5 Incredibly Beautiful–and Famous–Diamonds

Diamonds are the most sought-after and highly valued gemstones in the world.  Their beauty, rarity–and, not to mention, hype–has set them apart in the gemstone world.  Some diamonds, however, are marvels of their kind.  Whether for their beauty, size, or history, these five diamonds have been noted as the most spectacular and famous diamonds of all time.

The Dresden Green Diamond

The hat ornament that contains the Dresden Green diamond is safely kept in the Green Vaults in Dresden, Germany. This is how it derived its name.

Weighing in at 41 carats, this diamond is remarkable for its exquisite color, as well as its size and its near flawlessness.  It gained its bright, apple green color from its exposure to natural radioactive materials.  Of mysterious origin, the Dresden Green Diamond is thought to have come from the Kollur mine in Andhra Pradesh, India.  The earliest known record of the diamond is from 1742 when Augustus III of Poland purchased it at the Leipzig Fair from a Dutch merchant.  It was soon after placed into an ornate hat ornament, which is the setting in which it still rests today.

The Hope Diamond

The Hope Diamond is an extremely rare gem with a complex history.  The GIA describes it as 45.52 carats and “fancy deep grayish blue in color.” If it is exposed to ultraviolet light for even a short time it emits a brilliant red phosphorescence for some time afterwards, glowing in the dark.

The Hope Diamond in the Smithsonian Museum in 1974.

This scientific effect from boron and nitrogen within the stone has given scientists much greater understanding of how diamonds are formed in the earth.  It also has, historically, lent to the idea that the diamond is cursed, though it is believed that rumors of the diamond’s curse have been bolstered in order to increase the value of the already extraordinarily precious stone.

The stone’s history is long and adventurous.  The Hope Diamond is said to have originated in India where a French gem-merchant named Jean-Baptiste Tavernier bought it in a larger cut than it is today.  He deemed it the “Tavernier Blue” or the “French Blue” and sold it to King Louis XIV in 1668.  King Louis XIV cut the stone and set it into a cravat-pin.  His great-grandson, King Louis XV, later reset it into a more elaborate pin.  The diamond was then passed to King Louis XVI, husband to Marie Antoinette.

Tavernier’s original sketch of the Tavernier Blue, the stone from which the Hope Diamond came from.

During the French Revolution, a group of thieves broke into the Royal Storehouse and stole it, among the rest of the royal jewels, in a looting spree lasting five days.  While many of the rest of the Royal jewels were recovered after, the “French Blue” was not.

The definitive stone then disappeared until 1830, when a rich London banker named Thomas Hope acquired a cut version of it, calling it the “Hope Diamond.”  Since then it has changed hands several times until it was acquired by Harry Winston, who later donated it to the Smithsonian Museum.  Today, you can still see the Hope Diamond on display there.

Cullinan I, or the Star of Africa

The nine major rough stones of the Cullinan diamond above the nine cut and polished stones.  Cullinan I is in the center.

The Cullinan diamond was the largest rough-cut gem-quality diamond ever discovered. Before being cut, it weighed 3,106.75 carats.  It was discovered in 1905 in what is now South Africa, in a mine belonging to Thomas Cullinan (hence the name).

The rough diamond was presented to King Edward VII of the United Kingdom before being cut into nine major pieces, each named after the mine owner.  Joseph Asscher, known for the legendary Asscher cut, was given the task of cutting the diamonds.  The diamond was also cut into 96 minor stones, which were used in various other less substantial pieces.

Cullinan I was the largest cut out of the rough diamond, weighing 530.2 carats.  It is the second largest cut and polished diamond in the world, and the first largest clear cut and polished diamond in the world.  Today, it is set in the Sovereign’s Scepter with Cross and rests with the United Kingdom’s crown jewels in the Tower of London.

The DeYoung Red Diamond

The DeYoung diamond at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

The DeYoung Red Diamond is an incredibly rare diamond because of its deep red color (slightly tinted brown) and lack of chemical impurities.  Red diamonds are the rarest of all diamonds and few have been documented.  The DeYoung Red was purchased by Sydney DeYoung, a Boston jewelry seller, in the early-mid 1900’s.  He purchased it on a hat pin as a part of an estate jewelry collection.  He and the seller had mistaken it for a garnet because of it’s rich red color.  Upon inspection, however, DeYoung realized it had unusual characteristics for a garnet. It had a strange appearance and it had incredible durability considering its age.  He took to a lab to be tested and discovered that it was actually a red diamond.

To this day, the DeYoung diamond remains the third largest red diamond at 5.03 carats (the largest is 5.11 carats).   It is the only red diamond on display to the public, as it was donated to the Smithsonian after DeYoung’s death in 1986.  When it arrived to the Smithsonian in 1987, it arrived though the mail in an uninsured box.  It now rests behind bulletproof glass, as it is one of the rarest diamonds in the world.

The Spoonmaker’s Diamond

The Spoonmaker’s Diamond is a pear-shaped, clear 86 carat diamond surrounded by 49 old mine cut diamonds.  It is housed in the Imperial Treasury exhibitions at the Topkapi Palace Museum in Istanbul, Turkey.  The history of how the diamond arrived at the Topkapi Palace has long been lost and is now shrouded with legend.

The Spoonmaker’s Diamond, on display at the Topkapi Palace.

The most prominent legend tells of a poor fisherman who was walking along the beach in Istanbul when he came across a shiny stone in a pile of others.  He picked it up and turned it over in his multiple times before pocketing it.  Days later, he stopped into a jeweler’s market and showed it to the first jeweler he came across.  The jeweler glanced at and shrugged it off, insisting it was glass.  However, expressing him pity, he offered to take it off the fisherman’s hands for three spoons.  The fisherman was disappointed but felt that the jeweler was showing him a kindness, so he accepted the offer.  He left, leaving the stone and taking the spoons with him.  The jeweler later sold what we know to be the Spoonmaker’s diamond to the vizier of the Sultan.

While this account may or may not be true, the legend reveals how the diamond got its unusual name.  Like many other exceptional diamonds, the story is as fascinating as the stone itself.


“Diamonds in Modern Brilliant Cut” photo by Mario Sarto is licensed under CC BY 3.0.
“DeYoung Red diamond from the Museum of Natural History” photos by MBisanz are licensed under CC BY 3.0.
“The Big Diamond of the Topkapi Palace Museum” photo by Harry Gouvas is licensed under CC BY 3.0.
Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. Web. 01 Jan. 2017.
Schumann, Walter. Gemstones of the world. 5th ed. New York: Sterling, 2002. Print.

Hilde Leiss: Form and Beauty

Hilde Leiss is an internationally known jewelry designer and gallerist.  Her gallery in Hamburg, Germany features many different types of art, particularly jewelry, and has made her internationally recognized.

Professor Dr. Wilhelm Hornborstel from the Museum für Kunst & Gewerbe (Museum for Arts and Crafts) in Hamburg describes Leiss as, “a person who lives in the real world, is charming, straightforward, openhearted, unpretentious, and bubbling with practical energy.”  Her jewelry reflects that energy, full of life and color.

Her rings, which are made of sterling silver, 18 karat gold, and a rainbow of colorful gemstones, are the perfect statement pieces for everyday.  They are big, bold and beautiful without being busy. “For many years rigor, clarity and the avoidance of fussy ornamentation in her designs have been her trademarks,” says Dr. Hornborstel, “She takes as gospel the belief that clarity represents the truth in art.  The aesthetic power and beauty of Hilde Leiss’s jewelry lends it a timelessness which forms the perfect antidote to the confusion of different styles which proliferate today.”

Hilde Leiss cabochon lavender chalcedony ring, available at the Squash Blossom.

Leiss takes simple design concepts and highlights them.  She is passionate about uniting apparent contrasts.  Dr. Hornborstel concludes, “‘Forma et subilitas’– form and beauty… Appropriate words indeed to describe Hilde Leiss’s ascetic, yet extremely expressive jewelry.  The ephemeral and the permanent, experimentation and durability–these are contrasts apparently reconciled almost effortlessly by Hilde Leiss.”

View Hilde Leiss’s jewelry in our store in Vail Village.



Getting to Know BONECUTTERS

Over 25 years ago, Eric Bonecutter created Bonecutter Trading Co to carry on the work his family had dedicated their lives to for over four generations.

Working with a handful of skilled Navajo silversmiths, Bonecutter Trading Co creates jewelry inspired by the classic styles of the 1930’s and 40’s, known for deep stamp work in sterling silver with turquoise stones.  Today, Bonecutter’s silversmiths continue to be masters of innovation and artistry.

Bonecutter Trading Co is made up of many different Navajo designers.  To give you a more personal look at the jewelry-makers, we have compiled a list of miniature biographies of a few of the artists, including some interviews from Bonecutters.

Squash Blossom naja by Bonecutter Trading Co.

Sunshine Reeves

Sunshine Reeves has worked with Bonecutters since 1989.  He has won many awards, including “Best of Show” at the Santa Fe Indian Market in 1997 for an eight piece silver coffee set.  He has a wife and grown son, who serves in the United States Marines.

Aaron Toadlena

Aaron Toadlena’s favorite pieces of jewelry to create are old-style bracelets and Squash Blossoms.  He has place first and second in multiple silversmith competitions, as well as entered pieces in the Gallup Ceremonial.  He and his wife, Eve, have four children.

Bonecutter Trading Co hand-tooled Sterling Silver cuff with large spiderweb Turquoise stone, available at the Squash Blossom.

Albert Jake

Albert Jake grew up in a large family of eight siblings.  He always had a natural passion for art, especially drawing.  His sister,  Louise, taught him to silversmith and he joined Bonecutters in 1989. Now Jake creates both old-style and contemporary pieces. He enjoys time outdoors with his two daughters.  He recalls getting his first job in jewelry:

“I remember driving through Gallup and seeing a “Help Wanted” sign in Ortega’s. I stopped in and was interviewed. They asked me if I knew how to make jewelry and I told them yes, although I really didn’t know much at all . . . The guy said to be there Monday morning to work. I was excited to have a job and remember going to my sister’s house and borrowing (though she didn’t know) three of her tools. I borrowed a hammer, a pair of pliers, and insulated tweezers. I showed up for work Monday making sure that I was the first one there. The guy looked at me and said,”Where are your tools?!?” I said,”Right here in my pocket!” and showed him what I had. He couldn’t stop laughing but I said, “Give me some work and I’ll show you what I can do!’” After making friends with a few of of the workers there I was on my way. The owner was very pleased with what I had done and even asked me who who had done the work for me! I remained there for about three years, and yes, I did take those tools back to my sister that I had borrowed.”

Darryl Becenti

Bonecutter Trading Co hand-tooled Sterling Silver ring with Turquoise stone, available at the Squash Blossom.

Darryl Becenti grew up in Arizaona as one of ten.  He worked in several different industries before finding his love of jewelry-making, particularly stamping.  After working for over thirty years with Bonecutters, he has taken numerous ribbons at the Santa Fe Indian Market. He notes the changes he has seen in his work since the beginning:

“The biggest change I have seen is the type of jewelry I make. I can do almost anything , and it sells as before. When I first started all I did was earrings and small items. Now I like to make concho belts, bracelets and rings. I like trying to come up with new stamp out designs.”

Guy Hoskie

Guy Hoskie grew up the middle child of eight in Arizona and Utah.  After high school he joined the Army and one year later he met his wife.  They now have two sons.  Hoskie learned to silversmith in the early 1990’s from his relatives.  Now, his favorite pieces to create are bracelets and squash blossoms.  While entering his pieces in competitions doesn’t particularly thrill him, he loves the people wearing and enjoying his jewelry.

“Jewelry is rewarding,” he says, “To see something that you have created being worn by someone is quite satisfying to me.”

Happy Piasso and Rudy Willie

Bonecutter Trading Co Navajo sterling silver and Pilot Mountain turquoise Squash Blossom with coordinating earrings, available at the Squash Blossom.

Happy Piasso was born in Socorro, New Mexico and raised in Alamo.  She and her husband, Rudy Willie, have created jewelry together since 1994.  Willie learned silversmithing from his brother, while Piasso learned from her husband. Willie occasionally signs his own name to their pieces, but more often they are known to stamp them “H. Piasso.”

Harry Begay

According to Bonecutters, “Harry Begay is one of the few Navajo silversmiths that creates pieces in the true old style using ingot silver. Ingot silver pieces are created by melting sterling silver in a crucible and pouring it out for repeated hammering and annealing of the metal. This process results in more tightly grained and heavier sterling silver pieces than using machined sterling silver products. Harry Begay has been silversmithing in this fashion for over 35 years.”

La Rose Ganadonegro

La Rose Ganadonegro, who grew up in Crown Point, New Mexico, has been doing silver work since 1984.  She works alongside her husband, Archie.

Ronnie Willie

Ronnie Willie is a renaissance man.  He is an excellent silver smith, making his own tools and focusing on antique bracelets, inlaid crosses, and concho belts.  In addition to silver work, he makes Kachinas, rock sculptures, wood carvings, and sandpaintings. He lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.


See our Native American jewelry collection on our website.

Mattia Cielo: Jewelry of the Future

Designer Mattia Cielo has stepped into the future of jewelry.  Incorporating ideas from aerospace to micro-mechanics, Cielo focuses on creating pieces that are ergonomic and dynamic, utilizing movement and flexibility.  He achieves this feat of engineering using a titanium core, allowing for both tensility and strength.  However, he does not consider jewelry as merely technical.

Sketch of Mattia Cielo 18k gold and diamond titanium-core bracelet.

In a “philosophical manifesto” for his jewelry, Cielo states that his jewelry is, “A tangible expression of thought. Made of stone and metal, of synthesis and poetry.  Of instrument elements which interpret and portray life.”  Going beyond object, Cielo transforms his pieces into “word and sign.”

And he does not do it alone.  From the synthesis of his company, Cielo has designed with partner Massimiliano (Max) Bonoli.  Together, they drew inspiration from the industry’s lack of modern, avant-garde jewelry.  In an interview with JewelryIcon, Cielo described,  “We were immediately intrigued by movement and industrial design applied to jewelry.  We believe that it is possible to revolutionize the jewelry world, taking it to the third millennium. . . Jewels are the most human of man’s creations.  They are symbolic signs for our feelings, an external messages of who we are.”

Cielo has dedicated his life to these signs and messages. He aims for women to be able to express their femininity and personality through his jewelry in the present time, and in the future.  The flexibility of his jewelry reflects that.  “We live in a moving age,” he said, “We move in space, globalization, time, and the web.”  His brand, like his jewelry and like his philosophy, keeps moving forward.  Not only does he wish to continue with designing and creating jewelry, he feels strongly that he must.

Sketch of Mattia Cielo multi-strand diamond ring in 18k rose gold.

When asked about how his love and obsession with jewelry began, Cielo said, “It is a destiny, a call that you must embrace.”  His jewelry represents how he has embraced his calling so fully, and inspires his many admirers to do the same.

Fall in love with Mattia Cielo jewelry on our website.