The Blue Hope: 45.52 carats
dark, steely blue stone from India, the diamond eventually named
the Hope is more notorious than any other diamond. It was originally
purchased by a French merchant traveler, who sold it to King Louis
XIV in 1668. Set in gold and suspended on a neck ribbon, the king
wore the "Blue Diamond of the Crown" or "French Blue" on ceremonial
occasions. During the French Revolution in 1792, when Louis XVI
and Marie Antoinette attempted to flee France, the French Blue was
Evidence suggests that it was acquired
in the early 1800s by King George IV of England, and likely sold
at his death in 1830 to help pay off his debts. The diamond was
subsequently purchased by Henry Philip Hope, from whom it takes
its name. While in the possession of the Hope family, the diamond
acquired its grim reputation for bad luck: The entire Hope family
died in poverty.
Henry Thomas Hope's possession of the
diamond was uneventful. However, one of his heirs who came to own
it, Lord Francis Hope, was in financial difficulties due to a penchant
for gambling. After numerous attempts (and despite the opposition
of other family members) he finally succeeded in selling the Hope
diamond in 1901. The diamond was purchased by a New York diamond
merchant, Simon Frankel. At this point, the diamond was said to
be involved in several bizarre events, although none have been substantiated.
First, a French broker by the name
of Jacques Colot was said to have bought the stone before becoming
insane and committing suicide. Next, a Russian or Eastern European
prince, Ivan Kanitowsky, supposedly loaned or gave the diamond to
an actress at the Folies Bergère, who was shot the first time she
wore it. The prince himself was stabbed to death by revolutionaries;
a Greek jeweler who sold the diamond to the Sultan of Turkey was
thrown over a cliff while riding in a car with his wife and child.
Again, it is difficult to separate the fact and fiction.
It is known that after several owners,
the Hope diamond was sold by Cartier's to Mrs. Evalyn Walsh McLean
of Washington, D.C. Some researchers believe it was Pierre Cartier
who popularized the story that the stone brought misfortune to its
owners - and anyone who touched it.
Mrs. McLean was the daughter of Thomas
F. Walsh, who amassed a fortune in gold mining. She spent her early
childhood in mining camps in Colorado and South Dakota, but was
later educated in Washington D.C. and in Europe. She married Edward
Beale McLean, son of the owner of the Cincinnati Enquirer
and the Washington Post.
Although Mrs. McLean refused to believe
in the legendary Hope "curse" she also endured a number of family
tragedies. Her brother died young; her nine-year-old son was run
over by a car and killed; her ex-husband drank heavily and died
in a mental institution; and her only daughter died of a drug overdose
at age 25. Mrs. McLean never recovered from the latter tragedy,
and passed away only a year later. Upon her death, Mrs. McLean's
extensive jewelry collection was purchased by Harry Winston Inc.
of New York City. After exhibiting it among other notable gems for
the next 10 years, the firm donated it to the Smithsonian Institution,
where it remains one of its premier attractions.
2. The Koh-I-Noor (Mountain of Light)
Current Weight: 105.60 carats Original Weight: 186 carats
through legend from before the time of Christ, this oval-cut diamond
is the most famous of all diamonds. It has been said that whoever
owned the Koh-I-Noor ruled the world.
It was first reported in 1304 as a
diamond owned by the Rajah of Malwa. Following wars in the 1500s,
it ultimately fell into the hands of the Sultan Babur, and for the
next 200 years the 186-carat diamond was one of the precious jewels
of the Mogul Emperors. It was believed to have once been set as
one of the peacock's eyes in the famous peacock throne of Shah Jehan,
who reigned in the early 1650s. In 1739, Nadir Shah, who built Persia
into a major power, invaded Delhi. He obtained the Koh-I-Noor -
along with the sumptuous Peacock Throne - from the vanquished Indian
Emperor Mohammed Shah. Allegedly, when his pillage of Delhi failed
to uncover the huge stone, he was told by one of the harem women
that the conquered Mogul emperor had hidden it inside his turban.
Taking advantage of an Oriental custom, Nadir Shah invited his captive
to a feast and suggested they exchange turbans. Following the feast,
he unrolled the turban and released the great gem. Seeing it, Nadir
Shah cried, "Koh-I-Noor," which means mountain of light.
Nadir Shah took the gem back to Persia,
and following his assassination in 1747, the diamond was fought
over by his successors. When the state of Punjab was annexed to
British India in 1849, the East India Company took it as insurance
for the Sikh Wars. As part of its 250th Anniversary festivities,
the East India Company presented the Koh-I-Noor to Queen Victoria
The stone was displayed at the famous
Crystal Palace Exposition, but visitors were disappointed that the
diamond did not show more fire. So Victoria had the stone recut,
reducing the diamond to its present size. In 1911, a new crown was
made for the coronation of Queen Mary featuring the Koh-I-Noor as
the center stone. In 1937, it was transferred to the crown of Queen
Elizabeth (now Queen Mother) for her coronation. Currently, it is
on display in the Tower of London with the British Crown Jewels.
3. The Cullinan Diamonds: 3,106 carats
largest gem-quality diamond ever found was discovered on January
26, 1905 in the Premier Mine in South Africa. The original rough
of the Cullinan Diamond measured 3,106 carats and weighed about
1 1/3 pounds. It was notable for its exquisite color and exceptional
purity. Just as interesting, the stone possessed a surprisingly
smooth cleavage face on one side, leading many experts to believe
that the huge stone was only a piece of a larger diamond that was
broken up in the weathering process.
The diamond was named for Sir Thomas Cullinan, who opened the Premier
Mine. The Transvaal Government bought the diamond rough for $750,000
and presented it to England's King Edward VII on his birthday in
1907. The next year, King Edward sent the stone to the renowned
Asscher's Diamond Co. in Amsterdam for cutting. Following months
of exacting study, the rough stone was cleaved into nine major gems,
with the largest two retained by the Royal Family for the Crown
Jewels. The rough also yielded 96 smaller brilliant-cut stones and
9 1/2 carats of unpolished pieces.
The two largest stones are known as
the Cullinan I and Cullinan II:
The Cullinan I (also known as the Great
Star of Africa): 530.20 carats
The Cullinan I is a magnificent pear-shaped
diamond with 74 facets. It is the largest stone cut from the Cullinan
rough and, until recently, the largest cut diamond in the world.
(That record is now held by the Unnamed Brown, a golden brown cushion
shape diamond weighing 545.67 carats.) King Edward called it "The
Great Star of Africa" and ordered it to be set in the British Imperial
Scepter, which had to be redesigned to accommodate it. The Scepter
is on permanent display in the Tower of London.
The Cullinan II (also known as the
Lesser Star of Africa): 317.40 carats
A cushion-cut brilliant, the Cullinan
II is the fourth-largest cut diamond in the world. Nicknamed the
Lesser Star of Africa, it is also part of the British Crown Jewels.
This square stone is set in the British Imperial State Crown, on
display in the Tower of London.
4. The Regent: 140.50 carats
This great stone, originally a diamond
rough of 410 carats, was said to be discovered in 1701 by an Indian
slave near Golconda. Golconda was a mountain fortress and a center
for trading in India that included a diamond storehouse. The diamond
was first owned by William Pitt, the Prime Minister of England,
but the circumstances surrounding his acquisition of the gem have
been called into question several times. Pitt arranged for the stone
to be cut into its current cushion-shaped brilliant by the only
person in England considered capable of the task, which took two
years. The result was a stunning gem that is considered the most
perfectly cut of all the celebrated diamonds of old.
The Regent is characteristic of the
finest Indian diamonds, and has a beautiful light blue tinge. Known
at the time as the Pitt, the diamond was sold to the Duke of Orleans,
Regent of France, who was at first hesitant to purchase the gem
because of the perilous state of the Treasury. Ultimately, the Duke
of Orleans relented, and shortly thereafter, the stone was renamed
"The Regent." Later, it was set in the coronation crown of King
Louis XV, and later in a headband worn by his Queen. Many of the
French Crown Jewels were reset numerous times at the behest of the
queen. Sadly, in September 1792, the Regent and other great diamonds
in the Crown Jewel collection were stolen, some disappearing forever.
Fortunately, the Regent reappeared in a Paris attic a year later.
After coming to power in 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte ordered the diamond
set in his sword hilt, which he carried at his coronation two years
later. Today, the Regent can be admired at the Louvre in Paris.
5. The Centenary: 273.85 carats
The 100-year anniversary of De Beers
Consolidated Mines coincided with the fortuitous discovery of an
extraordinary diamond rough. At its centennial banquet, the De Beers
chairman announced the recovery of "a diamond of 599 carats which
is perfect in color - indeed, it is one of the largest top color
diamonds ever found. Naturally, it will be called the 'Centenary
The Centenary diamond was found at
South Africa's Premier Mine on July 17, 1986 using an electronic
x-ray recovery system. In its rough form, the stone resembled an
irregular matchbox, with angular planes, a prominent, elongated
protrusion at one corner, and a deep concave on the largest flat
surface. Clearly, it would be daunting to cut, with no obvious approach
It took a master cutter three years
to transform the stone into the largest modern-cut flawless diamond.
The Centenary has 75 facets on top, 89 on the bottom and 83 on the
girdle, for a total of 247. The amazing result was achieved using
a combination of some of the oldest cutting methods and the most
sophisticated technology. Today, this marvelous gem, exemplifying
the ultimate in fire and brilliance for which the diamond is prized,
is part of the British Crown Jewels. It was presented at the Tower
of London in 1991, where it is on permanent display.
6. The Orlov: 300 carats (original
The history of this famous diamond
is characterized by legend, fact, speculation and theory. But it
is considered one of the most important items in the Treasures of
the USSR Diamond Fund, one of the world's greatest collections of
gems and jewelry. The USSR Diamond Fund comprises many of the historical
jewels that were amassed by the rulers of Russia before the Revolution
of 1917, along with exceptional diamonds unearthed in the former
Soviet Union during the last three decades.
The Orlov's shape has been likened
to half of a pigeon's egg. It has roughly 180 facets and is mounted
in the Imperial Scepter, fashioned during the reign of Catherine
the Great. The Orlov has been confused with the Great Mogul, a fascinating
Indian gem that apparently disappeared without a trace. Another
account holds that the earliest known fact about the Orlov is that
it was set as one of the eyes of an idol in a sacred temple located
in the South of India. Another tale suggests that it was set as
the eye of God in the temple of Sri Rangen, and was stolen by a
French soldier disguised as a Hindu.
The stone takes its name from Count
Grigori Grigorievich Orlov, a Russian nobleman and army officer
who caught the fancy of the Grand Duchess, destined to become Catherine
the Great. Catherine ascended to the throne after her husband was
dethroned and murdered in a coup carried out with the help of Orlov.
After she purchased the stone, it was set beneath the golden eagle.
Another legend suggests that upon entering Moscow, Napoleon sought
the gem, which was concealed in the tomb of a priest in the Kremlin.
Reportedly, when one of Napoleon's lieutenants attempted to secure
the Orlov, the invaders were cursed by the ghost of the priest,
and Napoleon and his bodyguards fled empty-handed.
7. The Idol's Eye: 79.20 carats
Echoing the legend of the Orlov, this
flattened, pear-shaped stone the size of a bantam's egg was once
set in the eye of an idol before it was stolen. Legend also holds
that it was given as a ransom for Princess Rasheetah by the Sheik
of Kashmir to the Sultan of Turkey, who had abducted her.
Despite abundant unproven accounts
of its early origins, the first authenticated facts of this diamond's
history were associated with its appearance at a Christie's sale
in London in 1865. At the sale, it was sold to a mysterious buyer
later identified as the 34th Ottomon Sultan, Abd al-Hamid II. Hamid
II was ultimately defeated by opposition that became known as the
Young Turks. One version of events holds that in exile, he entrusted
his jewels to a servant who betrayed him and sold them in Paris,
including the large diamond known as the "Idol's Eye."
The Idol's Eye re-emerged at the end
of World War II, when it was acquired by a Dutch dealer, and subsequently
by Harry Winston in 1946. Winston sold it to Mrs. May Bonfils Stanton,
the daughter of the publisher and co-founder of the Denver Post.
It was reported that Mrs. Stanton lived in isolation in a palatial
mansion and wore the Idol's Eye to her solitary breakfast every
morning. After her death, the diamond went through a succession
of owners, until it was sold with two other important stones to
a private buyer.
8. The Taylor-Burton: 69.42 carats
As many people today remember, this
was the spectacular pear-shaped diamond the late actor Richard Burton
bought as a gift for his fifth wife, Elizabeth Taylor. The stone
came from a rough piece of 240.80 carats that was purchased by Harry
Winston. Once it was cut, the larger piece yielding the pear-shaped
stone was sold to Mrs. Harriet Annenberg Ames, whose brother, Walter
Annenberg, was the American ambassador in London during Richard
Nixon's presidency. Mrs. Ames felt uncomfortable wearing such a
large diamond, and sent it to auction in New York in October, 1969.
The diamond was purchased at auction
for a then-record $1,050,000, with the understanding that it could
be named by the buyer. Cartier of New York proved the successful
bidder and immediately christened it "Cartier." However, the next
day, Richard Burton bought the stone for Elizabeth Taylor for an
undisclosed sum. She first wore the gem as a pendant at Princess
Grace's 40th birthday party in Monaco.
In 1978, following her divorce from
Mr. Burton, Miss Taylor announced that she was putting the diamond
up for sale, with the proceeds dedicated to building a hospital
in Botswana. Due to the tremendous costs of showing it, prospective
buyers were required to pay $2,500 just to inspect the diamond.
Miss Taylor eventually sold the Taylor-Burton for a reported figure
of $5 million in 1979. The gem was last seen in Saudi Arabia.
9. The Sancy: 55 carats
This pear-shaped stone with a confused
heritage disappeared during the French Revolution in 1782. It was
originally owned by Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, who lost
the diamond in battle in 1477. It was named after a later owner,
Seigneur de Sancy, a French Ambassador to Switzerland during the
late 16th century. There are numerous questions regarding how Mr.
Sancy obtained his diamond, but most likely, he acquired it on his
travels in the Far East.
Nicholas de Sancy served two French
monarchs loyally: He loaned the diamond to the French king, Henry
III, who strategically placed it on his cap to conceal his baldness.
It was also pledged by Sancy for the purpose of raising troops in
Switzerland. He employed his diamond again on behalf of his sovereign,
now Henry IV, the first of the Bourbon dynasty. By 1596, Sancy himself
was in need of money and eventually sold the large diamond to King
James I of England. In 1625, Charles I disposed of other diamonds
but retained the Sancy, which was taken by Queen Henrietta Maria
along with other jewels in the Royal Treasury. It later came into
the possession of Cardinal Jules Mazirin, acting First Minister
of the Crown, who bequeathed the Sancy and another stone to the
French Crown. Following the French Revolution, a stone believed
to be the Sancy found its way to a Spanish nobleman, and eventually
in 1828 to Prince Nicholas Demidoff, whose family owned industries
and silver mines in Russia. The Sancy passed to his son, who gave
it to his Finnish bride.
Following additional travels around
the world, the Sancy was purchased by William Waldorf Astor in the
1890s for his wife, Lady Astor. Lady Astor, the first woman to sit
as a Member of Parliament in the House of Commons, wore the Sancy
set in a tiara at numerous state occasions. In 1978, the four Viscount
Astor sold the Sancy, reputedly for $1,000,000. It is now on view
at the Louvre in Paris.
10. The Dresden Green: 41 carats
This almond-shaped stone is the largest
apple-green diamond known. Its green color is attributed to the
crystal’s close contact with a radioactive source at some point
in its lifetime. The Dresden Green, which probably originated in
a rough crystal of 100 carats or more, is unique among world-famous
gems for not only its color, but also its elongated shape. The Dresden
Green gets its name from the capital of Saxony where it has been
on display for more than 200 years.
Although of Indian origin, nothing
was known of the diamond until Frederick Augustus II of Saxony purchased
it at the Leipzig Fair in 1743 for about $150,000. Set in an elaborate
shoulder knot, the stone was exhibited with the other Crown Jewels
of Saxony in the famous Green Vaults under the Dresden Palace. After
World War II, these gems were confiscated by the Russians, but they
were returned to Dresden in 1958, and are again on display in the
11. The Jubilee: 245.33 carats
The Jubilee is a magnificent, colorless
cushion-cut diamond that at one time ranked the sixth largest diamond
in the world. More importantly, many gemologists consider the Jubilee
the most perfectly cut of all large diamonds. That is because its
facets are so exact that the gem can be balanced on the culet point,
which measures less than 2 millimeters across.
The original rough stone weighed 650.80
carats and was an irregular octahedron in shape, lacking definite
faces. It was found in late 1895 at the Jagersfontein Mine in South
Africa, and acquired by a syndicate of London diamond merchants
who sent it to Amsterdam for polishing. The first cleaving of the
rough yielded a fine pear-shaped diamond in excess of 13 carats
that was presented by the king of Portugal to his wife. The remaining
large piece was polished into the stone known as the Jubilee.
During the cutting period, when the
stone's exceptional size and purity became evident, there were initial
plans to present the diamond to Queen Victoria upon completion,
but this did not occur. However, the following year, 1897, marked
the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. Therefore, the gem was appropriately
renamed the Jubilee to commemorate the occasion. Its introduction
was also significant in the world of diamonds, which saw its first
diamond with the characteristics of both the rose and brilliant
cuts - which would subsequently be known as the Jubilee cut.
In 1900 the syndicate displayed the
Jubilee at the Paris Exhibition, where it was an immensely popular
attraction. Shortly thereafter, it was purchased by an Indian industrialist
and philanthropist, Sir Dorabji Jamsetji Tata, whose family was
instrumental in modern India's economic development. Tata's heirs
sent the Jubilee to Cartier for sale. Cartier exhibited it with
other historic diamonds prior to selling it to a Paris industrialist
and arts patron, M. Paul-Louis Weiller, who remains its present