Throughout history, there have only been a handful of diamonds to truly astonish the jewelry world with their grandeur and beauty. Many of these gems were possessed by royalty, and all have histories that can be traced back hundreds of years. If you’re passionate about jewelry history, here are a few of the most captivating gems to know about:
The Koh-i-Noor diamond is now one of the British Crown Jewels (photo source: Ancient Mysteries)
Weighing in at a jaw-dropping 186 carats, the Koh-i-Noor is one of the largest diamonds in the world. First mined in India’s Golconda mines thousands of years ago, this gem inspired many legends and myths. Its name translates to “Mountain of Light”, and the Hindus believed it to be revered by the gods. In the years after its discovery, the Koh-i-Noor was exchanged between Indian court intrigues, until it eventually found its way to becoming a part of the British Crown Jewels.
Famous for its size and beauty, the Koh-i-Noor was also notorious for putting a “curse” on each of its owners. Widespread superstitions blamed the Koh-i-Noor for the collapse of multiple kingdoms, including the Mughal Empire and the Kingdom of Persia. Hindu texts warned of the gem’s dark power:
“He who owns this diamond will own the world, but will also know all its misfortunes. Only God or a woman can wear it with impunity.”
To this day, the current owners of the Koh-i-Noor, the members of the British Royal family, only allow the gem to be worn by the wives of the male heirs to the British throne.
2. Hope Diamond
(photo source: The Telegraph)
Few gems have captivated the world like the Hope Diamond. This 45-carat gem is famous for its rare blue-violet color, the result of trace amounts of boron atoms. It was first purchased by a travelling French merchant named Jean Baptiste Tavernier, who sold it to King Louis XIV of France in 1668. The gem was passed through the French royal family for several generations until 1791, when King Louis XVI and his queen, Marie Antoinette, attempted to escape from French revolutionaries. Their crown jewels were turned over to the French government and for one whole week were subject to looting. As a result, the Hope Diamond was stolen.
Many years later, the elusive diamond resurfaced in the United Kingdom and eventually made its way to the Cartier brothers, who sold it to a wealthy socialite named Evalyn Walsh McLean. Today, the rare gem belongs to the Smithsonian Institution.
3. Star of Africa (Cullinan Diamond)
(photo source: Capetown Diamond Museum)
The Cullinan Diamond, also known as the Star of Africa, holds the record for being the largest gem-quality diamond to ever be found. When it was first discovered in South Africa in 1905, it weighed a staggering 3106 carats - a size previously unseen by anyone in the gem world.
So who was lucky enough to own the Cullinan Diamond? In 1907, the extraordinary gem was gifted to King Edward VII by the government of the Transvaal Colony, in an attempt to make amends between Britain and South Africa after the second Boer War. Though the king was advised by then British Prime Minister Henry Campbell-Bannerman to decline the gift, he was eventually persuaded by Winston Churchill to accept it.
The king eventually took the gem to Amsterdam, to be cut and polished into 9 large stones and 96 smaller ones. Today, the two largest pieces of the Cullinan Diamond (known as Cullinan I and Cullinan II) are a part of the British Crown Jewels.
Though the Koh-i-Noor, Hope Diamond, and Cullinan Diamond are all spectacular in size, their magnificence reaches far beyond that. Each of these gems holds deep, unspeakable magic: allure strong enough to inspire myths, give rise to obsession, and impact the face of history. All three of these gems possess rare qualities unlike any other diamond in the world, and their legacies will live forever in the history of jewels.
Boissoneault, Lorraine. “The True Story of the Koh-i-Noor Diamond-And Why the British Won't Give It Back.” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 30 Aug. 2017, www.smithsonianmag.com/history/true-story-koh-i-noor-diamondand-why-british-wont-give-it-back-180964660/.
“The Cullinan Diamond.” Royal Collection Trust, www.rct.uk/collection/themes/trails/the-crown-jewels/the-cullinan-diamond.
“History of the Hope Diamond.” Smithsonian Institution, www.si.edu/spotlight/hope-diamond/history.
Milmo, Cahal. “The Jewel in the Crown: The Curse of Koh-i-Noor.” The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 17 Sept. 2011, www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/this-britain/the-jewel-in-the-crown-the-curse-of-koh-i-noor-5331805.html.
(Featured image source: The Telegraph)