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.

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