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Famous Diamonds

The following are extraordinary and unique diamonds, many of which have historical value. The question that often comes up is how much they are actually worth. Price estimates for these gems are very difficult simply due to the uniqueness of these diamonds.



"Moderation is a fatal thing.
Nothing succeeds like excess."

 Oscar Wilde


The Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond


The history of the Wittelsbach-Graff diamond reaches back until the 17th century. Back then it got to Austria as part the dowry of the Spanish king´s daughter. Over the years the jewel was bequeathed and became part of the Bavarian crown jewels in 1722 of the Wittelsbach family. In consequence of World War I Bavaria became a republic and the descendants of the king´s family tried first to sell the diamond that weighed 35,56 carats (7.11 g) in 1931 at an auction in London. It should be the last time for more than 70 years that this special blue gem was seen in public. It is said that the jewel was traded over a few Antwerp based diamond dealers until it was bought by the German retail tycoon Helmut Horten as a gift for his wife. In 2008 the Wittelsbach Diamond was sold at a Christe´s auction in London for 18.4 million Euro to the jeweler Laurence Graff. Up until then no diamond demanded a higher price in any auction.


(1) Blue Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond


In 2010 it became known that Graff did have the historical stone recut: By doing so the diamond lost more than four carats in weight, however, all signs of wear, chips and scratches were removed which in the end improved the clarity of the gem from VS1 to “internally flawless” (IF), that is, loupe-clean. Since then the stone was renamed officially Wittelsbach-Graff diamond. The new and optimized cut was criticized by many as damage to the historical character of the diamond. Allegedly the diamond was sold in 2011 to Sheikh Hamad Chalifa for more than 80 million USD.

(1) Source: Wikipedia, author: Physolamuse


Hope Diamond


The Hope Diamond is one of the most famous and at the same time one of the most notorious diamonds. The unique blue diamond weighing 45.52 carats was worn by many historical figures over the years: The French kings Louis XIV., XV., XVI. as well as Marie Antoinette, the English king George IV., Henry Hope, the English jeweler Harry Winston and others. Today the exceptional gem that is named after Henry Hope is exhibited by and part of the Smithsonian Institute in the United States.




(2) The Hope Diamond

The size of a walnut the diamond is shaped in an antique cushion cut that elates visitors of the Smithsonian Institute and gemologists alike. When exposed to short wave UV light the stone “glows” red. This effect is not to be confused with fluorescence, a common trait in diamonds. In fact, this after-glow light effect is phosphorescence, where energy is emitted slowly after UV light was induced. However, for many this scientific property was proof that something must be wrong with the gem stone. Many tales were told describing the diamond to be jinxed bringing bad luck to everybody wearing it. As a matter of fact and putting the superstition aside these stories are contradictory since the owner of the Hope Diamond experiences luck and misfortune alike. Nevertheless, most people find the story behind the gem stone exciting and want to believe in it.

In the year 1988 GIA (Gemological Institute of America) certified the color of the diamond as “fancy dark grayish blue” the determined the clarity grade “VS1”. However, both facts cannot number the value of this historical gem. Many price estimates see the diamond to be worth a figure above 100 million dollars. More information on the Hope Diamond you find here.

(2) "In Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution", Photographer Chip Clark


The Cullinan Diamond


The Cullinan Diamond is the largest diamond ever found. The rough diamond was measured to weigh 3,106.75 carats (621.35 g) was discovered in 1905 in the South-African Premier mine. It was named after he owner of the mine, Thomas Cullinan. The unique stone was cut in 9 larger pieces and about 96 smaller stones due to a few inclusions in the center of the gem. The 9 larger parts were named Cullinan I to Cullinan IX and are exhibited in the Tower of London as part of the British crown jewels. Exceptional among these specials gems are Cullinan I and II in particular: The first is also called the “Great Star of Africa” and the second the “Lesser Star of Africa” weighing 530.2 and 317.4 carats respectively. The Great Star of Africa is cut in pear shape and sits in the scepter of King Edward VII., the Lesser Star of Africa in a round cut and decorates the British crown. Cullinan III and IV weigh 94.4 and 63.6 carats and are part of Queen Mary´s crown.



(3) Cullinan Diamond rough pieces

Until today the Premier mine is active and its mine shafts reach 763 meters deep into the ground. In 1907 the Cullinan rough diamond was presented to the British king in gratitude of granting independent inner administration of the former colony Tranvaal (South Africa).
Interesting: The transport of this unique diamond from South Africa to England was considered very risky. The ship to bring the stone was crowded with security personnel. Many men were protecting a safe that contained a stone which was feared to be stolen. However, in fact the stone within the safe was a fake. And while the ship made its way to England the real stone was sent by mail.


 (3) Source: Wikipedia, Permission: PD-OLD



Golden Eye Diamond


A golden eye – the name suits this unique, loupe-clean diamond of 43.51 carats with its yellow-golden color tone. The Fancy Intense Yellow color is the highest color grade for yellow diamonds. A larger diamond of this color does not exist. The radiant cut is perfectly executed and gives the special gem extra shine.



(4) Golden Eye Diamond

The diamond´s story sounds like it came straight from a James Bond movie: Probably found around 1872 in South Africa the rough diamond´s weight is estimated at 124.5 carats. Under circumstances that will never be completely traceable the businessman and fraudster Paul Monea got his hands on the stone using it as a deposit for shady business deals. In 2007 Monea was arrested by the FBI and the diamond was nationalized. In 2011 the Golden Eye Diamond was offered at an auction with a starting price of 900,000 US dollars and was sold in the end to the highest bidder, Jerre Hentosh, for 2.84 million dollars.

(4) Source:  US Marshall Services




Portuguese Diamond


The Portuguese Diamond is exhibited in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC and it´s 127.01 carats make it the largest polished diamond in the museum´s collection. Famous jeweler Harry Winston that named the diamond „Portuguese“ on account of false beliefs that it used to be part of the Portuguese crown jewels. As a matter of fact he exchanged the precious gem for 2,400 carats of smaller diamonds. Discovered in the Premier mine in South Africa the diamond´s earlier history is one marked by passion: In the 1920s glamour girl Peggy Hopkins Joyce acquired the jewel. Through many marriages and even more love affairs she assembled a respectable jewelry collection.
Looking at the diamond from a gemological point of view may be just as interesting. As already described in the education section about fluorescence the diamond is a rare example of the so called “overblues”.



(5) The Portuguese Diamond

The extremely strong fluorescence makes the diamond appear hazy. GIA certified the stone to be of color grade M and clarity grade VS1. The beautiful octagonal step cut similar to an emerald cut matches the high clarity grade and together with the unique fluorescence qualities this diamond is truly one of a kind. For more information on the Portuguese Diamond click here.

(5) "In Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution", Photographer Chip Clark


The Tiffany Diamond


Discovered in 1878 the Tiffany Diamond is one of the largest yellow diamonds. The carat weight of the gem in cushion cut with 90 facets is 128.51 carats (approximately 25 g). In its rough state the diamond even weighed 287.42 carats before George Frederick Kunz (1856-1932) cut it to its current form. Kunz paid attention to retain as much weight as possible, yet at the same time putting emphasis on the diamond´s special color: Canary yellow.




(6) Tiffany Diamond in "Bird on the Rock" brooch

The stone´s name originates from the company Tiffany that owns the diamond. Up until today the stone was only worn by two women: Sheldom Whitehouse and Audrey Hepburn (Breakfast at Tiffany´s). The diamond is known especially in the famous brooch designed by Jean Schlumberger called "Bird on the Rock".

 (6) Source: Wikipedia, author: Shipguy


Orlov Diamond


The Orlov Diamond is one of the most famous diamonds. Weighing 189.62 carats it is part of the golden scepter of the Russian tsar. The size of about half an egg the diamond has a slight greenish-blue shine. The name comes from Russian count Orlov who gave the diamond to Catherine the Great (1762-1796). Nowadays the gem is exhibited in the museum of the Kreml in Moscow. Yet, the stone was found originally in India.


(7) Orlov Diamond in the cepter of the Russian Zar

The Orlov Diamond is also special due to its form: As one of the few historical diamonds that was not recut it still remains in its original form, the rose cut.

(7) Source: Wikipedia, Permission: Bron: DIAMONDS – Famous, Notable and Unique (GIA)


Excelsior Diamond


The second largest rough diamond to be ever found was discovered in 1893 in the South African Jagersfontein mine. Only the Cullinan Diamond was even larger. Weighing an incredible 995.2 carats (194 g) the stone with its color grade G and the blue-white shine was a sensation already back then.



(8) Excelsior Diamond in its rough state

Due to a number of black inclusions the rough stone was cut by the famous I.J. Asscher in Amsterdam into eleven smaller diamonds ranging from 9.82 to 69.68 carats in size. Excelsior I to XI were all cut into pear and marquise shape diamonds. In hindsight the splitting of the stone was criticized because one could have created the largest polished diamond in the world. However, economic aspects also played an important role: There was simply nobody that could have afforded to buy one single diamond of this size. Before cutting the huge diamond lay in a safe for years while a buyer could not be found. Excelsior I is now owned by Robert Mouawad who bought the precious gem in 1996 for about 2.5 million dollars.

 (8) Source: Wikipedia, Autor: Edwin W. Streeter


Beau Sancy Diamond


The Beau Sancy is a 34.98 carats diamond and used to be part of the Prussian crown jewels of the Hohenzollern family. Although the name is similar, the Beau Sancy is not the also famous Sancy Diamond that weighs 55.23 carats. Cut with 110 facets the gem stone measures 22.3 mm in length and 19.5 mm in width.



(9) Beau Sancy Diamond

Over the course of time this historical diamond was owned by four royal families: 1604 French king Henry IV. bought the diamond for his wife Maria de Medici. Later the special gem found its way to the house of Oranien and then to England until it got to Prussia in the beginning of the 18th century. The Beau Sancy Diamond was sold in 2012 at an auction by Sotheby´s after a battle of bids: It scored 5 times the estimate of the stone and the lucky buyer of the gem paid 7.5 million Euro.

(9) Source: Wikipedia


Sancy Diamond


The Sancy Diamond weighs 55.23 carats (11 g), has a slightly green-yellowish color and is cut in the shape of a shield. One interesting aspect about the gem´s form is the fact that is has no pavilion but actually consists of two crowns. The facets are arranged symmetrically. The Sancy Diamond used to be the main stone in the crown of King Louis XV. of France.



(10) Sancy Diamond

The gem was first mentioned in 1477 when its owner Count of Burgundy, Karl the Brave, took it with him as his talisman into the battle of Nancy. Then in 1570 Nicholas Harlay de Sancy – a diplomat at the court of Sultan Selim II. in Constantinople- acquired the diamond. Up until today the diamond carries his name. De Sancy sold the unique gem to the English queen Elisabeth I. from where the diamond made its way to France again in the 17th century. In the confusion of the French revolution the stone was then stolen from the royal treasury and appeared again in the 19th century in the possession of Russian industrial magnate Demidoff. Today the historical diamond is displayed in the Apollo gallery at the Louvre where the descendants of William Waldorf Astor who bought the unique gem in 1906 .

 (10) Source: Wikipedia


Florentine Diamond


A diamond of historical dimension that weighs 137.2 carats (27.4 g). It is cut in briolette shape and about the size of a walnut. The Florentine diamond´s bright yellow color had very slight green overtones. It was last seen in the beginning of the 1920s and was considered the 4th largest diamond in the world back then. Until the beginning of World War I the unique gem was owned by the Austrian emperor´s family was exhibited to the public at the Hofburg.



(11) The Florentine Diamond in its only known photography

The history of the Florentine Diamond (also known as "Toscanec") is surrounded by myths. Most agree only on its origin to be India. First documents relating to the unique gem date back to the 17th century which list the Florentine Diamond as part of the treasury of the Count of Florence. After Austria turns into a republic and the emperor´s wealth was nationalized all trace of the diamond was lost once it successfully was taken to Switzerland to prevent it from becoming state property.

(11) Source: Wikipedia, author: Gryffindor


Golden Jubilee Diamond


The Golden Jubilee Diamond is the largest polished diamond worldwide. Its 545.67 carats outmatch the Cullinan I by 15.37 carats. Just like the Cullinan Diamond (1905) the Golden Jubilee Diamond (1985) was found in the South African Premier mine. The rough stone (initially called “nameless brown”) weighed 755.5 carats (151g) and was cut by famous Gabriel Tolkowsky over a period of 2 years to its unique shape. The result was the amber colored fire-rose cushion cut diamond with 148 symmetrically aligned facets with a total weight of 109 grams.



(12) The Golden Eye Diamond


Originally the large stone was meant to use to test new ways and equipment used to cutting and polishing of diamonds. Regardless of its impressive size the diamond found little attention in the beginning due to the brown color and deep fractures and inclusions within the stone. However, the expertise and ability of Tolkowsky changed how people perceived the diamond by turning the inconspicuous brown stone into the golden-yellow sensation that it is today. His superior skills, the excellent execution of the cut and the adept finish of the polishing process gave the stone its shine and unique character.

Unappreciated in Europe the diamond was sold by De Beers in 1995 to a Thai group of companies. After its blessing by Pope John Paul II., the Buddhist patriarch and the highest imam of Thailand the gem stone was presented to King Bhumibol Adulyadej for his 50. Crown jubilee.
The price estimates for this exceptional diamond range from 4 to 12 million dollars.

(12) Source: Wikipedia   


Koh-i-Noor Diamond


The Koh-i-Noor Diamond (Persian: “mountain of light”) was discovered in India and weighed 793 carats in its rough state. Once the largest known diamond today the gem cut in an oval shape counts 105.6 carats and is part of the English crown jewels. Its complete transparency and exceptional white color inspires everybody who gets to see this unique gem.

According to Indian legends even Hindu gods already used to fight for the special diamond. Historically it was first mentioned in the beginning of the 14th century: In 1304 the Indian sultan Ala du-Din Khalji stole the stone from the Raja of Malva (India). The gem was part of the famous jeweled Peacock Throne in Delhi. In 1739 the diamond got into the hands of Nadir Shah Afschar, the “Persian Napoleon”, when he raided Delhi. When Nadir Shah himself was murdered by his generals in 1747 the Koh-i-Noor found its way to the treasury of Punjab. Then when the state was annexed by the British in 1849 (British-India) the jewel was owned by the East India Company. For the 250. Jubilee of the foundation of the East India Company the Koh-i-Noor was presented to Queen Victoria as an exceptional gift. Once in England the stone was recut: Of 186.5 carats the weight was reduced to 105.6 carats which has not changed until today. However, this modification highly increased the diamond´s brilliance.



(13) Koh-i-Noor Diamond

Over the years the different countries claimed the diamond back: Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and India. However, this British Prime Minister Cameron categorically refused any such requests in 2013.

(13) Source: Wikipedia; "The Crystal Palace and its contents. An illustrated Cyclopedia of the Great Exhibition 1851" by Shyamal


Krupp Diamond


The Krupp Diamond (also known as the Elizabeth-Taylor-Diamond) is a colorless diamond weighing 33.19 carats. The gem shaped in an Asscher cut got his name by its former possessor, the German industrial magnate family Krupp. Later the Krupp Diamond was bought by actor Richard Burton for his wife Elizabeth Taylor. In 2011 the stone was sold in an auction by Christie´s for 8.8 million dollars.


Excerpt of the GIA certificate of the Krupp Diamond and an example of its Asscher cut shape

A certificate of the independent international laboratory GIA (Gemological Institute of America) which was issued prior to its sale in 2011 attested the highest possible color grade “D” and a clarity grade of “VS1”. Furthermore, the diamond was found to be of the Type IIa category which distinguishes itself by superior chemical purity – it contains no traces of nitrogen, the source of color for diamonds. Only 1-2% of all diamonds share the same chemical purity. The Krupp Diamond´s high clarity grade is a result of the lack of nitrogen.