Diamonds, the birthstones for April believed to symbolise truth and everlasting love, and bring the wearer calm and inner peace. We were quite surprised then to find out about the turbulent history of some of the most famous diamonds in history – death, destruction, curses! No other gem seems to inspire as much passion and drama as the diamond!
We take look at some of the most famous diamonds in history, including the one that inspired the Heart of the Ocean pendant worn in Titanic and the diamond that’s only been worn three times in public.
The Hope Diamond
Valued at $200 million, the Hope Diamond is one of the most famous diamonds in the world and the inspiration behind the Heart of the Ocean diamond worn by Kate Winslet in Titanic.
A deep lustrous blue in colour, it weighs a massive 45.52 carats and is believed to have originated in India, when it was purchased by a French gem merchant. Over the years, it was sold, stolen and recut, until it was acquired by Henry Hope, who gave it its name. After his death, the diamond passed through the hands of several owners until Harry Winston donated it to the Smithsonian Institution in 1958.
As for the infamous ‘Hope Diamond Curse’ – well, it’s thought the diamond was originally stolen from an Indian temple idol, so brings bad luck to anyone who owns it. Marie Antoinette was beheaded; a French merchant who sold it to King Louis XIV was mauled to death by a pack of wild dogs, and various other owners were murdered or committed suicide. All a bit scary until you realise the curse was made up by journalists in the 1800s in an attempt to sell more newspapers!
The Koh-i-Noor Diamond
Meaning ‘mountain of light’ in Persian, the Koh-i-Noor diamond is a 105.6 carats white diamond, which now sits proudly in the Queen Mother’s Crown in a display cabinet in the Tower of London.
But its history is fraught with bloodshed and destruction. Thought to have been mined in southern India in the 1300s, over the centuries it was owned by various Sikh, Mughal and Persian rulers and as a result saw a long chain of bloody conquests, looting and pillaging. In 1849, it was taken from India after the British conquest of the Punjab and presented to Queen Victoria. She lent it to the Great Exhibition of 1851, where its mysterious past drew enormous crowds (10% of the UK population!), helping turn it into the most famous diamond in the world.
The Centenary Diamond
In 1986, a rough diamond of 599 carats was discovered in the De Beers Premier mine in South Africa. The third largest diamond ever recovered from that mine, it was entrusted to one of the best diamond cutters in the world, Gabi Tolkowsky to cut and polish.
Set up in a special room, specifically designed to avoid any unnecessary mechanical vibration or temperature variation, he spent the next two years combining old cutting methods with sophisticated modern cutting technology to produce a heart shaped diamond of 273.85 carats.
Both internally and externally flawless, the Centenary Diamond was first unveiled to celebrate De Beers centenary in 1988. Its current owner is not public knowledge, but its estimated value is put at $100 million.
The Pink Legacy
Sold for £38.5m at Christie’s last year, and setting a record price per carat for a pink diamond, the Pink Legacy was discovered in a South African mine around 100 years ago. Graded as ‘fancy vivid’ – the highest level of colour intensity – it is a classic rectangular cut diamond and weighs a massive 18.96 carats. Most pink diamonds weigh less than a carat.
Internally, the Pink Legacy is very pure, which is extremely rare in pink diamonds, as most have imperfections.
Previously, owned by the Oppenheimer family, the diamond was the largest and finest pink diamond ever offered at auction and was sold to Harry Winston after just five minutes of bidding! They promptly renamed it the Winston Pink Legacy.
The Tiffany Yellow Diamond
If you’re a fan of Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, then you might remember her wearing a stunning necklace showcasing a bright yellow diamond. That’s the Tiffany Yellow Diamond, the largest yellow diamond ever mined and purchased by Charles Tiffany, founder of Tiffany & Co in 1877. Its rough weight was 287 carats and George Kunz, the gemologist, studied the gem for a year before cutting it down into a cushion shape of 128.54 carats with 82 facets – 24 more facets than a standard brilliant-cut stone – to maximise its brilliance.
Lady Gaga wore the diamond at this year’s Academy Awards – only the third time that it has been worn publicly and the first time ever to an award show.
Interested in owning a piece of diamond jewellery?
If you fancy a new piece of diamond jewellery, why not pop in and see us. We might not stock diamonds as big (or as pricey!) as these, but we do carry a wide range of diamond necklaces, rings, earrings and bracelets and cater for all budgets. We’d be delighted to help you find the perfect piece. And if you’re looking to buy a diamond engagement ring, don’t forget to read our blog on choosing the perfect diamond.