for a short time but soon gained fame as the “Taylor Burton Diamond,” as Elizabeth Taylor was the one who would be wearing it.
Part of the sales agreement for Elizabeth Taylor’s pear-shaped diamond was that it could be displayed at Cartier’s stores in Chicago and New York. After the company took out a large advertisement in The New York Times, approximately 6,000 people stood in line each day to see it in person.
After being exhibited, the diamond was taken to Monaco in November of 1969. There, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor took possession of the fabled gemstone.
Soon after receiving the famous diamond, Elizabeth Taylor decided that it was too large to be worn in a ring. She had it placed in a necklace instead and had it positioned so that it would cover a scar from an emergency tracheotomy operation.
The million dollar insurance policy by Lloyd’s of London stipulated that the Taylor Burton diamond could be worn just 30 days out of the year and that Elizabeth had to be accompanied by armed guards when wearing it in public.
Additionally, the Taylor Burton diamond had to be stored in a vault. Because she could rarely wear the real stone, Elizabeth had a replica made. A cost of just $2,800, was a drop in the bucket compared with the actual diamond!
Burton and Taylor divorced twice. After the second split, Elizabeth Taylor’s pear-shaped diamond was sold to New York jeweler Henry Lambert, for an estimated 5 million in 1978. This translates to about 20.7 million in 2019. Part of the sale’s proceeds funded the construction of a new hospital in Botswana. In 1979, Lambert sold the Taylor Burton diamond to Robert Mouawad, of the Jewellers Mouawad. He has retained ownership ever since.
Today, the diamond is part of the Mouawad family’s private diamond collection, which includes the Queen of Holland Diamond, the Jubilee Diamond, and many other famous diamonds.
How do famous diamonds and other jewelry pieces get their names? Many are named after their owners, or after a famous place or incident. The Hortensia Diamond was named after Hortense de Beauharnais, a French woman who led an adventurous and illustrious life… but she never owned the Hortensia Diamond. There’s no record of her having even worn it!
Hydrangeas are called hortensias in French. They were so named by the Empress Joséphine in honor of her daughter Hortense de Beauharnais, Queen of the Netherlands. Joséphine was indeed a passionate botanist and cultivated hydrangeas in her gardens of Malmaison.
The diamond, which weighs 20 carats (20.53 metric carats) is pale orangey-pink, rather flat and rectangular in shape and is cut on five sides. In the 1791 inventory of the Crown Jewels, it was valued at no more than 48,000 liters on account of a crack extending from the edge of the girdle to near the culet. It takes its name from Hortense de Beauharnais, Queen of Holland. Hortense was the daughter of Empress Josephine, the step-daughter of Napoleon Bonaparte and the mother of Napoleon III.
Hortense married Louis Bonaparte, Napoleon’s brother. In 1806, Napoleon appointed Louis as King of Holland, making Hortense the country’s queen.
The Hortensia diamond was a diamond of Indian origin, purchased by King Louis XIV of France (1643-1715), and since then has been part of the Crown Jewels of France.
The Hortensia diamond is listed as part of the French Crown Jewels in the 1691 inventory of these jewels, though under a different name.
During the First Empire, the Hortensia was mounted on the fastening of Napoleon’s epaulet braid. Later it was set in the center of the headband of the great diamond-encrusted comb made by the Court Jeweler, Bapst, for Empress Eugénie in 1856. In between, in 1830, the diamond was stolen again, on this occasion from the Ministry of the Marine, but it was quickly recovered.
When the French Crown Jewels were sold in 1887, the Hortensia was one of the items excluded, because of their historical and artistic value. The Crown Jewels represented a powerful symbol of the deposed Monarchy, and by dispersing these jewels, the Government intended not only to destroy this symbol but to prevent any would-be monarch from making use of them.
Hortensia diamond is display at the Galerie d’Apollon of the Louvre museum in Paris.
Although the accurate history of this fascinating diamond can only be read between the lines of historical records, the magic and allure of its illustrious past continue to intrigue today.
A famous diamond marketing slogan says that – A Diamond Is Forever. Each of these ten stones has its own unique “forever” story. If only diamonds could talk, the stories we are sure these would tell! Gemme Couture has the most beautiful diamond jewelry. Whatever your diamond needs are, we can fulfill them to complete satisfaction with our collection of exclusively designed handmade jewelry.