Everything in the world has a very specific, and special beauty. Waterfalls have a tremendous power to overwhelm the eyes, green meadows seek to cast a calming spell, and deserts have an isolated, coldness that captures many. But even the most beautiful scenery can’t quite shine the way a clear rock that came from underground can. Diamonds have become an enormous part of our culture, and have often appeared throughout history. There are far more than 10 famous diamonds, but many of these have a connected history, shine above the rest, and are even the father of many other famous diamonds. These diamonds go beyond the normal gem that you wear on your finger; these dominate legends, myths, and many have a past that would make you weep.
Dating back to 1691 with King Louis XIV, this 20-carat diamond has a rich history. The pale orangey-pink rock was the foremost diamond in the third of the nineteen florets of buttonholes listed in the inventory of the Crown Jewels of France. The Hortensia is flat and rectangular in shape and is cut on 5 sides. It was valued at 48,000 livres ($79,038.37 US) in 1791, due to a large crack that extends from the edge of the girdle (widest part) to the culet (flat-bottomed edge). It is named after the wearer, Hortense de Beauharnais, Queen of Holland, and stepdaughter of Napoleon Bonaparte. In 1792, it, along with other jewels, were stolen from the Garde Meuble. A year later it was found in an attic with other jewels including the Regent. When the French Crown Jewels were sold in 1887, the Hortensia, as well as the Regent, were excluded because of their historic and artistic interest.
10. The Regent
Originally named the Pitt after Thomas Pitt acquired the 140.50-carat diamond in India in 1702. It is said to have been firstly discovered by a slave who then concealed it using rags, carried it to a ship and proceeded to ask a ship captain to help him leave, offering up half of the price of the diamond. The slave was later murdered out of greed by the captain, who then sold the diamond to a merchant named Jamchund for about $5000. Jamchund then sold the enormous rock for $100,000 to Thomas Pitt, who was the Grandfather of William Pitt. It was sent to England to be cut, which cost around $25,000, but the smaller stones that came from the cutting brought more than $35,000. In 1717, the Regent was purchased from Pitt by the Regent of France, (hence the name), for the French Crown for $650,000. It was then passed from Louis XV, Queen Marie Leczinska, and Marie Antoinette. In 1792, it was stolen with many other famous jewels during the early part of the revolution, and 15 months later it was found with the Hortensia. Although it is not one of the largest diamonds anymore, it is still one of the most historically and artistically famous with the exceptionally perfect cut.
9. The Sancy
Originally owned by the Duke of Burgundy (who lost it in a battle), this 55-carat, pear shaped diamond is a pale yellow. It is said to be one of the first large diamonds to be cut with symmetrical facets. In 1570, the Sancy was purchased in Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey), by the French Ambassador to Turkey, Nicholas Harlais, the Sarigneur de Sancy. It was borrowed by Henry III to adorn a hat that he was using to conceal his baldness. During Henry IV rule, he borrowed the gem as security for a substantial loan to hire soldiers. A messenger was sent out with the stone, but never reached his destination. Knowing that the man was loyal to the Crown, Nicholas Harlais, who had become the Superintendent of Finance for King Henry, searched for the messenger’s body. When the corpse was discovered and disinterred, the gem was found in his stomach. Nicholas sold the diamond to James I, and it remained in England until 1669. From there it passed hands between royals a few times until it was sold to Louis XIV. In 1792, it one of the many gems stolen during the beginning of the French Revolution. It appeared and was sold to a Russian Prince in 1865. In 1906 it was purchased by William Waldorf Astor and was worn by his wife, Lady Astor of Virginia.
8. The Blue Hope
Ironically called the Blue Hope, this 45.52-carat diamond has a history of its owner having a tragic fate. It has a steely-blue colour and is a relatively flat diamond. It was once owned by Louis XIV and was designated “the blue diamond of the crown.” Stolen like the others in 1792 during the French Revolution, it later was discovered in London in 1830, and was bought by Henry Philip Hope. Here in the hands of the Hope family did the gem get a gruesome reputation for bad luck. All of the Hope family died in poverty, and a similar misfortune happened to a later owner, a widow by the name of Mrs. Edward Mclean. When Harry Winston, the New York diamond merchant, bought the stone in 1949, many clients refused to touch the stone. It now resides in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.
A 69.42-carat, pear-shaped diamond, was put up for auction in 1969 with the promise that the buyer would have the right to name it. Cartier of New York successfully bid for it and immediately named it Cartier. However, the next day it was bought by Richard Burton, who was going to give it to Elizabeth Taylor, and was renamed “Taylor-Burton.” It made its debut at a charity ball in Monaco where Taylor wore it as a pendant. In 1978, it was announced that the diamond was being put up for sale, and that the proceedings would be put towards building a hospital in Botswana. Prospective buyers had to pay $2,500 just to inspect the jewel.
6. Hall’s Diamond
Not a true mined diamond, but actually the very first synthetic diamond in the 1950’s. Once it was discovered that diamonds were nothing more than a bunch of compacted carbon, many attempted to replicate the gems. The first commercially, successful replication of a diamond was made by Tracy Hall in 1954. He along with many others had spent about 4 years failing to recreate an artificial diamond, but with his radical change to the compressor, he was successful. Even though he had been the first, his employers (General Electric), went on to make a fortune, while GE rewarded Hall with a $10 Savings Bond, in addition to his regular salary.
5. The Idol’s Eye
A 70.20-carat, fig-sized gem, that was once set in the eye of an idol before it was stolen. Legend speaks of the jewel as once being given as ransom for Princess Rasheetah by the Sheik of Kashmir to the Sultan of Turkey who had kidnapped her. It is in the shape of rounded, triangular shape, and is of a blue-white hue. The first authenticated appearance by the diamond was at a Christie’s sale in London in 1865.
Name meaning “Mountain of Light”, the oval cut gem is 108.60-carats, and is now in the British Royal Jewels. Its history dates back to 1304, and is believed to have once been set in a famous peacock throne as one of the peacock’s eyes. Recut during Queen Victoria’s reign and worn as a broach. It now resides in the Tower of London with the other Crown Jewels.
3. The Orlov
Or “Orloff”, this diamond is now one of the most important items in one of the greatest gem collections in the world. It is mounted in the Imperial Scepter that was made for Catherine the Great, and its weight has been measured to be 189.62-carats. It has the clarity of the finest Indian diamonds, and a blue-greenish tinge. It was originally said to have been set in the eye of a god in the temple of Sri Rangen, and was stolen by a French soldier disguised as a Hindu. It now resides in Moscow, Russia.
2. The Great Star of Africa
The largest stone cut from the Cullinan and is now among the British Crown Jewels. It weighs 530.20-carats, has 74 facets, and is still the largest cut diamonds in the world. Pear-shaped and set in the Royal Scepter. It is also called Cullinan I because it is the largest of 9 diamonds cut from the original.
1. The Cullinan
Originally a diamond that was 3,106-carats, and weighed just under 1½. The Cullinan was cut into 9 major stones and 96 smaller ones, and is the largest diamond ever discovered. Found in South Africa in 1905, Frederick Wells caught sight of something reflecting the setting sun on one of his routine mine inspections. He originally thought he was just being fooled by a large piece of glass, but after a few inspections and tests it was discovered to be the largest gem anyone had ever seen.
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