There have been some truly famous jewels in the annals of history, but none more so than diamonds. In the wide world of rare and precious gemstones, diamonds of rare and unparalleled beauty have always been the preferred expression of wealth for royalty and big money. Other gemstones may gain distinction for size or color, but none can hold a candle to the many incredible diamonds that have found their way into portraits, photos, museums, and private collections throughout the years. So prepare to be dazzled by the top five most famous diamonds in history.
1. The Hope. This is THE diamond. Weighing in at 45.52 carats, this steel blue beauty was first discovered in India and was originally a whopping 112 carats! Today, it remains the largest dark blue diamond known to exist (although it is only the 4th largest blue diamond), but what makes it the most famous diamond in the world is the legend of its curse. Anyone who touched it (starting with King Louis XIV of France) either ended up in financial ruin or dead (although most accounts were eventually proven fictitious or coincidental). It currently resides at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum in Washington, D.C., still nested in the Cartier setting of 16 white diamonds to which it was transferred in 1910. Its value has been estimated at as much as 250 million dollars.
2. The Koh-i-Noor. Some say the “Mountain of Light” is even more famous than its Indian brother, the Hope Diamond, because it is rumored to date back to before the time of Christ. It enjoys a long and storied history that mainly settles around battles over ownership (as it was famously stolen again and again with the spoils of war). It also suffers from a legendary curse which supposedly brings great misfortune only to its male owners. Originally a 186-carat egg-shaped diamond, the Koh-i-Noor has since been cut down to a still formidable 105.602 carats (supposedly to better display its brilliance). It now resides in the collection of Britain’s crown jewels, set in the Maltese Cross on Queen Elizabeth’s crown (where it was placed in 1937). Its value today has been estimated at about 81 million pounds.
3. The Tiffany Yellow. The most famous in Tiffany’s long parade of rare gems, it is said to have been purchased by Tiffany & Co. for $18,000 during the sale of the French Crown Jewels in 1887. It is one of the few diamonds throughout history to retain its original cut at 128.54 carats. And while it was recently dethroned from its position as the largest golden-yellow diamond in the world, it is still thought to be the finest example of the rare deep canary yellow variety. It was last valued at 12 million dollars (circa 1983).
4. The Red Cross. Another famous canary diamond, this one is noted not for its color, which is a pale yellow, but for its size. Supposedly weighing an astounding 375 carats when found, it has since been cut down to a modest (!) 205.07 carat square cut diamond, currently valued at about 2 million pounds. The derivation of its name is twofold. First, De Beers (who pulled the gem from their mines in 1901) presented it to an art sale held by Christies in 1918, for the benefit of the British Red Cross Society. In addition, it is said to feature a Maltese Cross in the top facet.
5. The Wittelsbach-Graff. While this diamond is neither the largest nor most brilliant of its
kind (35.56 carats and classified as Fancy Deep Grayish Blue), it holds the prestige of being the most expensive diamond ever sold, fetching 23.4 million dollars at auction in 2008.