Out of This World! Extraordinary Diamonds Throughout History
Diamonds have been known to mankind for thousands of years due to their beauty as well as their hardy qualities. Even the smallest of diamonds have beautiful, sparkling qualities that are rarely found in other gemstones. Here we take a look at some of the most extraordinary and famous diamonds that are known to modern times.
1. The Cullinan Diamond or Great Star of Africa - The Largest Polished Diamond
Named after mine owner Sir Thomas Cullinan, The Cullinan Diamond, also known as the Great Star of Africa, is undeniably the largest rough gem-quality diamond that has ever been found. Brought to the surface by Premiere Diamond Mining Company in Cullinan, South Africa, this astounding gem weighed in at a whopping 3,106.75 carats precut!
An analysis was taken and the original diamond had the most excellent clarity Sir William Crookes (the man behind the analysis) had ever seen. The stone was transported to the Transvaal government and presented to King Edward VII. From there, it was taken to the Asscher Brothers of Amsterdam who proceeded to cut the large stone into smaller, useable quantities.
The largest stone from the slice was dubbed Cullinan I or the Star of Africa and still remains the largest clear polished diamond in the world. It is only beat out by the bold, brown Golden Jubilee. The second largest gemstone and third largest polished diamond in the world is the Cullinan II or the Lesser Star of Africa. Both are displayed in the Tower of London and are part of the elusive Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom.
Folklore surrounds this fascinating gem and it has been said that, prior to turning over the diamond, the mine’s surface manager Fredrick Wells broke off a chunk that was equal in size to the diamond he gave to Sir Thomas Cullinan. If this legend has truth to it, than the real diamond would have clocked in at nearly 5,000 carats!
How much would a diamond of this magnitude cost you? Try a cool $800 million. However, the theory has never been proven and the Cullinan Diamond pieces that are in existence today are worth an estimated $400 million.
2. The Hope Diamond – The World Renowned Diamond
The Hope Diamond is possibly one of the most world renowned. Even the beloved movie Titantic based the character Rose’s diamond on this beautiful stone. Hope weights in at 45.52 carats and although she certainly isn’t the largest, her illustrious and mysterious grayish-blue coloring only lends to her legend.The Hope Diamond’s history is easily traceable from a larger blue stone called the Tavernier Blue. It was brought to the surface at the Kollur Mine in Goloconda, India and crud ely cut into a triangular shape. Hope soon made her way into the hands of French merchant-traveler Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, which is precisely where he storied myth starts.
Legend aside, the Hope Diamond made her way to several homes over time; from King Louis XIV who dubbed in French Blue or the Blue Diamond of the Crown to Maria Antoinette where it was then stolen when she was imprisoned; and from there she resurfaced in the hands of diamond merchant Daniel Eliason in 1812. Her namesake, Henry Hope, purchased Hope for his gem collection in the 19th century and from there she was passed through several more homes until she finally made her way to jeweler Harry Winston who donated the stone to the Smithsonian Institute, where Hope still resides today.
As for the alleged curse, well it is quite a tale to tell. The first stories of this curse arose in the early 20th century when it is said that Tavernier stole the diamond eyeball of a statue of a Hindu goddess at a sacred temple. The high priestess cursed whoever had the diamond and since then many of the supposed owners have come to a less than glamorous end. The Hope Diamond is to blame for the beheadings of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette; the horrific rape and beheading of Princesse de Lamballe, the suicides and murders of Wilhelm Fals, Hendrik Fals, Jacques Colot, Simon Montharides and members of Abdul Hamid’s court. It is also to blame for other deaths and dismay such as Francois Beauilieu’s starvation upon selling it, Simon Frankel’s financial difficulties after he sold it, the downward spiral and misfortune’s of one time owner May Yohe’s life and the sudden, unprecedented death of Lord Francis Hope’s wife, Olive Muriel Thompson. However, since its stay at the Smithsonian, there have no Hope Diamond related misfortunes to date.
3. Koh-i-noor or Mountain of Light – The Oldest Diamond
The Koh-i-noor has one of the oldest histories, and most bloody at that, of any famous diamond. Ancient folklore surrounding the diamond say that the Koh-i-noor was originally found nearly 5,000 years ago and is mentioned in the ancient Sanskrit text under the assumed name of Syamantaka; the famous and magical Hindu jewel that belonged to the Sun God himself.
More realistic historical evidence points to the diamond rich region of Golconda in India, one of the world’s first diamond producing provinces. The diamonds mined here have also been known as the most superior on earth in regards to their color, clarity, transparency and are considered a rarity. It is likely that Koh-i-noor was brought to light at the Kollur Mines in India, centuries before the mine found the Hope Diamond.
Its bloody history comes in at the end of 1320 in Delhi when the Khilji Dynasty saw its demise when it was overthrown by Ghiyas ud din Tughluq Shah I. Tughluq sent his young son, Ulugh Khan, to defeat the Kakatiya king Prataparudra three years later. The raid was thrown off course but Tughluq and Ulugh Khan did not give up and returned stronger than ever one month later. The Kakatiya were defeated and their towns looted. The Koh-i-noor was part of the booty. From there it passed in similar manner from Babur to the rulers of the Delhi sultanate and then to the first Mughal emperor in the early 16th century.
Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, celebrated for building the stunning Taj Mahal, had Koh-i-noor placed into his famous Peacock Throne. Myth surrounds the stone during this period, where it is said that Shah Jahan’s son had him imprisoned and placed the stone on a window ledge, where Jahan could see it sparkling in the sunlight each day he spent in his cell. It remained here until the Nadir Shah invasion in 1739. Nadir Shah took the Peacock throne and allegedly shouted “Koh-i-noor!” upon seeing the glimmering stone set in the throne. Nearly a decade later, he was assassinated and the stone came into the hand of Ahmed Shah Abdali of Afghanistan who managed to give the stone to Ranjit Singh, King of Punjab despite protest from Britain’s East India Company.In 1849, the British flag was hoisted and the Punjab were declared part of Britian. Koh-i-noor finally made its way out of the Middle East and into Europe. British commander Lord Dalhousie, the man responsible for much of the East India Company’s headway, passed the stone along as a gift to Queen Victoria.
However, those who go to see it today may find that they are disappointed in that the stones carat weight doesn’t measure up to all of the hell that it raised for centuries on end.
Why the disappointed in a stone so celebrated? Victoria wanted the stone to be more wearable and for its true brilliance to shine. So, under the watchful eye of her consort, Prince Albert had it cut from 186 carats to nearly half the size; 105.602 carats. Although much money, time and consideration went into the operation, many people, including Albert and the Queen were terribly let down by the outcome.
The stone was set in several tiaras and crowns since and today resides in the Tower of London along with the England’s other Crown Jewels.
These three diamonds are as rich in history and folklore as they are in appearance. Although they are not the only famed and fabled diamonds, they are truly some of the most spectacular in their storied pasts and bright, shining futures. It is easy to see where phrases like “diamonds are forever” arise and why the diamond will continue to be one of the most beloved gemstones throughout human history.