Top 7 Most Famous Diamonds in History

For centuries, diamonds have enhanced the already stunning features of women around the world. But there’s a select class of diamonds which have earned a reputation for themselves. These famous diamonds are the subject of legends, world-class admiration for their beauty and uniqueness, which have made them worthy of a special reverence.

Maybe these diamonds are famous because of their size, or their place of discovery, or even because of a special association with history. The common thread they have is their stunning cuts and their high value for the history of jewelry.

Today, we bring you 7 of the most famous diamonds ever found in history. You may find some well-known gems here, and also discover new favorites.

1) The Cullinan Diamond

One of the Cullinan diamonds as part of the British Royal Jewels

Last week, we mentioned this gorgeous gem. Discovered in South Africa in 1905, the Cullinan diamond is the largest gem-quality rough diamond ever found. At the time of its discovery, it weighed 3,106cts, which is equivalent to over a pound! Once it was brought out to the surface, it became clear that this was no ordinary diamond piece, as it was twice the size of any other rough diamond previously discovered.

This famous diamond is named after Sir Thomas Cullinan, owner of the mine who had spent years seeking for his big break. After its discovery and appraisal, it was sold to the Transvaal Colony government for £150,000. Shortly after the sale, it was transported from South Africa to England, and presented to King Edward VII for his 66th birthday.

After its arrival to the United Kingdom, and its meeting with the king, the Cullinan diamond was cut into nine gems, which were polished in 1908. Three of these gems are part of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom. Other, smaller gems from the Cullinan have been worn by Queen Elizabeth II as part of stunning brooches.

2) The Centenary Diamond

Centenary diamond displayed in its final shape.

This diamond is unique because of its highest grade of perfection among most known diamonds. It was discovered in July 1986 in South Africa, weighing 599cts. The main feature of the Centenary diamond is that it has received the grade D color rating by the GIA, which means the diamond is colorless and completely flawless.

Polishing such an amazing gem was no small feat. The owners of the diamond commissioned a team of expert diamond cutters, engineers and electricians for the task. They worked in a special underground unit, which was built to balance out any stability or temperature issues which could harm the diamond while it was being cut.

It took four and a half years for the team to complete the final design of the Centenary diamond, which was unveiled publicly in May 1991. Its final weight was 273.85cts, with 247 facets as a modified heart shape. The Centenary’s current owner is unknown.

3) The Hope Diamond

The Hope diamond displayed at the Smithsonian museum.

Despite being one of the smallest gems in this list, the Hope Diamond is one of the most famous of them, because of the mystery surrounding its origins and some unusual events which give the gem a bad name as a “cursed” diamond. Whether this curse is real or not, let’s begin with the facts: it weighs 45.52cts, with a rare blue color due to some traces of boron atoms found in its composition.

The origins of the Hope Diamond date back to the mid-1600s.  Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, a French merchant, purchased the uncut stone in the Kollur mine in India. He brought it to Paris and sold it to King Louis XIV in 1668.

Many years later, in 1791, the stone was stolen during the French Revolution, and it made its way to Great Britain years later. There, it was recut into the gem we know today. It also received its name there, as the gem was bought by the Hope family. From then on, it passed on through many owners until it was purchased by the Smithsonian Institute, where it resides today.

Going into more mysterious terrain, legend has it that most of the Hope owners fell into bad luck or suffered untimely deaths shortly after acquiring it. Some believe that the deaths of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette during the French revolution were part of the curse. It’s alleged that Tavernier himself also met a violent death.

There are other alleged victims of the curse. Wilhelm Fals, who recut the diamond after its theft was a victim of a murder-suicide. Evalyn Walsh McLean, an American owner of the Hope suffered major deaths in her family and died in bankruptcy. Coincidence or curse? You be the judge.

4) The Orlov Diamond

The Orlov diamond, displayed inside the Imperial Sceptre of Catherine the Great.

The next famous diamond on our list hails from Russia, where it’s currently part of the collection of the Diamond Fund of the Moscow Kremlin. Little is known about the story of the Orlov diamond. It’s alleged that it was discovered in the Kollur mine in India, and arrived into Russia somewhere during the 18th century. It weighs 189.62cts and it’s described as about the size and shape of half a chicken’s egg.

The Orlov became part of the Royal Jewels of Russia when it was given to Catherine the Great by Count Grigory Orlov, who purchased it in Amsterdam. He offered her the diamond as a gesture to regain her affections and, even though he failed in his goal, the gem did make its way to Catherine’s Imperial Sceptre, which was built in 1784.

5) The Regent Diamond

View from above of the Regent Diamond

This is the third entry from our list mined off the Kollur mine in India. The Regent Diamond weighs 141cts and is currently displayed at the Louvre museum in Paris, France. For many years, it boasted the honor of being the most beautiful diamond in the world, and still today, it’s admired for its beauty and cut.

Before it was cut, the stone weighed 426cts. Around 1702, four years after its discovery, it was shipped to England to be cut. In 1717, Philippe d’Orleans, then the regent of France, managed to purchase the diamond; hence the Regent name. Two years later it had tripled in value because of its almost flawless quality. It became part of the Crown Diamonds collection, being worn by kings Louis XV, XVI and XVIII, among other kings and emperors.

6) The Allnatt Diamond

View from above of the Allnatt diamond

As the second colored diamond on our list, the Allnatt diamond has gained fame for its gorgeous color and cut. Its origins are unknown, but it’s believed that the stone was mined in the early 1950s in South Africa. It was purchased by Major Alfred Ernest Allnatt, an English businessman and philanthropist, hence the name.

This diamond measures 101.29cts and its color has been dubbed as Fancy Vivid Yellow by the GIA. It’s one of the most expensive yellow diamond gems ever known, valued at over US$ 3 million at an auction in 1996.

7) The Koh-i-Noor Diamond

The Koh-I-Noor diamond, displayed with the crown of the Queen of England

Let’s wrap up this list with the former largest diamond in the world. The Koh-i-Noor diamond also hails from the Kollur mine in India, and it’s the oldest discovery of our list, as it was allegedly unearthed around the 13th century. Its name means Mountain of Light and the uncut stone used to weigh over 793cts, but its weight has changed over the years with several cuts.

The Koh-i-Noor was owned by several feuding dynasties in South Asia for many centuries. In 1849, the gem was confiscated and given to Queen Victoria of Great Britain after the conquest of Punjab. Under her possession, it was cut to its final oval diamond shape in 1852. The gem’s final weight was 105.6 cts.

A peculiar feat of this gem is that it has only been worn by female members of the British Royal family. The Koh-i-Noor was added to the Queen Mother’s crown, in her husband’s King George VI coronation in 1937.   

Even though the Koh-i-Noor’s ownership has been disputed several times by the governments of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, the British government has rejected their claims and noted they obtained the gem through legal means.
Want to keep falling in love with more breathtaking pieces? Check out more stunning gems in our Jewelry category.

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