The Idol's Eye
A flattened pear shaped stone the size of a bantam's egg, its polished size is 70.20 carats. This is another famous diamond that was once set in the eye of an idol before it was stolen. Legend also has it that it was given as a ransom for Princess Rasheetah by the Sheik of Kashmir to the Sultan of Turkey who had abducted her.
A truly historic diamond discovered in 1701 by an Indian slave near Golconda, it weighed 410 carats in the rough. Once owned by William Pitt, the English Prime Minister, it was cut into a cushion shaped brilliant of 140.50 carats and, until it was sold to the Duke of Orleans, Regent of France when Louis XV was a boy--at that time in 1717, was called The Pitt. It was then renamed The Regent and set in the crown that Louis XV wore at his coronation. After the French revolution, it was owned by Napoleon Bonaparte who set it in the hilt of his sword. It is now on display in the Louvre.
The Hope Diamond
More notorious than any other diamonds, The Hope Diamond is 45.52 carats. Since the Hope Diamond was found in the early 1600s, it has crossed oceans and continents and passed from kings to commoners. What makes The Hope so notorious is that it is supposed to be cursed. It was once owned by Louis XIV but stolen during the French revolution. In 1830 it turned up in London and was purchased by Henry Phillip Hope, whom it is named. It was while the diamond was in the possession of the Hope family that it acquired its gruesome reputation for bad luck. A similar misfortune befell a later owner, Mr. Edward McLean. The Hope Diamond is now in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC. To read more about the fascinating history of the Hope Diamond visit Encyclopedia Smithsonian on line.
55 Carats, it was cut in a pear shape and was first owned by Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, who lost it in battle in 1477. The stone is in fact named after a later owner, Seigneur de Sancy, a French Ambassador to Turkey in the late 16th century. He loaned it to the French king, Henry III who wore it in the cap with which he concealed his baldness. Henry IV of France also borrowed the stone from Sancy, but it was sold in 1664 to James I of England. In 1688, James II, last of the Stuart kings of England, fled with it to Paris. In 1792, at the beginning of the French Revolution, the Sancy and other famous gems were stolen from the Garde Meuble (Royal Treasury) in Paris. It reappeared in 1828 and was sold by a French merchant to Prince Anatole Demidoff of Russia; the prince, in turn, is recorded as selling it in 1865 for $100,000. Two years later, it was displayed by the French jeweler, G. Bapst, at the Paris Exposition, bearing a price tag of FR 1,000,000 (one million francs). In 1906, the sancy was purchased by William Waldorf Astor (1st Visount Astor) as a wedding present when his son (later 2nd Viscount Astor) married Nancy Langhorne of Virginia. Lady Astor often wore the big shield-shaped gem in a tiara on state occasions. In 1962, it was one of the features of the Ten Centuries of French Jewelry exhibition at the Louvre Museum. After Lady Astor's death in 1964, the celebrated stone was inherited by her son, the 3rd Viscount Astor. The gem is set in a mounting that permits it to be affixed to the head ornament.
The Maharajah of Patalia also claimed ownership of a 'Sancy Diamond.' Although this stone is similar in shape, it weighs 60.40 carats, or about ten percent more more than the Sancy of the Astor Family. The Sancy now resides in the Louvre Museum, Paris.
This pear-shaped 69.42 carat diamond was sold at auction in 1969 with the understanding that it could be named by the buyer. Cartier of New York successfully bid for it and immediately christened it "Cartier." However, the next day Richard Burton bought the stone for Elizabeth Taylor for an undisclosed sum, renaming it the "Taylor-Burton." It made its debut at a charity ball in Monaco in mid-November where Miss Taylor wore it as a pendant. In 1978, Elizabeth Taylor announced that she was putting it up for sale and planned to use part of the proceeds to build a hospital in Africa. Just to inspect the diamond, prospective buyers had to pay $2,500 to cover the cost of showing it. In June 1979, it was sold for nearly $2.8 million and was last reported to be in Saudi Arabia.
The Hortensia was named after Hortense de Beauharnais, Queen of Holland, who was Josephine's daughter and the stepdaughter of Napoleon Bonaparte. King Louis XIV was responsible for the addition of this 20 carats, pale orangish-pink diamond to the Crown Jewels of France. However, the Hortensia was not among the diamonds that the King purchased from Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, since the largest stone of this particular color that the latter brought back from India weighed only 14.5 carats. The Hortensia was the foremost diamond in the third of the nineteen florets of buttonholes listed in the inventory of the Crown Jewels of France, made in 1691. The Hortensia had been part of the French Crown Jewels since Louis XIV bought it. Along with the Regent, it is now on display at the Louvre, Paris.
The Excelsior (and The Excelsior I)
On the evening of June 30, 1893, an African mine worker picked up an immense diamond in a shovelful of gravel which he was loading into a truck; he hid it from his overseer and delivered it directly into the hands of the mine manager. As a reward he received £500 and a horse equipped with saddle and bridle.
This was the second largest stone ever found--The Excelsior--995.2 carats in the rough. The Excelsior was cut into ten stones, the largest of which is 69.68 carats. The GIA certified The Excelsior I has 'G' color and VS2 clarity. In May of 1996 The Excelsior I was bought by Robert Mouawad for $2,642,000. It possessed the marvelous blue-white color characteristic of the finest Jagersfontein diamonds, especially cleavages, and was of very fine quality, although there were numerous internal black spots, another Jagersfontein characteristic. In shape, the stone was flat on one side and rose to a peak on the other, rather like a loaf of rye bread. Apparently it was this fact which caused the diamond to be given the name of Excelsior, meaning "higher."
The Star of Sierra Leone
The third largest rough diamond ever discovered was found on February 14, 1972, at the Diminco Mine in Sierra Leone, which was 969.80 carats in the rough. Harry Winston purchased this diamond and had it cut into 17 stones, six of which are now set in the Star of Sierra Leone Brooch.
300 Carats when found, color: slightly bluish green, clarity: exceptionally pure, cut: Mogul-cut rose, source: India. There are so many historical episodes involving the Orloff. First, it may have been set at one time as the diamond eye of Vishnu's idol (one of the Hindu Gods) in the innermost sanctuary temple in Sriangam, before being stolen in the 1700s by a French deserter. However, the deserter just dug one eye from its socket, because he was terror-stricken at the thought of retribution, so he couldn't take the other. He went to Madras, and sold the stone quickly to an English sea-captain for 2,000 pounds.
The time passed, the stone arrived at Amsterdam where the Russian count Grigori Orloff, an ex-lover of Empress Catherine the Great was residing. He heard about rumors of the stone, and he bought the diamond for 90,000 pounds and took it back to Russia for Catherine's favor. The stone has been called the Orloff since then. Catherine received his gift and had it mounted in the Imperial Sceptre. She gave a marble palace to Grigori in exchange for the Orloff. However, Grigori couldn't get Catherine's love. Grigori Orloff passed away at the nadir of disappointment in 1783. In 1812 the Russians, fearing that Napoleon with his Grand Army was about to enter Moscow, hid the Orloff in a priest's tomb. This gem may be found in the Diamond Treasury of Russia in Moscow.
In 1964, this almost perfect yellow crystal was found in the Dutoitspan Mine, Kimberly, South Africa. It was acquired by Harry Winston, who presented it to the Smithsonian Institution in memory of the late Sir Ernest Oppenheimer of DeBeers Consolidated Mines.
KOH-I-NOOR "Mountain of Light"
First mentioned in 1304, it weighed 186 carats and was an oval cut stone. is the longest of all famous diamonds. It was captured by the Rajahs of Malwa in the sixteenth century by the Mogul, Sultan Babur and remained in the possession of later Mogul emperors. It may have been set in the famous Peacock Throne made for Shah Jehan. After the break-up of the Persian empire the diamond found its way to India. It may have traveled to Afghanistan with a bodyguard of Nadir Shah, who fled with the stone when the Shah was murdered, to be later offered to Ranjit Singh of the Punjab in exchange for military help (which was never delivered). After fighting broke out between the Sikhs and the British, The East India Company claimed the diamond as a partial indemnity, and then presented it to Queen Victoria in 1850. When the stone came from India, it weighed l986 carats; it was later recut to l08.93 carats. It was first worn by the Queen in a brooch. It was later set in the State Crown, worn by Queen Alexandra and Queen Mary, and 1937 was worn for by Queen Elizabeth for her coronation. It is kept in the Tower of London, with the other Crown Jewels.
The 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.
The Great Star of Africa (The Cullinan)
The Cullinan was discovered in Transvaal, South Africa in l095 on an inspection tour of the Premier Mine. The largest diamond ever found, it was 3,106 carats in the rough and originally weighed just under one and a half pounds. The Cullinan was cut into 9 major stones and 96 smaller stones. Two of the stones cut from the Cullinan Diamond are now found in the British Crown Jewels; the 530-carat "Star of Africa", which is set in the Royal Sceptre, pear shaped, with 76 facets. The 317-carat "Lesser Star of Africa" which is set in the Imperial State Crown (kept with the other Crown Jewels in the Tower of London). This photo shows the Founders of the Premier Mine & Cullinan Village with William McHardy holding the Cullinan Diamond. To read more about the history of The Cullinan visit Cullinan Meander on line. The Cullinan was cut by Joseph Asscher and Company of Amsterdam, who examined the enormous crystal for around six months before determining how to divide it. It eventually yeilded nine major, and 96 smaller brilliant cut stones. When the Cullinan was first discovered, certain signs suggested that it may have been part of a much larger crystal. But no discovery of the "missing half" has ever been authenticated.