Diamond Guide - Most Famous Diamonds

Diamonds are appreciated for their beauty and rarity and considered a symbol of wealth and power. The largest and most rare stones have been noted throughout history. Below is detailed information of some of the World’s Most Famous Diamonds of all time…

1. The Cullinan

History of Diamond

Carat Weight: 3106 carats before Cut
Source: Found in 1905, Transvaal, South Africa

This was the largest diamond crystal ever found with a weight of 3,106 carats in the rough or over 1 ¼ pounds. The Cullinan gets its name from Sir Thomas Cullinan who was chairman of the mining company that discovered it. It was found in 1905. Frederick Wells, manager of the Premier Mine in South Africa, received $10,000 from the company as a gift for this discovery. It was purchased by the Transvaal Government and presented to King Edward VII of England.

The Cullinan was cut into 9 major stones and 96 smaller stones. After the cutting of the Cullinan, the following nine major stones were created:

  • Cullinan I (pear, 530.20 carats)
  • Cullinan II (cushion, 317.40 carats)
  • Cullinan III (pear, 94.40 carats)
  • Cullinan IV(square cushion, 63.60 carats)
  • Cullinan V (heart, 18.50 carats)
  • Cullinan VI (marquise, 11.50 carats)
  • Cullinan VII (marquise, 8.80 carats)
  • Cullinan VIII (rectangular cushion, 6.80 carats)
  • Cullinan IX (pear, 4.39 carats)

The Cullinan was cut by Joseph Asscher and Company of Amsterdam, who examined the enormous crystal for around six months before determining how to divide it. Though the goal was to split the diamond into only five crystals, it ended up being broken into nine crystals. When the Cullinan was first discovered, certain signs suggested that it may have been part of a much larger crystal, but no discovery of the "missing half" has ever been authenticated.

The Cullinan I / Great Star of Africa

The Cullinan I / Great Star of Africa

Carat Weight: 530.20 carats
Cut: Pear Shaped with 74 Facets
Source: Cut from The Cullinan

The Cullinan I or Great Star of Africa diamond is the largest cut diamond in the world. It is set in the Sovereign's Scepter with Cross and is on permanent display in the Tower of London. The royal jewelers of King Edward VII even redesigned the setting of the scepter to accommodate it.

The Cullinan II

The Cullinan II

Carat Weight: 317.40 carats
Cut: Cushion Shaped
Source: Cut from The Cullinan

The Cullinan II diamond is the second largest cut diamond in the world. Cullinan II is also become part of the Crown Jewels of England. The Cullinan II, measures 1.7 x 1.6 inches. It was handsomely set in the brow of the British Imperial State Crown.

2. The Centenary Diamond

The Centenary Diamond

Carat Weight: 273.85 carats
Clarity: Flawless
Source: Found in July 1986, South Africa

The Centenary Diamond was discovered at the Premier Mine, in July 1986. This diamond weighed 599.10 carats in the rough. Master-cutter Gabi Tolkowsky and his small team took almost three years to complete its transformation into the world's third largest top-color, flawless diamond with a carat weight of 273.85 carats. The Centenary Diamond possesses 247 facets - 164 on the stone and 83 on its girdle. The 'Centenary' diamond was unveiled, appropriately, at the Tower of London in May 1991.

3. The Orloff

The Orloff

Carat Weight: 189.62 carats
Color: Slightly Bluish Green
Clarity: Exceptionally Pure
Cut: Mogul-Cut Rose
Source: India

The Orloff is thought to have weighed about 300 carats when it was found. There are many historical stories involved with this diamond. As per the first tale, the Orloff was set as the eye of Vishnu's idol (one of the Hindu Gods) in the innermost sanctuary temple in Sriangam and was stolen in the year 1700 by a French deserter disguised as a Hindu. However, the deserter just dug one eye from its socket, because he was terror-stricken at the thought of retribution, so he couldn't take the other. He went to Madras and sold the stone quickly to an English sea-captain for 2,000 pounds.

After many years, the stone arrived in Amsterdam where the Russian count Grigori Orloff, an ex-lover of Empress Catherine the Great was residing. He heard rumors of the stone, and he bought the diamond for 90,000 pounds and took it back to Russia to win Catherine's favor. The stone has been called the Orloff since then. Catherine received his gift and had it mounted in the Imperial Scepter. She gave a marble palace to Grigori Orloff in exchange for the Orloff diamond. However, Grigori couldn't win Catherine's love. Grigori Orloff passed away at the nadir of disappointment in 1783.

In 1812 the Russians, fearing that Napoleon with his Grand Army was about to enter Moscow, hid the Orloff in a priest's tomb. Napoleon supposedly discovered the Orloff's location and went to claim it. However, as a solider of the Army was about to touch the Orloff, a priest's ghost appeared and pronounced a terrible curse upon the Army. Napoleon left without the Orloff.

4. The Regent

The Regent

Carat Weight: 140.50 carats
Cut: Cushion Shaped Brilliant
Source: India

This historic diamond was discovered in 1701 by an Indian slave near Golconda. It once weighed 410 carats in the rough. It was one of the largest diamonds ever found in India.

It was once owned by William Pitt, the English Prime Minister and after that it was called "The Pitt". It was sent to England where it was cut into a cushion shaped brilliant of 140.50 carats. Of all the larger diamonds known throughout the world, the Regent Diamond is considered the finest and most beautiful diamond.

In 1717, the diamond was sold for $500,000 to the Duke of Orleans, Regent of France when Louis XV was a boy. It was then renamed "The Regent" and set in the crown that both Louis XV and Louis XVI wore at their coronations. Marie Antoinette wore the diamond separately. After the French revolution, it was owned by Napoleon Bonaparte, who set it in the hilt of his sword. When he went into exile, Marie Louise, his second wife, gave it to her father. Her father was the Emperor of Austria, and he returned it to France for the French Crown Jewels.

When the Germans invaded Paris in 1940, the diamond was sent out of the country, and when the war ended it was returned. During World War II, the Regent was hidden from Hitler's armies behind a stone fireplace in the Chateau Chambord. It is now on display in the Louvre, Paris.

5. Koh-i-Noor (Mountain of Light)

Koh-i-Noor (Mountain of Light)

Carat Weight: 108.93 carats
Cut: Oval Shaped Brilliant
Source: India

The name of this diamond means "Mountain of Light" and its history is the longest of all famous diamonds. In 1304, this diamond was found in the possession of the Raja of Malwa. Later, it was captured by Mogul Sultan Babar. This was a time when possession of such a stone symbolized the power of an empire. It is said that this diamond has been set in the famous Peacock Throne made for Shah Jehan.

Koh-i-Noor was one of the precious jewels of the Emperor Mohammed Shah. In 1739, Nadir Shah of Persia successfully invaded Delhi. His systematic pillage of the city failed to uncover the huge stone, but then he was told by one of the harem women that the conquered Emperor Mohammed Shah had hidden it inside his turban. At the victory celebration party, Nadir Shah invited his captive to a feast and suggested they exchange turbans. The emperor partook in a well-known Oriental custom whereby the two leaders would exchange turbans. Retiring from the feast, he unrolled the turban and released the great gem. Seeing it he exclaimed "Koh-i-Noor", meaning "Mountain of Light".

Then, Nadir Shah brought the gem back and took it back to Persia, but he was assassinated in 1747 and the diamond was fought over by his successors. It was in the jewel chamber of Lahore, capital of Punjab, but when that state was annexed to British India in 1849, the East India Company took it as a partial indemnity for the Sikh Wars.

The Koh-i-Noor was presented to Queen Victoria in 1850 to mark the 250th anniversary of the founding of the East India Company. When the large stone was displayed at the Crystal Palace Exposition, people were disappointed that the diamond did not show more fire. Queen Victoria decided to have it recut to enhance its brilliance and fire, which reduced the 190-carat diamond to its present size. In 1911 a new crown was made for the coronation of Queen Mary with the Koh-i-Noor as the center stone. In 1937, it was transferred to the crown of Queen Elizabeth (now the Queen Mother) for her coronation. It is now on display with the British Crown Jewels in the Tower of London.

The Koh-i-Noor is said to have come to earth as a gift of God to India as reward for that country's faith in God.

6. The Great Chrysanthemum

The Great Chrysanthemum

Carat Weight: 104.15 carats
Cut: Pear
Source: Supposedly, South Africa

The Great Chrysanthemum was supposedly found in South Africa in 1963, and it weighed 192.28 carats.

This pear-shaped diamond was cut by Julius Cohen, a New York City dealer, who bought the rough stone and cut it to reveal the diamond's rich golden-brown, chrysanthemum-like color.

In 1971, the diamond was exhibited at the Kimberly Centenary Exhibition in South Africa. The diamond was also shown in the Diamonds-International Academy Collection at the Diamond Pavilion in Johannesburg in 1965. Recently, Julius Cohen sold "the Great Chrysanthemum" to an undisclosed foreign buyer.

7. The Idol's Eye

The Idol's Eye

Carat Weight: 70.20 carats
Cut: Pear
Source: Supposedly, South Africa

This is another famous diamond that was once set in the eye of an idol before it was stolen. This flattened pear-shaped diamond weighs 70.20 carats. As per legend, it was given as ransom for Princess Rasheetah by the Sheik of Kashmir to the Sultan of Turkey who had abducted her.

8. The Taylor-Burton

The Taylor-Burton

Carat Weight: 69.42 carats
Color: F-G
Clarity: IF
Cut: Pear Shape
Source: Premier Mine, Transvaal, South Africa

This stone was found in 1966 in South Africa. The rough stone, which weighed 240.80 carats, was cut into a 69.42 carats pear shape diamond.

This diamond was sold at auction in 1969 with the understanding that it could be named by the buyer. Cartier of New York successfully bid for it and immediately named it "Cartier." However, the next day Richard Burton bought the stone as a gift for Elizabeth Taylor for an undisclosed sum, renaming it the "Taylor-Burton." After Burton's death in 1979, Elizabeth Taylor sold the stone for charity and reportedly received $2.8 million. She donated this sum in memory of Richard Burton to a hospital in Botswana. It was last reported to be in Saudi Arabia.

9. The Sancy

The Sancy

Carat Weight: 55 carats
Cut: Pear Shape
Source: India

The Sancy was one of the first diamonds ever cut with symmetrical facets, with a history of over five hundred years. The stone is apparently of Indian origin. It was first owned by Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, who lost it in a battle in 1477.

The stone is named "The Sancy" after a late owner, Seigneur de Sancy, a French Ambassador to Turkey, in the late 16th century. Sancy was not only a prominent figure in the French court, but also an eager collector of gems.

He loaned this stone to the French king, Henry III, who wore it in the cap with which he concealed his baldness. Henry IV of France also borrowed the stone from Sancy. Later, Sancy was assigned as the French Ambassador to England and he sold the diamond in 1664 to James I, of England. In 1688, James II, the last of the Stewart Kings of England, fled with it to Paris. It was stolen during the French Revolution in 1792.

The Sancy disappeared until 1828, when it resurfaced in the hands of Russian Prince Demidoff. His family owned it until 1865, and then sold it to a wealthy Indian, Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy, of Bombay. The next public appearance was at the Paris Exhibition of 1867. Lady Astor loaned the Sancy to the Louvre, as a centerpiece for its Ten Centuries of French Jewelry exhibition in 1962. After her death in 1964, the British government declared the stone a national treasure, however reportedly, it was sold to the French government.

10. The Blue Hope

The Blue Hope

Carat Weight: 45.52 carats
Color: Dark Blue
Clarity: flawless
Cut: Oval Brilliant
Source: India

The Hope Diamond is the world's largest deep blue diamond in public view today. It is famous for its striking color and its fascinating history of bringing bad luck to its owners. This attractive stone also has a history of being stolen and recovered, sold and resold, cut and recut.

The legend of the Hope Diamond began in 1642, when it weighed about 112 carats. A French diamond merchant named Jean Tavernier found the diamond in India and sold it to King Louis XIV in 1668 who had it cut to 67.50 carats to bring out its brilliance. However, Tavernier was killed by wild dogs during a business trip to India.

The dark blue diamond was called "the Royal French Blue" or "Blue Diamond of the Crown". In 1774 Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette inherited the French Blue as it was popularly known and wore it. The diamond was stolen during the French Revolution.

After that, the Heart Cut Blue Diamond was believed to be sold in Spain where it was cut into three smaller stones. The Goya portrait of Queen Marie Louisa painted in 1799 shows her wearing a deep blue diamond cut into 44.5 carats of rounded oval shape. It is said that the stolen Royal French Blue was recut to its present size by Wilhelm Fals, a young Dutch diamond cutter. Fals died in grief after his son, Hendrick, stole the gem from him. Hendrick, in turn, committed suicide.

In 1830, a wealthy banker, Henry Phillip Hope, bought this diamond for $90,000 and after that the diamond took on its current name "the Hope Diamond". It stayed in the Hope family until the turn of the century and the legend of its sinister influence began again. The original Henry Hope died without marrying, leaving the stone to his nephew. The stone was then passed on to a grandson who changed his surname to Hope to inherit it. Unfortunately, bad luck plagued him, and his wife ran off with another man. The last of the Hopes went bankrupt and the stone was sold to a jeweler. It changed hands frequently in the next few years. A Folies star who wore it was killed by a jealous lover. A Greek broker who bought it fell off a cliff with his wife and children. The Turkish Sultan, Selim Habib, was deposed in the 1908 revolution. The seller, Simon Montharides, died in a car crash.

It was put up for auction in Paris in 1909 but no one bought it. Shortly after that, C. H. Rouseau purchased it only to resell it the same year to Cartier, the French jeweler. Somehow, the Hope Diamond found its way back to France in 1910. After that, Mrs. McLean, wife of Mr. Edward B. McLean and daughter-in-law of millionaire publisher John R. McLean bought this diamond for $154,000 from Cartier. In the next few years her son, Vinson, was killed in a car accident and her daughter died of an overdose of sleeping pills. Mr. McLean became mentally unbalanced and died in a mental hospital. But despite all these malefic effects, she wore it constantly till her death in 1947. After Mrs. McLean's death, the Hope Diamond was bought by Harry Winston, along with other jewels in her estate for more than $1,000,000.

Harry Winston first displayed the Hope Diamond in his Fifth Avenue salon in New York. After putting it on display at various charity shows, he sent it by registered mail in a plain brown wrapper, to the Smithsonian Institution in 1958 at a cost of $145.00, $2.44 postage and the rest for insurance of $1,000,000. It is now on display at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington.

11. The Tiffany

The Tiffany

Carat Weight: 128.51 carats
Color: Fancy Yellow
Clarity: flawless
Cut: Cushion Shape with 90 Facets
Source: Kimberly Mine, South Africa

The Tiffany, the fabulous yellow diamond, was found in 1878 in the famous Kimberley Mine in South Africa. The Tiffany diamond weighs 128.51 carats. It was cut from a piece of rough stone that weighed 287.42 carats. Charles Lewis Tiffany, the famous New York based jeweler, bought it and cut it in Paris as a cushion-shaped brilliant with 90 facets.

12. Hortensia


Carat Weight: 20 carats
Color: Peach

This beautiful stone was named after Hortense de Beauharnais, Queen of Holland, who was Empress Josephine's daughter and the stepdaughter of Napoleon Bonaparte. The Hortensia has been part of the French Crown Jewels since Louis XIV bought it. Along with the Regent, it is now on display at the Louvre, Paris.