The Most Famous Diamonds in the World: Their Stories and Legends
Diamonds have captivated human imagination and desire for centuries, standing as sparkling icons of opulence, rarity, and timeless beauty. Throughout history, certain diamonds have risen to unparalleled prominence, their stories intertwined with legends, power struggles, and romantic tales.
This guide takes you on a journey to explore the most famous diamonds in the world, delving into the mesmerizing narratives that have made these precious gems both coveted treasures and symbols of enduring fascination. From the regal Hope Diamond to the enchanting Koh-i-Noor, these gemstones not only reflect the complexity of our world’s history but also serve as windows into the depths of human emotion and ambition. Join us as we uncover the enchanting lore and the undeniable allure of these legendary diamonds.
10 Most Famous Diamonds in the World
1. The Koh-I-Noor (Mountain of Light): 105.60 – 186 carats The Most Famous Diamonds in the World
Steeped in historical legend dating back to the era preceding Christ, this oval-cut diamond stands as the most renowned among its peers. The narrative has it that whoever possessed the Koh-I-Noor held sway over the world.
In historical records from 1304, this diamond was documented as the property of the Rajah of Malwa. After a series of conflicts during the 1500s, it eventually came into the possession of Sultan Babur, where it remained among the cherished treasures of the Mogul Emperors for two centuries.
There is an enduring belief that the diamond was once a part of the illustrious peacock throne of Shah Jehan, who reigned during the early 1650s, taking the form of one of the peacock’s eyes. In 1739, Nadir Shah, renowned for elevating Persia to a significant power, invaded Delhi and, from the defeated Indian Emperor Mohammed Shah, acquired the Koh-I-Noor, along with the opulent Peacock Throne.
According to legend, when his initial looting of Delhi failed to unearth the immense gem, a member of the harem informed him that the vanquished Mogul emperor had concealed it within his turban. Exploiting an Oriental tradition, Nadir Shah invited his captive to a banquet and suggested they swap turbans. Following the banquet, he unrolled the turban and unveiled the magnificent gem. Gazing upon it, Nadir Shah exclaimed, “Koh-I-Noor,” signifying the “mountain of light.”
Nadir Shah transported the gem back to Persia, and after his assassination in 1747, his successors quarreled over its ownership. When the state of Punjab became part of British India in 1849, the East India Company took possession of it as collateral for the Sikh Wars. As part of the East India Company’s 250th Anniversary celebration, the Koh-I-Noor was presented to Queen Victoria in 1850.
The diamond was showcased at the renowned Crystal Palace Exhibition, though attendees expressed their disappointment at the limited brilliance of the gem. To address this, Queen Victoria had the diamond recut, reducing it to its present size. In 1911, a new crown was created for Queen Mary’s coronation, with the Koh-I-Noor as its centerpiece. In 1937, it was incorporated into the crown of Queen Elizabeth (later Queen Mother) for her coronation. Presently, the Koh-I-Noor is on public display at the Tower of London, alongside the British Crown Jewels.
2. The Cullinan Diamonds: The Great Star of Africa- 3,106 carats (rough)
The world’s largest gem-quality diamond, the Cullinan Diamond, was discovered on January 26, 1905, in South Africa’s Premier Mine. Weighing a massive 3,106 carats and possessing exceptional color and purity, it was later split into nine major gems, with the two largest, Cullinan I and Cullinan II, becoming part of the British Crown Jewels.
Cullinan I, also known as the Great Star of Africa, is a 530.20-carat pear-shaped diamond and the world’s largest cut diamond until recently. King Edward VII had it set in the British Imperial Scepter, now displayed in the Tower of London.
Cullinan II, called the Lesser Star of Africa, is a 317.40-carat cushion-cut brilliant and the fourth-largest cut diamond globally. It adorns the British Imperial State Crown, also on display in the Tower of London
years of excellence in diamond manufacturing
3. The Regent: 140.50 carats
This magnificent famous diamond, originally a 410-carat uncut diamond, is believed to have been unearthed in 1701 by an Indian laborer near Golconda, a mountain stronghold and bustling trading hub in India, known for its diamond repository. The diamond’s initial possession can be attributed to William Pitt, the Prime Minister of England, although the circumstances surrounding how he acquired this gem have raised doubts on several occasions. Pitt orchestrated the cutting of the stone into its current exquisite cushion-shaped brilliant, a task entrusted to the sole individual in England deemed capable of such craftsmanship. This intricate process spanned two years, resulting in an astonishing gem considered the epitome of perfection among the renowned ancient diamonds.
The Regent bears the hallmarks of the most exceptional Indian diamonds, exuding a captivating and delicate light blue hue. It was initially referred to as the Pitt diamond and found its way into the hands of the Duke of Orleans, who held the position of Regent of France. The duke, initially hesitant to secure the gem due to the precarious state of the treasury, ultimately yielded to its allure. Consequently, the diamond underwent a name change, becoming known as “The Regent.” Subsequently, it graced the coronation crown of King Louis XV and later adorned a headband worn by his queen. Over time, many of the French Crown Jewels underwent multiple resets, often at the queen’s request.
Unfortunately, the year 1792 saw the theft of the Regent diamond, along with other illustrious gems from the Crown Jewel collection, some of which vanished without a trace. Fortunately, the Regent resurfaced in a Parisian attic a year later. Following his ascent to power in 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte ordered the diamond to be set in the hilt of his sword, which he proudly bore during his coronation two years later. Today, The Regent stands on display, where admirers can appreciate its beauty at the Louvre in Paris.
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4. Blue Moon Diamond: 12.03 Carat
The Blue Moon Diamond, a magnificent 12.03-carat fancy vivid blue gem, claimed the status of the priciest diamond globally when it was acquired for a staggering $48.4 million. This exquisite jewel found a new home in the possession of Joseph Lau, a Hong Kong billionaire, who acquired it for his daughter, Josephine. He decided to christen this precious stone as the “Blue Moon of Josephine,” a companion to another remarkable blue diamond he acquired for his other daughter, Zoe, known as The Zoe Diamond.
5. The Orloff: 300 Carats (original rough)
A remarkably pristine and vivid bluish-green diamond known as The Orloff of India is estimated to be approximately 190 carats, although it has never been formally weighed. This gem boasts a captivating history that conceals its exquisite allure. The Orloff was reportedly once inserted as the eye of a Hindu deity’s statue until it was pilfered by a Frenchman during the 1700s.
Subsequently, it found its way into the possession of an English ship captain, voyaged to Europe, and ultimately became the acquisition of Count Grigory Orlov. Count Orlov presented it to Catherine the Great of Russia, intending to secure her affections. Today, this precious jewel is proudly showcased at the Diamond Treasury in Moscow, adorning the Imperial Sceptre, a custom creation by Catherine in 1784 specifically to house this extraordinary gemstone.
6. The Centenary Diamond: 273.85 carats
The centennial celebration of De Beers Consolidated Mines aligned with a fortunate discovery of an extraordinary rough diamond. During the centennial banquet, the chairman of De Beers made the exciting announcement about finding a flawless 599-carat diamond with perfect color. This remarkable gem would later be christened as the ‘Centenary Diamond.’
Discovered at the Premier Mine in South Africa on July 17, 1986, the Centenary Diamond was located using advanced electronic x-ray recovery technology. In its natural state, the diamond bore an irregular resemblance to a matchbox, featuring angular surfaces, a prominent elongation on one corner, and a deep concavity on its largest flat facet. The diamond posed a considerable challenge for cutting due to its complex shape, and no obvious cutting approach was readily apparent.
It took a highly skilled cutter three years to meticulously transform the rough diamond into the largest modern-cut flawless gem. The Centenary Diamond boasts an impressive 75 facets on its top, 89 on the bottom, and 83 on the girdle, totaling 247 facets in all. Achieving this extraordinary result required a combination of both traditional cutting methods and state-of-the-art technology. Today, this magnificent gem, renowned for its exceptional fire and brilliance, which are highly sought-after attributes in diamonds, forms a part of the British Crown Jewels. It was officially presented at the Tower of London in 1991, where it remains on permanent exhibition.
7. The Sancy: 55 carats
Presented at the Louvre is a distinctive, shield-shaped diamond weighing 55.23 carats, boasting a subtle yellow hue. This famous diamond was formerly the property of Nicolas de Harlay, who served as a French Ambassador to Turkey and was known as Seigneur de Sancy. He generously lent this diamond to King Henry III, who ingeniously set it into a cap to conceal his baldness.
Not only did Seigneur de Sancy extend the privilege to Henry III, but he also allowed Henry IV to make use of this remarkable diamond. Later, Seigneur de Sancy decided to part ways with the diamond, and it found its way into the hands of James I of England. Regrettably, the diamond vanished during the tumultuous period of the French Revolution. Throughout history, it experienced sporadic appearances until its eventual acquisition by the Louvre in 1978.
8. The Taylor-Burton: 69.42 carats
Discovered within the Premier Mine, the Taylor-Burton Diamond, an exquisite gem, joined the ranks of notable finds alongside the Great Star of Africa and the Centenary Diamond. With its elegant pear-shaped form, the diamond currently weighs 68.09 carats. Although it passed through several hands over the years, its most renowned chapter involves its acquisition by Richard Burton as a gift for his then-wife, Elizabeth Taylor. After the dissolution of their marriage, Taylor decided to sell the diamond, using a portion of the $5,000,000 she received from the sale to contribute towards the construction of a hospital in Botswana.
9. The Dresden Green: 41 carats(Famous Diamonds in the World)
The largest known apple-green diamond, with its distinctive almond shape, owes its unique hue to its exposure to radiation during its history. The Dresden Green, which likely originated as a rough crystal of 100 carats or more, stands out not only for its color but also its elongated form. Its name is derived from the capital of Saxony, where it has been showcased for over two centuries.
Despite its Indian origins, the diamond remained a mystery until Frederick Augustus II of Saxony acquired it at the Leipzig Fair in 1743 for approximately $150,000. Adorned in an intricate shoulder knot, this famous diamond was part of the renowned Green Vaults collection beneath the Dresden Palace, alongside other precious Crown Jewels of Saxony. Following World War II, these treasures were seized by the Russians but were eventually returned to Dresden in 1958 and are once again on public display within the palace.
10. The Great Mogul
Numerous individuals hold the belief that the Great Mogul diamond was originally incorporated into the construction of the Taj Mahal for Shah Jehan. It is said to have possessed an uncut weight of 793 carats. Similar to numerous other ancient, sizable gemstones hailing from India, it passed through different owners as a result of conquests over the years, spanning from 1650 to 1747. While some individuals dispute its existence as a mere legend, a substantial number of historians are inclined to confirm that the Orloff diamond was indeed fashioned from the Great Mogul after a series of changes in ownership. It is more plausible that the diamond was pilfered and subsequently cut into several smaller gemstones, likely to obscure their true origin.
In the realm of precious gems, diamonds have always shone the brightest, and the world’s most famous diamonds are the very embodiment of their allure. As we close the chapters on the stories and legends that surround these exceptional gems, we are left with a profound appreciation for the enduring fascination they continue to inspire.
From the extraordinary beauty of the Hope Diamond to the storied journey of the Koh-i-Noor, each gem encapsulates a unique blend of human history, passion, and intrigue. These diamonds, as our exploration has revealed, are more than just glittering stones—they are repositories of the human spirit, cultural heritage, and the ever-present quest for beauty, power, and connection.
In our quest to understand these diamonds, we have touched the very essence of what makes them eternally captivating, and in doing so, we have unlocked a window into the very soul of humanity itself, forever entranced by the brilliance of these iconic treasures.
1. Which is the most famous diamond in the world?
The most famous diamond in the world is the Hope Diamond, renowned for its deep blue color and storied history.
2. What is the oldest famous diamond?
The oldest famous diamond is the Koh-i-Noor, believed to have been in existence for over 5,000 years.
3. Which is the most expensive diamond in the world?
The most expensive diamond in the world is the Pink Star, which was sold for a record-breaking $71.2 million at an auction.