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Diamonds of the Rich and Famous

By  Judith Anderson  GG, CGA

Eureka!  This should have been exclaimed by the boy who,  in 1866,  unknowingly discovered the first diamond in South Africa.  This pebble,  picked up along the shores of the banks of the Orange River,  was determined to be a 21 carat rough yellow diamond,  and heralded the beginning of the great Diamond Rush.  The Eureka diamond,  as it was named,  was cut into a 10.73 carat brilliant gem.

In 1905 the largest gem-quality diamond ever discovered was removed from the Premier Mine in South Africa.  It weighed 3,106 carats and was named the Cullinan in honor of Sir Thomas Cullinan,  who originally opened the mine.  The rough crystal was presented to King Edward VII in 1907 who had it cut into 9 major and 96 smaller stones.  The Cullinan I,  known as The Great Star of Africa,  is the largest cut diamond in the world;  it is a 530.20 carat pear  -  shaped stone set in the Sovereign's Royal Scepter as part of the Crown Jewels displayed in the Tower of London.

Cullinan II,  known as The Lesser Star of Africa,  the world's second largest cut diamond,  is a 317.40 carat square brilliant-cut gem mounted in the Imperial State Crown,  also part of the Crown Jewels.

One of the more popular diamonds in recent history is the Taylor-Burton.  This 69.42 carats pear-shaped diamond was bought by Cartier in 1969,  and sold to Richard Burton for his wife,  Elizabeth Taylor,  who appropriately renamed it.  In 1979,  Elizabeth Taylor sold this diamond for nearly $3 million.

Historical facts about the Koh-i-Noor date back to the year 1304,  when it was owned by the Rajah of Malwa (India).  Two centuries later,  this magnificent gem fell into the hands of Sultan Babar,  the first Mogul Emperor;  it was passed down the line to all the great Moguls,  including Shah Jehan,  who built the Taj Mahal for his queen.

Legend has it that the conquered Mogul ruler,  Mohammed Shah,  lost his great possession to Persia's Nadir Shah through an Oriental custom of exchanging turbans.  When this great stone fell from Mohammed's turban,  Nadir Shah was alleged to have cried "Koh-i-noor", meaning "mountain of light" and thus christened the diamond.  In 1850,  Queen Victoria was presented the Koh-i-Noor.  This Indian cut, 186 carat diamond was displayed at the Crystal Palace Exposition at London in 1851.  Viewers were disappointed with the stone's lack of fire;  therefore,  Victoria had it recut into a 108.93 carat oval brilliant.

The Blue Hope is perhaps the most well-known diamond.  It was once owned by Louis XIV,  and stolen during the French Revolution.  It reappeared on the London market in 1830 and was purchased by Henry Phillip Hope,  for whom it was named.  Through the generations of the Hope family,  it acquired a reputation for bad luck.  In 1911,  Edward McLean,  then owner of the Washington Post,  presented the Hope to his wife.  Mrs. McLean never considered the stone unlucky,  despite the legends of numerous violent deaths and disasters associated with its ownership.  After Mrs. McLean's death (1947),  Harry Winston purchased the Hope and donated it to the Smithsonian Institute where it remains today.

This is just a sampling of the fascinating chronicles and legends of notable diamonds  -  perhaps it has sparked your interest in this brilliant gem!  Please visit our library again,  as we will be adding more articles about other famous and notable diamonds.

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