May 12, 2016

Famous Diamonds

The History of Famous and Rare Diamonds

Many diamonds could be considered famous, but only a select few are legendary. You’ve definitely heard of at least one—the Hope—which is the most famous diamond in America.

The 45-carat blue Hope is believed to be part of a larger blue diamond discovered in India in the 17th century – the Tavernier Blue. In 1668, French merchant and explorer Jean Baptiste Tavernier brought a parcel of diamonds back to France from India. Though crudely cut, it was of perfect clarity. Re-cut in France, it became known as the French Blue and was part of the French crown jewels until 1792 when it was seized during the French Revolution.

Rare Tavenier Blue Diamond Sketch

This historical sketch shows the unusual parameters of the Tavernier Blue diamond, from which the legendary Hope Diamond was cut. Image: Wikipedia

The French Blue was likely was cut into two stones shortly thereafter—probably to prevent identification—and London banker Thomas Hope purchased the larger of the two in the 1830s. Purportedly cursed, the Hope Diamond has been in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington since 1958.

The colored blue Hope Diamond

The Hope Diamond as it is today. Image: Smithsonian Institution

The second-most famous American diamond is the Tiffany Diamond. Discovered in South Africa around 1877, it was bought by Charles Tiffany and famously set into the “Bird on a Rock” created by the legendary Jean Schlumberger.

History of Famous Colored Tiffany Yellow Diamond

The Tiffany Yellow Diamond, part of the “Bird On A Rock” by Jean Schlumberger, is the second-most famous American diamond. Image: Wikipedia

The Koh-i-Noor diamond was presented to England’s Queen Victoria in 1850.

History of Koh-I-Noor Diamond Crown Jewels

The Koh-I-Noor Diamond

Set into the platinum crown made for the late Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother for the 1937 coronation, it traditionally is worn only by a queen or queen consort and is said to bring bad luck to any man who wears it.

Koh-I-Noor Rare Diamond in Crown Jewels

The Koh-I-Noor is set into the Maltese Cross of the crown worn by the late Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. Images:

At more than 3,000 carats, the Cullinan Diamond found in 1905 at the Premier Mine in the Transvaal near Pretoria, South Africa, remains the biggest diamond ever found. It was presented to Britain’s King Edward VII, and cut into nine major stones and dozens of smaller stones. Some of its stones are set in the Crown Jewels: the largest, the 530-carat First Star of Africa, is mounted at the top of the Sovereign’s Sceptre, and the 317-carat Second Star of Africa set in the circlet of the Imperial State Crown.

History of Cullinan - Biggest Diamond Ever Found

The Cullinan remains the biggest diamond ever found. It was cut into nine major stones and dozens of smaller stones. Image:

First Star of Africa Cullinan Diamonds

The largest of the major Cullinan stones, the First Star of Africa, is set into the British Crown Jewels (bottom center, between two emeralds). Image:

The Orlov (also spelled Orloff) is a truly ancient diamond, having been found in South India and mentioned in writings as far back as the second century CE. It weighs 189.62 carats and originally was mounted on a deity idol in an Indian temple. It passed through many hands before Count Grigory Grigorievich Orlov, who was romantically involved with Catherine the Great of Russia, bought it. After she threw him over for Grigori Potemkin, Orlov tried to win her back with the diamond. It didn’t work, but she did name the diamond after him and had her jeweler create the Imperial Sceptre incorporating the stone in 1784.

Celebrity Orlov Diamond in Imperial Sceptre

The Orlov Diamond, with its unusual cut, is set in the Imperial Sceptre. Image: Wikipedia

De Beers’ Millennium Star and Centenary, both D flawless, are the most famous modern diamonds. The 273-carat Centenary was discovered in South Africa’s Premier Mine in 1986. The Centenary weighed 599 carats rough and was presented to De Beers on its 100th anniversary, presumably by the employees of the Premier Mine. It was cut into a modified heart shape by a team headed by Gabi Tolkowsky, who developed the formula for the modern brilliant cut.

Celebrity DeBeers Centenary Diamond Brilliant Cut

The De Beers Centenary Diamond is a modified heart-shaped brilliant. Image:

The 203-carat pear shaped Millennium Star was found in an alluvial deposit in Zaire (now Democratic Republic of the Congo) in 1990. The Millennium Star was first shown in 1999, went on display at the Millennium Dome, Greenwich (UK) in 2000, and was part of an exhibition at London’s Natural History Museum in 2005.

Celebrity DeBeers Millennium Star Diamond

De Beers’ Millennium Star took three years to cut into this pear shape. Image:

But a diamond doesn’t have to be in a museum or a king’s crown to be beloved. Some of my favorite diamonds are in my own jewelry!