It’s a sad fact that not many of us can aspire to the ownership of a diamond as valuable as something like the Star of Africa, nonetheless, the history of some of the most famous diamonds in the world is fascinating. Here is our pick of the top 5
The Star of Africa
Mined in Transvaal in 1905, the Star or Africa, or Cullinan Diamond is the largest rough quality diamond ever found. The stone was enormous, but had a black spot at it’s heart, a common sign of weakness within the diamond. It was bought by the government of Transvaal, and gifted to Edward VII as a birthday gift. It was then cut, eventually into 9 large stones and some smaller fragments. Some legend suggests that the diamond was in fact part of a larger stone, although no missing parts have ever been found to be authentic.
The largest stone, the Cullinan I, is 530.2 carats, and is set in the head of the Sceptre with the Cross, as part of the Crown Jewels. The Cullinan II weighs in at 317.4 carats and is the main jewel in the front of the circlet of the Imperial State Crown.
The Hope Diamond
Named for it’s owner, the Hope Diamond is thought to have been cut from a larger stone, the Blue Tavernier Diamond which came to Europe in 1642, which was then cut by Louise XIV and later stolen during the French Revolutionary period.
A blue diamond of the same shape, size and quality appeared in the UK some 20 years later, where was eventually bought by a banker called Thomas Hope, and set into a medallion pedant surrounded by smaller, white stones. It remained in the Hope family until 1901, when bankruptcy forced it’s sale. It changed hands several times, gathering a reputation for garnering ill fortune, until it was eventually donated to the Smithsonian National Museum of National History.
The Koh-i-noor is one of the most famous gems in the world. First mentioned in 1304, it spent years in the hands of the Mogul emperors, possibly even having been set in the famous Peacock Throne which was created for Shah Jehan. The East India Company presented the diamond to Queen Victoria in 1850, weighing in at 108.93 carats and worn as a brooch. The Koh-i-Noor was then set into the State Crown, joining other such famous diamonds, and was word by Queen Elizabeth II for her coronation.
The Excelsior Diamond
Until the discovery of the Star of Africa, the previous largest diamond found was the Excelsior, mined in the Jagersfontein Mine in South Africa. A massive 971 carats, the diamond was a sparkling white with a blue tinge and had some carbon inclusions.
Because the stone was discovered by the mining company on the day their contract with a large London diamond syndicate expired, it’s value as a single stone was not considered, and the diamond was cut into 10 stones weighing between 13 and 68 carats.
The Tiffany Diamond
One of the biggest yellow diamonds in the world, the Tiffany Diamond originally weighed in at 287 carats; after cutting it weights just over 128. It is a 90 facet, cushion shape, and was found in South Africa in 1877. The Diamond has been owned by Tiffany since shortly after it was found, and has been worn by only two people. Audrey Hepburn wore the diamond in the promotional shots for Breakfast at Tiffany’s in 1961, and had also been worn by Mrs Sheldon Whitehouse at a Tiffany Ball in the late 1950’s. Set into the ‘Bird on a Rock’ brooch, or the Ribbons Necklace, the Tiffany Diamond is one of the finest yellow diamonds ever found.
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