The world’s most famous diamonds are its largest diamonds. At staggering weights up to thousands of carats, these diamonds have been cut, re-shaped and sold many times, contributing to their rich, interesting histories.
Diamond symbolizes eternal love, purity and strength. A diamond is known by its 4 C’s. There are four different characteristics- the Carat, the Color, the Cut and the Clarity. A number of large or extraordinary diamonds have gained fame, as exquisite examples of the beautiful nature of diamonds, and because of the famous people who wore, bought, and sold them. A list of the most famous diamonds in history follows.
1. Spoonmaker’s Diamond
The Spoonmaker’s Diamond the most valuable single exhibit of the Topkapi Palace Museum and part of the Imperial Treasury. It is an 86 carats (17 g) pear-shaped diamond. Surrounded by a double-row of 49 Old Mine cut diamonds and well spotlighted, it hangs in a glass case on the wall of one of the rooms of the Treasury.
Various stories are told about the Spoonmaker’s Diamond. According to one tale, a poor fisherman in Istanbul empty-handed along the shore when he found a shiny stone among the litter, which he turned over and over not knowing what it was. After carrying it about in his pocket for a few days, he stopped by the jewelers’ market, showing it to the first jeweler he encountered. The jeweler took a casual glance at the stone and appeared disinterested, saying “It’s a piece of glass, take it away if you like, or if you like I’ll give you three spoons. You brought it all the way here, at least let it be worth your trouble.” What was the poor fisherman to do with this piece of glass? What’s more the jeweler had felt sorry for him and was giving three spoons. He said okay and took the spoons, leaving in their place an enormous treasure. It is for this reason they say that the diamond’s name became the “Spoonmaker’s Diamond”.
The pride of the Topkapi Palace Museum and its most valuable single exhibit is the 86-carat pear-shaped Spoonmaker Diamond, also known as the Kasikci.
2. Koh-i-Noor Diamond
The Kōh-i Nūr that means “Mountain of Light” is a 105 carat (21.6 g) diamond that was once the largest known diamond in the world.
It is of great historical significance. It belonged to great Mughal Kingdom of Indo-Pakistan Subcontinent. Hindus, Mughals, Persian, Afghan, Sikh and British rulers fought bitterly over it at various points in history and seized it as a spoil of war time and again. It was finally seized by the East India Company and became part of the British Crown Jewels when Queen Victoria was proclaimed Empress of India in 1877.
Many lay claim to the Koh-i-Noor, including the Taliban, who trace its origin in India through Afghanistan in ancient days. Indian Sikhs have asked for the diamond back too, as they were the most recent holders before the British. For their part, the British are deaf to these claims, arguing since the diamond has passed through so many hands for so long, they have just as much right to the stone as anyone.
3. The Great Star of Africa
The Great Star of Africa a.k.a Cullinan diamond is the largest rough gem-quality diamond ever found, at 3,106.75 carats (621.35 g), was discovered in 1905 in South Africa. It was named after the owner of the mining company.
It was cut into 105 gems. Cullinan I, 530 carats is the largest of the cuts and is know as the Great Star of Africa. The Cullinan diamond was found by Thomas Evan Powell, a miner who brought it to the surface and gave it to Frederick Wells, surface manager of the Premier Diamond Mining Company in Cullinan, South Africa on January 26, 1905. The stone was named after Sir Thomas Cullinan, the owner of the diamond mine.
The Cullinan was split and cut into 7 major stones and 96 smaller stones. Edward VII had the Cullinan I and Cullinan II set respectively into the Sceptre with the Cross and the Imperial State Crown, while the remainder of the seven larger stones and the 96 smaller brilliants remained in the possession of the Dutch diamond cutting firm of Messers I. J. Asscher of Amsterdam who had split and cut the Cullinan, until the South African Government bought these stones and the High Commissioner of the Union of South Africa presented them to Queen Mary on June 28, 1910.
4. Darya-ye Noor Diamond
The Darya-ye Noor “Ocean of Light”; weighing an estimated 182 carats (36 g). Its colour, pale pink, is one of the rarest to be found in diamonds. The Darya-ye Noor presently forms part of the Iranian Crown Jewels and is on display at the Central Bank of Iran in Tehran.
In 1739, Nader Shah of Persia invaded Northern India, occupied Delhi and then massacred many of its inhabitants. As payment for returning the crown to the Mughal emperor, he took possession of the entire fabled treasury of the Mughals, including the Darya-i-noor, in addition to the Koh-i-noor and the Peacock throne. All of these treasures were carried to Iran by Nader Shah and the Darya-i-noor has remained there ever since.
Reza Shah, founder of the Pahlavi dynasty, wore the diamond as a decoration on his military hat during his coronation in 1926, and it was used in Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi’s coronation ceremony in 1967.
5. Tiffany Yellow Diamond
The Tiffany Diamond is one of the largest yellow diamonds ever discovered. It was discovered at the Kimberlite mine in South Africa in 1878 and was originally 287 carats. The facet pattern features eight needle-like facets pointing outward from the culet (bottom) facet. Jewelry and diamond historian Herbert Tillander refers to this as a ‘stellar brilliant cut’, and lists the gem in his book “Diamond Cuts in Historic Jewelry – 1381 to 1910” (1995) among other such diamonds: The Koh-I-Noor, the Polar Star, the Wittelsbach, among others.
After being cut and polished into a cushion shape, it measured 128.54 carats and was classified as a fancy yellow. The diamond is part of the collection at the Smithsonian Museum. The diamond is also part of the promotion material for the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s featuring Audrey Hepburn.
6. Orlov Diamond
The Orlov (sometimes spelled Orloff) is a large diamond that is part of the collection of the Diamond Fund of the Moscow Kremlin. The origin of this resplendent relic – described as having the shape and proportions of half a hen’s egg – can be traced back to 18th century in southern India. The particulars of the Orlov’s story have been lost with time, but it is widely reported that the diamond once served as an eye of the statue in a temple in southern India. The man held responsible for its removal was a French deserter, a grenadier from the Carnatic wars who apparently died after touching the gem. The Orlov is a rarity among historic diamonds, for it retains its original Indian rose-style cut. Its colour is widely stated as white with a faint bluish-green tinge.
7. Hope Diamond
The Hope Diamond is the previous record holder for being the largest faceted diamond and is probably the most well known and historically interesting of all diamonds. The Hope Diamond was originally known as the Tavernier Blue which was a crudely cut triangular diamond. According to legend, it was stolen from an Indian statue of Sita and purchased by Jean-Baptiste Tavernier around 1660. The diamond was sold to King Louis XIV of France who had it cut into a 67.125 carat stone. It was renamed the French Blue and worn for ceremonial functions in France.
The diamond was rarely seen until Louis XVI gave it to Marie Antoinette who added it to her jewelry collection. When the French Revolution started the diamond was stolen and resurfaced in La Havre four years later. The diamond disappeared for another 20 years (which coincidentally is exactly how long it took for the statute of limitations to run out on the crime) when it resurfaced in the hands of a London diamond merchant Daniel Eliason in 1812. Henry Philip Hope purchased the diamond in 1824, after his death his heirs fought over the diamond. It passed through three generations of the Hope family until Henry Francis Hope Pelham-Clinton Hope fell into bankruptcy and was forced to sell the stone. The diamond continued to change hands until Pierre Cartier acquired it in 1910. They reset the stone and sold it to socialite Evelyn Walsh McLean. She left the stone to her heirs, however it had to be sold again to settle outstanding debt.
The stone was purchased by legendary jeweler Harry Winston who had the lower portion of the stone cut to increase its brilliance. After having the diamond as part of his traveling exhibit known as “the court of jewels,” he donated it to the Smithsonian Institution where he sent it through the US postal service in plain brown wrapper. The diamond is said to have been cursed by the Hindu God from whose statue it was originally stolen because financial ruin or sudden death occurred to many who owned it. The diamond was also the inspiration for the fictional “Heart of the Ocean” in the movie Titanic. In 2005 new computer research proved that the Hope Diamond was indeed the French Blue that was stolen from the jewelry collection of Marie Antoinette.
8. Centenary Diamond
273.85 Carats, discovered at the Premier Mine, in July 1986. The ‘Centenary’ diamond weighed 599.10 carats in the rough. Together with a small select team, master-cutter Gabi Tolkowsky took almost three years to complete its transformation into the world’s largest, most modern-cut, top-colour, flawless diamond.
Possessing 247 facets – 164 on the stone and 83 on its girdle – the aptly-named ‘Centenary’ diamond weighs 273.85 carats, and is only surpassed in size by the 530.20 carat ‘Great Star of Africa’ and the 317.40 carat ‘Lesser Star of Africa’, both of which are set into the British Crown Jewels. The ‘Centenary’ diamond was unveiled, appropriately at the Tower of London in May,1991.
9. Klopman diamond
The Klopman diamond is a fabulous, legendaryand huge diamond, said to have a curse associated with it.
The Klopman diamond was originally the subject of a traditional joke, a typical version of which is:
A businessman boarded a plane to find, sitting next to him, an elegant woman wearing the largest, most stunning diamond ring he had ever seen. He asked her about it.
“This is the Klopman diamond,” she said. “It is beautiful, but it’s like the Hope diamond; there is a terrible curse that goes with it.” “What’s the curse?” the man asked. She said “Mr. Klopman.”
Due to the use of the name “Klopman” and the somewhat dark humor, and the fact that it was one of Myron Cohen’s standards, this joke is sometimes characterised as Yiddish in origin. Some commentators maintain that names other than Klopman would not be as funny, and point to the fact that this joke has survived essentially unaltered for decades.
A later joke of Myron Cohen, similar in nature, goes as follows:
The very same Mrs. Klopman was told by her doctor that she had a fatal condition and would never outlive her husband. She immediately commissioned a world-famous portrait artist to paint her portrait, which was to be hung above the mantel in the living room. As she posed for the portrait, she asked the artist “When you’re done…if you have some paints left….I vant you should add some things to the painting….. I vant you should paint on my wrist a three-tiered diamond tennis bracelet,” she said. “Also, paint on Tahitian black pearl earrings the size of grapes.” She continued in this vein, asking him to paint several rings on her fingers and a ruby and diamond tiara for good measure. The artist did as he was told, and turned out a dazzling portrait. When the job was finished, before he left, the artist said, “May I ask you a question, Mrs. Klopman?” “Sure, go ahead,” she replied. “Well,” said the artist, “painting the Klopman diamond was easy, but I had a heck of a time dreaming up all the other jewelry you wanted me to add on. Tell me, why did you want it?” A crafty gleam lit Mrs. Klopman’s eyes as she explained, “because when I’m dead and my husband brings the next Mrs. Klopman into this house, I want her to look at my portrait and go crazy trying to find all that stuff!”
10. The Sancy Diamond
Little is known of the Sancy Diamond before the 14th century when it was most likely stolen from India. It was first recorded as measuring 100 carats when it was part of the dowry of Valentina, Galeazzo di Visconti’s daughter in 1389. She married Duke d’Orleans who was the brother of Charles VI of France. This began a long history of the diamond being used as collateral and going in and out of pawn over the next few hundred years.
Duke John of Burgundy acquired the stone as a spoil of war victory and passed it down through his family for several generations including Charles the Bold. Charles brought the stone into battle believing it was good luck. This turned out not to be true as he lost the battle and his life and the stone was missing for 14 years. It then turned up in the possession of Jacob Fugger who sold it to the King of Portugal. When Phillip II of Spain Invaded Portugal he claimed the Sancy, however, the king escaped with several other jewels which he sold the French and English Crown. The Sancy found itself in the ownership of Elizabeth I, who also owned the Three Brothers stone which was also lost by Charles the Bold. Elizabeth secretly pawned the stone to finance a Dutch war against Spain. The diamond changed hands again and found a new owner Nicolas Harlay de Sancy whose wife had an appetite for diamonds. Elizabeth I wanted the diamond back and Sancy who eventually went bankrupt was convinced to sell it back to James I of the English Crown.
The diamond went in and out of pawn again several times until 1660 when it was used to settle a debt and came into the ownership of Cardinal Mazarin. Upon his death the Cardinal gave it to the French Crown. It became part of Marie Antoinette’s collection until the French Revolution, when it was lost again. The stone found its way into the ownership of the Spanish Crown until it was “reclaimed” by Joseph Bonaparte. The diamond disappeared again for 25 years long enough for the statue of limitations to expire, when it surfaced to be purchased by Nicholas Demidov, who gave it to his wife. It was then sold to Sir Jamsetee Jeejeebhoy and eventually to William Astor in 1865. The Astor family kept possession of the stone until 1976 when they sold it for an undisclosed amount to the Louvre Museum where it still resides today.
The diamond has a slightly unusual shape and is nearly flay on one side. This type of cut is very common in older diamonds. The stone measures 55.232 carats and has a slight yellow coloration. Most experts agree that the Sancy was part of a much larger diamond that was re-cut at some point, however there is no consensus which diamond it originally came from.
Source: Wikipedia, Diamonds Eternal, Famous Diamonds, Time