Diamonds have been the ultimate symbols of romance and luxury for over a century. While several other gemstones have come and gone out of vogue, diamonds are forever. Here are 20 of the world’s most famous and most valuable diamonds.
- The Kohinoor
- The Blue Hope
- The Cullinan Diamonds
- The Regent
- The Orlov
- The Idol’s Eye
- The Taylor-Burton
- The Sancy
- The Dresden Green
- The Princie
- The Allnatt Diamond
- The Graff Venus
- The Centenary
- The Blue Oppenheimer
- The Pink Star
- The Orange
- The Heart of Eternity
- The Perfect Pink
- Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond
The Koh-i-Noor, which means the ‘Mountain of Light’ is the most famous diamond in the world. It is a transparent diamond that weighs a staggering 105.6 carats. The diamond has exchanged hands many times, primarily because it was believed that those who possess the Kohinoor could not be vanquished.
Ironically, kingdoms were attacked primarily for the diamond. The Persian invader Nadir Shah looted it along with the Peacock Throne. In 1849, The East India Company took possession of the diamond during the Sikh Wars. The company then presented it to the Queen during its 250th Anniversary festivities in 1850. It is now the center stone of the Queen Mother’s Crown.
The Blue Hope
The 45.52 carat Steely blue diamond has uncertain origins and a sinister history.
Ironically, the “hope” diamond is believed to be cursed. Lord Francis Hope inherited the diamond and sold it after getting heavily involved in gambling. A string of tragedies followed. The next owner Jacques Colot became mentally ill and committed suicide. Another owner, Prince Ivan Kanitowsky gifted the diamond to the actress Folies Bergère, who was shot the very first time she wore the diamond.
The prince himself was killed by revolutionaries. American Mining heiress Mrs. Evalyn Walsh McLean was the last private owner of the hope diamond. While she did not believe in the curse she too was afflicted by a string of tragedies: her 9-year-old son died in a car crash, her alcoholic ex-husband died in a mental institution and her 25-year-old daughter died of a drug overdose. Mrs. McLean died of grief.
The Cullinan Diamonds
The Cullinan is the largest gem quality rough diamond. When it was discovered in South Africa in 1905, it weighed an astonishing 3,106.75 carats. It was named after Thomas Cullinan who was the Chairman of the mine. The diamond is now a collection of 105 diamonds of various cuts. Cullinan 1, also known as ‘Great Star of Africa’ is the largest among them (530.4 carats) and is mounted on the sovereign’s scepter.
The Regent is one of many famous diamonds found and looted by the colonizers in the Indian subcontinent. Originally the light blue gemstone weighed a staggering 410 carats and was discovered in Golconda. The Regent’s first owner, British Prime Minister William Pitt had it shaped into a cushion cut diamond.
The Regent exchanged hands amongst a number of European royals and also went missing briefly in 1792, but was recovered shortly afterwards. It was set into the hilt of Napoleon’s sword and the crown of Marie Antoinette. It is now a 140.50 carat diamond housed at the Louvre in Paris.
The history of the Orlov or Orloff diamond is shrouded in great mystery. While the origin of the gem has been traced to Golconda, India, no one knows about its original owners. Legend has it that the Orlov was the third eye of a deity’s statue in a South Indian Hindu temple and was stolen by a French soldier.
The gemstone found its way to Europe and was named after Count Grigori Grigorievich Orlov, a Russian nobleman and army officer who was romantically involved with Catherine The Great. Later, it was set into Russia’s Imperial Scepter.
The Idol’s Eye
Like the Orlov, the idol’s eye was also believed to have been stolen from the statue of a deity in Golconda in the 17th Century. Legend also states that the diamond exchanged hands between the King of Kashmir and the Sultan of Turkey as ransom for a princess who had been kidnapped by the latter.
In 1865, it was auctioned at Christies at London and acquired by the 34th Ottoman Sultan, Abd al-Hamid II. The Sultan’s identity remained concealed for a long time. The Idol’s eye was once again shrouded in mystery till it reappeared after the second world war. Mrs. May Bonfils Stanton is one of its most famous owners. The Heiress is said to have worn it to her solitary breakfast every day.
The famous Taylor-Burton diamond is a relic from one of Hollywood’s most beloved couples. The pear-shaped diamond weighs 69.42 carats and was gifted by Richard Burton to his fifth wife, Elizabeth Taylor. The gemstone was auctioned in New York and bought by Cartier for a sum of $1,050,000. The stone was named the Cartier Diamond. But only a day later, Richard Burton bought the same for an undisclosed amount.
Elizabeth Taylor Famously wore the diamond as a pendant at a party celebrating the 40th birthday of Princess Grace of Monaco. After her divorce from Burton, Elizabeth Taylor sold the diamond for $5 million in 1979 to build a hospital in Botswana, Africa.
The Sancy is a pale-yellow colored diamond that weighs 55.23 carats. It comes from an even larger diamond called the Balle de Flandres. The Balle de Falndres was owned by Louis I, Duke of Orleans, and several other famous royals like Henry III of France, King Manuel I of Portugal, Henry IV, King James VI, Charles I and James II.
The sancy diamond is named after Nicolas de Harlay, seigneur de Sancy who was a French diplomat and jewelry collector. Today, The Sancy is displayed in the Apollo Gallery along with the Regent Diamond.
The Dresden Green
The Dresden Green is a 41 carat egg shaped apple green colored diamond. It is the largest diamond of its kind. It is originally from India but was acquired by Augustus III of Poland from a Dutch merchant in 1742.
The diamond was set as the center stone of an extremely elaborate and valuable hat ornament which also features approximately 400 small white diamonds. After World War 2 the Dresden diamond was taken by the Russians but returned in 1958. It is on display in the Dresden Castle, Germany.
Weighing approximately 182 carats, The Daria-i-Noor is a pale pink tabular cut diamond famous for its rare color and size. Daria-i-Noor means the ‘Sea of light’ in persian. The Diamond was mined from Kollur in India and originally owned by the Kakatiya dynasty.
It usually remained in the possession of whoever laid claim to the throne of Delhi. Shah Jahan had it installed in the Peacock Throne which was looted by Nadir Shah, along with the Kohinoor. After Leaving the Indian subcontinent as part of the Peacock Throne, the Diamond found its way to the rulers of the Qajar dynasty. Today, the diamond is part of the Iranian Crown Jewels collection of the Central Bank of Iran in Tehran.
This diamond was unearthed at the Golconda Mines in India over 300 years ago. The Princie has an intense pink color and takes on an orange hue under ultraviolet light. It weighs approximately 36.65 carats. The diamond is named after Sayajirao Gaekwad, who was the son of Sita Devi, The Maharani of Baroda. In 2013, the gemstone was sold at a Christie’s auction for $39.3 million.
The Allnatt Diamond
The Alnatt is a 101.29 carat fancy yellow diamond from the De Beers Premier Mines of South africa. It is named after the English Businessman and art collector Major Alfred Ernest Allnatt.
Colored diamonds that weigh over a 100 carat are hard to come by. The Alnatt is one the largest and most famous natural yellow color diamonds in the world. Major Alnatt had it placed in a flower setting. In 1996, it was sold for over 3 million dollars at the Christie’s auction.
The Graff Venus
In 2016, a 118.78 carat heart shaped flawless diamond was identified as the largest of its kind. It was unearthed in 2015 at the Letseng mine of Lesotho, Africa which is famous for it’s unusually large diamonds.
Due to the overwhelming size of the rough stone Graff developed special tools to cut the Graff Venus into the flawless heart-shaped beauty it is today.
The Centenary diamond was unearthed at the Premier Mine in South Africa with the help of an electronic x-ray recovery system. The diamond’s discovery coincided with the 100-year anniversary of the De Beers Consolidated Mines. Therefore, it was named the century diamond.
In its rough state, the diamond resembled a matchbox with sharp planes and an irregular protrusion in a corner along with a deep concave on one large surface. There was no obvious way to cut this complex shape and it took 3 years and various methods to make the centenary into the brilliant diamond it is today.
The Blue Oppenheimer
This diamond is a 14.62 carat vivid blue, emerald cut beauty that has been crafted into a ring with a platinum shank and two trapeze shaped diamonds on either side. In 2016 it set the record as the most expensive diamond ever to be auctioned.
The record was broken by the Pink Star diamond in 2017. The diamond was named after its former owner, Sir Philip Oppenheimer who was a British diamond dealer and collector.
The Pink Star
Formerly known as the Steinmetz Pink, The Pink star is a Fancy vivid Pink diamond weighing 59.6 carats. It was mined by the De Beers Corporation in South Africa in 1999.
In it’s rough state, the stone weighed 132.5 carats. It was cut by Steinmetz Diamonds Group over a period of 20 months. It is currently displayed in the “The Splendor of Diamonds” exhibit at the Smithsonian.
The Orange is a pear-shaped natural orange colored diamond that weighs 14.82 carats. Orange Diamonds are extremely rare and get their color due to trace amounts of nitrogen in their chemical composition.
The Orange is the largest orange color fancy diamond and is considered one of its kind. In 2013, this exceptional diamond was auctioned at Christie’s Geneva Magnificent Jewels Sale. It was sold for $35.5 million.
The Heart of Eternity
The Heart of eternity is a fancy vivid blue diamond that weighs 27.64 carats. The heart-shaped diamond was discovered in Premier Mine in South Africa which is famous for its blue diamonds.
It was cut by the Steinmetz Group and sold to the De Beers Corporation. In the year 2000, it was almost stolen in the Millennium Dome diamond heist in London, UK but fortunately, the Metropolitan Police saved the day. Today, no one knows who owns the heart of eternity.
The Perfect Pink
The Perfect Pink is a rare vivid pink diamond in an emerald cut with two clear diamonds placed on both sides. It weighs 14.23 carats and in 2010 it was one of only 18 pink diamonds appearing at auction to weigh more than 10 carats. Out of those 18, The Perfect Pink was the only one to be graded Fancy Intense Pink by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA).
It was sold for $23.17 million at the Christie’s Hong Kong auction in 2010. The identity of the buyer was not revealed. It must be noted that The Perfect Pink was sold for almost 30 percent more than its upper estimate, revealing a high demand for coloured diamonds in Asia.
The Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond is a gorgeous blue internally flawless diamond that weighs 31.06 carats. It is also from the Kollur Mine in India. Philip IV of Spain gifted it to his daughter upon her engagement to Emperor Leopold I of Austria.
In 1722, the diamond was acquired and named after the Wittelsbach family of Bavaria. In 2008, it was bought by the jeweler Laurence Graff for £16.4 million. Graff’s cutters removed flaws in the diamond and it was resold at Christie’s for $23.4 million in 2010.
The De Beers campaign got it right, diamonds are indeed forever. Why else would we be sitting here gawking at the scintillating beauty of mere stones. If you want a timeless relic to write your own history, be sure to have a look at our eclectic collection of loose diamonds and designer diamond jewelry. You can also customize your own diamond jewelry on our website and in our store.