Sparkle and shine: Four of the world’s most celebrated diamonds

An eternal symbol of romance, love and promise, diamonds are said to be “a girls’ best friend”. These precious gems derive their name from the Greek word adámas, meaning “unbreakable” or “unconquerable” – a fitting name for a stone often associated with deep and long-lasting love.

Diamonds date all the way back to the 4th Century BC India and it wasn’t until the 18th Century, after Indian mines became depleted, that other sources needed to be found. For a brief time, diamonds were mined in Brazil, but only after they were discovered in South Africa did the modern diamond trade officially begin. These stones, known for their brilliance, value and strength, have some true stars among them – allow us to introduce you to four of the world’s most celebrated diamonds.

Firstly, what are the Four Cs?

The Four Cs are what diamond dealers and appraisers use to determine the individual value of diamonds. Here’s a brief description of what each means:

  • Carat: Simply the weight of a diamond.
  • Cut: This is the manner in which a diamond has been shaped and polished (it’s more about the proportions than the actual shape).
  • Colour: The natural colour of a diamond. Colours are graded, with a D being considered completely colourless.
  • Clarity: This measures the number of inclusions (imperfections) found in a single stone.

The Cullinan Diamond

No list of this nature would be complete without first mentioning this great sparkler: the Cullinan Diamond. Weighing in at an incredible 3,106.75 carats, it’s the largest rough gem-quality diamond ever discovered. Discovered by Thomas Evan Powell on 26 January 1905 at the Premier No 2 Mine just outside Pretoria, the diamond was named after the owner of the mine, Sir Thomas Cullinan.

It was then bought by the South African government, after which it was suggested that the stone be presented to King Edward VII for his birthday. Transporting the Cullinan Diamond safely between South Africa and England was taken very seriously with a decoy sent with British detectives onboard a steamboat, while the original was sent in a plain box via standard mail.

The diamond was later cut into nine different stones, the largest being the Great Star of Africa (or Cullinan I) which is considered to be the largest polished white diamond in the world today. It’s mounted in the head of the Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross, with the Cullinan II mounted in the Imperial State Crown, making them both part of the Royal Collection held by Queen Elizabeth II. The other seven belong to the Queen personally.

The Cullinan Diamonds

Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross & Imperial State Crown. Photo:

The Hope Diamond

This beautiful deep blue stone is also known as “Le Bleu de France” and boasts 45.52 carats. The first known owner of this diamond is said to be Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, a French gem merchant, with its origins thought to be at Kollur mine in India. Some believe that the diamond was stolen from a statue of the goddess Sita, where it was made to be one of her eyes, but nothing is known for certain. The Hope Diamond gets its current name from the Hopes, a London banking family, after it appeared in a catalogue showcasing their gem collection in 1893. Since 1958, the Hope Diamond has been on display in the Washington’s Museum of Natural History as part of the National Gem and Mineral Collection.

Fast fact: The Hope Diamond is often thought to be cursed as it is said to have brought numerous unhappy fates to many people.

The Hope Diamond

Blue brilliance. Photo:

The Orlov (Orloff) Diamond

The Orlov (sometimes called the Orloff) Diamond is part of the collection belonging to the Diamond Fund of the Moscow Kremlin. It is believed that the unique gem was stolen by a French soldier from an idol in the Sri Ranganathaswamy Hindu Temple in India in the 18th Century.

The Orlov Diamond is actually a rarity among historic gems as it retains its original Indian rose-style cut, which together with its amazing colouring (white with a blue/green tinge), makes it truly something to behold. Its shape has been described as being that of half a hen’s egg, something that only seems to add to its uniqueness. Grigory Grigorievich Orlov is said to have bought the diamond for Catherine the Great of Russia with whom he had had an affair many years before, with the intention of using it to woo her back. It was Catherine who named the stone after Orlov and had it incorporated into a sceptre designed by her jeweller, C. N. Troitinski.

The Orlov Diamond

Sceptre containing the Orlov Diamond. Photo:

The Regent Diamond

Also known as the “Pitt Diamond”, the Regent is 410 carats and was discovered by a slave in the Golkonda mine in India in 1698. Recognising its value straight away, the slave hid the stone in a large wound in his leg. Unfortunately, an English sea captain watched him do this and seized the diamond from him at the first opportunity, selling it to an Indian merchant.

In 1701, Governor Thomas Pitt bought the stone, hence it sometimes being called the “Pitt Diamond”. Eventually the stone found its way to France and was used in the coronation crowns of both Louis XV and Louis XVI, as well as an adornment in a hat belonging to Marie Antoinette. Napoleon Bonaparte used it for the pommel of his sword as well, but today it is mounted in a Greek diadem designed for Empress Eugenie and has been displayed in the French Royal Treasury in the Louvre since 1887.

The Regent Diamond

The Regent Diamond rests right at the top of the diadem. Photo:

There’s no denying that there are some seriously magnificent diamonds in the world, many of which are on display for all to see. If you’d like to witness some of the sparkle, then why not plan your next trip to see one of these impressive stones in person – their brilliance is sure to blow you away.

Some other famous diamonds worth mentioning:

  • The Centenary Diamond
  • The Taylor-Burton
  • The Koh-i-Nûr (Persian for “Mountain of Light”)
  • The Idol’s Eye
  • The Sancy Diamond

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