Famous Diamonds

Also called the Tavernier Blue or the French Blue throughout its checkered history. This is my favourite! The history associated with this diamond is very entertaining. It was apparently stolen from an idol in India and believed to be cursed with bad luck and even death. Originally 112 carats, the stone was re-cut by Louis XIV to 67 carats, and then passed down to his great-grandson, Louis XVI. We all know what happened to him and his ‘amour’ Marie Antoinette during the French Revolution, and they were not the only unfortunates of the French Court who wore the diamond and ‘lost their heads’ over it! It then disappeared for twenty years, turning up in England, and had achieved what many of us are thinking about at this time of year – it had lost weight! The 45 carat diamond was bought by the Hope family, who ended up going bankrupt, then to a Turkish sultan who was eventually ousted, and then to the McLean family in America. That unfortunate family suffered mental illness, suicide and death by car accident during its ownership. The great diamond merchant, Harry Winston bought it from Evelyn McLean’s estate and gifted it to the Smithsonian Institute where it remains today. One can only hope that that grand establishment keeps its insurance policy up to date!

In 1988, De Beers held its Centenary celebrations and announced that a massive diamond of 599 carats had been found in their Premier mine in Kimberly, South Africa. Naturally they named it the Centenary Diamond, and insured it for one hundred million dollars. This huge flawless “D”-coloured stone took an amazing three years to be cut, although one whole year was spent studying the diamond minutely in the most stringent conditions. When cutting was completed, the Centenary Diamond weighed in at 273.85 carats, with an astounding 247 facets, the most ever polished onto a diamond at that time. In addition, it yielded two pear-shaped diamonds of 1.47 and 1.14 carats. It is believed that De Beers has never sold the stone.
This massive stone was discovered in the Premier Mine in South Africa in 1905. It weighed in at 3106 carats, or 1 1/3rd pounds. It was presented to King Edward V11 as a birthday present and Winston Churchill was apparently given a replica which he liked to display on a silver platter. The King had the stone cut into nine major gems, 96 smaller brilliants and 9.50 carats of unpolished pieces.

The Star of Africa (or Cullinan I) is 530.20 carats, and can be seen gracing the Sovereign’s Royal Sceptre on display in the Tower of London.   All of the nine stones remain with the British Royal Family, some of which Queen Elizabeth still wears.

The Cullinan II, weighing 317.4 carats is set into the British Imperial Crown. There were fun and games just getting this diamond from South Africa to England. A fake stone was sent on a steamer, surrounded by detectives, while the real stone was sent by parcel post. Imagine getting that in your letterbox! Another funny story centred on the master cutter, Joseph Asscher, fainting when the stone resisted the first attempt to cleave it and broke the blade instead. However, on the second cut, the diamond split successfully.   

De Beers Millennium Star is one of the world’s largest D-color, internally and externally flawless diamond at 203.04 carats. Originally a whopping 777 carats, the stone was cut into three, the Millenium Star being the biggest. One hundred plastic models of the original were made. The cutters concentrated on brilliance as opposed to weight and they polished only 54 facets onto the stone. It was first presented at De Beers Limited Edition Millennium Diamonds collection to welcome in the year 2000. The pear-shaped diamond was surrounded by 11 rare blue diamonds also found at the Premier mine. There was an attempt to steal the diamond in November of that year – by bulldozer! and sightings are few and far between. It was displayed at the London Museum in 2005 along with other famous diamonds such as the Steinmetz Pink, the Moussaieff Red, the Allnatt, the Shah Jahan and the Aurora Collection. I would have paid my eye teeth to see that collection! Because the Millenium Star is so flawless, it was decided not to brand it at all, a huge compliment to the cutter’s expertise over three years of painstaking work. In fact, former De Beers chairman, the late Harry Oppenheimer, described the Millenium Star as the most beautiful diamond he had ever seen – and that’s saying something!

Mystery surrounds this beautiful diamond, one of the largest Fancy Vivid Pink diamonds in the world, weighing in at 59.60 carats. The fact that it is graded as Internally Flawless gives this baby unprecedented importance. It was mined by De Beers (of course!) but its origins and whereabouts are a closely-guarded secret. The owners at its ‘debut’ in 2003, the Steinmetz company, won’t even confirm which mine it came from or if it has been sold since, but it is estimated to be worth well over $300 million – I’m guessing that’s US $. Pink diamonds of this size are extremely rare.

The Argyle mine in Australia is responsible for mining 90% of the world’s pinks, although they are normally nowhere near this size. Natural diamonds are known as type 11a or type 11b diamonds. 11a stones contain no impurities like nitrogen or boron, and so are colourless. This happens to only about one per cent of all natural diamonds. but sometimes as they rise to the earth’s surface in Kimberlite and Lamproite pipes, they undergo plastic deformation, and these deformities absorb light in different regions of the spectrum, and that’s where the rare colours come from – pink, red, purple, orange etc. So the beautiful pink colour of the Steinmetz Pink is actually an deformity. Tell that to Jenna Elfman, the actress shown wearing the diamond. I bet she won’t care a bit!

I like this story. This huge stone was found by a young girl in the Congo, playing in some rubble outside her uncle’s house. It was 890 carats. The rubble came from a dump at the MIBA Diamond mine. The uncle sold it to diamond dealers who sold it on to some Lebanese buyers. I hope the girl got a good price! It ended up in America where it took four years to be cut, because of its unwieldy shape and the cracks and pits on the surface. Once cut, however, it was found to be virtually free of inclusions. It was tempting to go for as much weight as possible and try to outdo the Cullinan I of 530.20 carats. Happily, quality over quantity prevailed. The stone had many hues, from almost colourless to rich yellow with slightly brown tones.

Fourteen other gems were cut from the rough, the largest being 15.66 carats. The main stone, originally called the Golden Giant, weighed 407.48 carats. It is graded as Internally Flawless and Fancy Brownish-Yellow in colour. It has been unsuccessful at auction, and has also appeared on Ebay, requiring an opening bid of $15 million, the largest diamond ever offered on Ebay. That too was unsuccessful. It seems no one wants this funny-shaped ugly duckling, at least not at that price!

All this information was collected from assorted magazine and internet sites, especially the  excellent website the World of Famous Diamonds and Other Gems. The author, Ryan Thompson, credits Ian Balfour’s great book, Famous Diamonds, for a lot of his info and I was lucky enough to find a copy in my library. Fascinating stuff! 

Satin and a Scandalous Affair was the most fun to research. Aside from all the interesting myths and histories, I also had the pleasure of trawling through some amazing jewellery designer sites. WARNING: the following sites may cause dribble damage to your keyboard!
Jan Logan
Gilbert Collection
Shapiro Diamonds
Harry Winston
Barninka Diamonds
Norman Landsberg
A Jaffe
Aurora Gems
Louis Glick

Heck, just type in diamond jewellery designers and you’ll be there for a week! Also check out the great article on JAR – Joel Arthur Rosenthal – the ‘Faberge of our time’ in Forbes magazine. Type The Cult of JAR in the search line. See the 22 carat thread ring with a price tag of $800,000 – $1.2m.

I’m all diamonded out but hope I’ve sparked some interest. What’s your favourite diamond? Coloured or colourless? Brilliant, trilliant, round or emerald cut? If a handsome man with the Blackstone-Hammond wealth asked you to be his bride, what ring would you choose? ~ Jan Colley

* bonus!!  If you comment on this blog entry, you could win a gorgeous 2008 Aussie desk calendar plus a copy of one of DDU author Yvonne Lindsay’s previous titles.


28 Responses to “Famous Diamonds”

  1. Without giving too much away, the engagement ring in my book, Boardrooms & A Billionaire Heir, is *exactly* how I pictured my dream ring. Now you’ll all have to wait for May to find out LOL.

  2. Paula, you are SUCH a tease…and I can’t wait to see what ring you chose!

    Jan, including all those links is just evil. I need to be working! I must resist!! Seriously, thank you for the fab. post and all the beautiful pics. I must admit that since doing this series I’m a sucker for the pinks. Even though I’m NOT a pink person and so the jewellery wouldn’t match my wardrobe. Then again, if I could afford pink diamonds, then I could also afford a whole new wardrobe to go with!


  3. Bron, I agree that Jan is evil giving us all those links, especially as I am a PINK type of person.

    Jan, these are all gorgeous. No wonder we chose to write about diamonds. Is there anything more beautiful?

  4. Hi Jan,
    Thanks for posting all that information on the diamonds. I really enjoyed reading it! If a handsome man with the Blackstone-Hammond wealth asked you to be his bride, I’d take any ring! 😉 I’m also going to resist going to those sites because I have lots to do, and have spent too many hours of my life browsing HW and Tiffany’s sites. However, I do like the round/radiant cut rings, with baguettes. 🙂

  5. JSL – go on, you know you want to! Just checked out Cartier’s site and some lovely diamond rings there (check out the Exceptional collection)
    Which reminds me, I added it to the original post but that disappeared from my bleeping computer radar! (Thanks Paula for rescuing the day.) Re the Hope Diamond, from the Hope family, it went to Pierre Cartier who re-set it into it’s present form and sold it to Evelyn McLean. His sales pitch was that it was cursed. And even after all that happened to her family – her 9 yr old son dying in a car crash, her 25 yr old daughter dying of an overdose, her hubby running off with another woman and decimating the family fortune – she still refused to admit that the diamond’s curse was at the center of her problems, saying something like, I have paid a terrific price but in this life I am afraid of one thing only – boredom.
    What a gal!

  6. Rebekah Elrod Says:

    I have to admitt that I haven’t really thought a lot about diamonds. I just got my first diamond ring about two years ago on valetines day. For 8 years of marriage we couldn’t afford anything that extravegant. One day my husband took me to a jewerly store and told me to pick out waht ever ring I want. I tried to tell that I don’t need one, but he insisted. I love my right and it is very simple. It has three smaller diamonds and four baggets. Simple but taste full, that is what I look for in my diamonds.

  7. Hi Rebekah
    Your hubby sounds a doll! Congrats on your first beautiful diamond, and who knows? It may not be your last.
    I too was never particularly bothered. I got a diamond solitaire when I got engaged at 18 – yes, it was silly and didnt last long (the engagement, not the ring.) My much better half now of 26 yrs has never bought me a ring but I’ve never worried or lusted after one. Till now.
    He comes from a particularly unromantic family. His twin brother recently gave his wife an eternity ring – in a parcel of fish and chips!

  8. LOL at the fish and chips, Jan. I reckon that’s sweet and romantic in its own way, probably because it’s “him” and not a fake sentiment.

    Bron, who would love to find an eternity ring in her fish and chips but my dh is not a jewellery-buying type either!

  9. Those are beautiful diamonds!

    Any one can be given to me… I am not picky!!!

  10. Patricia Cochran Says:

    When we married, Honey and I couldn’t afford diamonds even if I had
    wanted one! For our 25th anniversary, I finally accepted a diamond
    solitaire and for our 40th anniversary, we settled on an anniversary ring.
    This year, for our 47th, I’ve told Honey I’d rather have a nice quiet
    dinner with him! Diamonds are nice to look at, but I’d rather surround
    myself with my grandchildren!! They are my jewels!!!

  11. Jan, you devil – haha, I refuse to go to those sites! Not only will I spend too much time on them, but it’ll be too painful. I can’t even afford lunch right now, much less super expensive jewelry :-P. Maybe some day… as to the fish and chips – that made me laugh =) but I’m sure there’s a very sweet story to it.
    I too have no diamonds, but that might be for the best because I tend to treat jewelry abominably. :-X

  12. Hi Lily, I’ll toss you for the Steinmetz, quick, before the others get here! Love your name, btw, I decided yesterday to change my latest heroine’s name from Ellie to Lily, I’ll play with it for a day or so to see if it fits.

    Gosh Patricia, I thought I was doing well at 26 or 27 years (even tho I’m not married to him!) 47 is amazing. And you’re right, of course. It’s not ‘things’ that ring our bells, it’s people. Good luck with the competition.

  13. Hey JSL, I know what you mean. When I was writing the Diamonds book, I had the opportunity to go to a real live manufacturing jeweller’s and see how it’s done. I wore my old solitaire (which has absolutely no sentimental value for me now after all these years) and the jeweller was appalled at the state of it. He said this ring looks like it hasn’t been cleaned in twenty years. I said more! And then he cleaned it!! I hung my head in shame.
    I don’t deserve the Steinmetz Pink…

  14. Patricia Cochran Says:


    Thanks for the good luck wishes!

    I’ve just been looking at some photos of my “jewels.” They are all
    growing like weeds and the count stands at 9 plus! Number 10, who
    is a boy, is due to arrive late in April. Honey and I are so proud
    of each and every one!

    Pat Cochran

  15. Hi everyone; I just discovered this blog and already enjoyed the
    info on Diamonds, a girl’s best friend. I love almost every
    shape; I love the bling. There can be too much sparkle
    for me though, believe it or not.
    I could use every one of the diamonds you’ve shown and
    each ring in a different size being my ring size fluctuates
    a lot.

  16. This blog is so full of stunning information. I haven’t gotten a diamond and all these are so beautiful so any will do as long as they sparkle

  17. Hi Robynl. Well I think the pendant we’re giving away as a prize on this blog will be perfect for you, no need to worry about ring-sizes and it’s understated and elegant as opposed to too sparkly. Make sure you follow the clues and save your answers.

    You too, Christa! You might just be the most dedicated Desire reader I know so to win a diamond pendant from the Downunder Desirabelles would be fantastic, yes??

    Wouldn’t it be amazing to ‘stumble’ upon a diamond? There is a park of some kind in the States where people can go to find their own diamond, some quite big ones have been found. Now I’ve said that, I know I have to go and look it up.

  18. Here ’tis – isn’t the internet wonderful? It’s called the Crater of Diamonds and it’s in Arkansas. A Wisconsin man in Oct 07 found a 1.92 carat diamond one day and a 3.92 carat the next! it costs about $6 to get in. You keep what you find. I guess maybe they sprinkle – or I think the term is salt the place with stones.
    Anyone from Arkansas?

  19. Jan, that’s so nice and funny that the jeweler couldn’t resist not cleaning your solitaire. I like to think that as I get more jewelry I’ll learn to treat it better… As to that park in Arkansas… time to plan a trip! O:D

  20. OKay, time to draw for the prize – a gorgeous Aussie calendar and a copy of one of Yvonne Lindsay’s books. :::rolls barrel::: It’s # 4! Counting down on messages… it’s JSL! Yay! Email me at paula@paularoe.com with your address and I’ll get your prizes off asap!

  21. Congratulations, Jennifer. Enjoy your prizes!

  22. Congratulations, JSL! I’m sure you’ll enjoy both the Aussie calendar and Yvonne’s book.

  23. Congrats, Jennifer! Enjoy and may the force be with you for the diamond pendant – or any of the other great prizes we’re going to be throwing your way.

  24. Sorry, I meant JSL…

  25. Please include my name in the drawing.

  26. Hi Kayce C. Sorry you’re too late for the prize for this blog, which was drawn on Jan 28. If you want to go into the draw for any other prizes that may pop up on the blogs, you comment on that particular blog. And if you’re interested in the fantastic diamond necklace prize, you pick up the clues that the respective authors have posted and hang on to your answers until the last book is released. There will be an email address posted for you to send your answers to and then you’re in the draw. Check out our contest page for more details. There are some great prizes to be won – enjoy the ride!

  27. How much money would it cost to by one of evey famous diamond?

  28. Hi Angel
    check this out:
    “Jonker Diamond. A fine quality, 726-carat diamond found in South Africa in 1934. It was purchased by the Diamond Producers’ Association for $315,000 and later sold to Harry Winston, New York City gem dealer, for a reported $700,000. After cutting by Lazare Kaplan, of New York, a marquise and eleven emerald cuts resulted. The largest stone, the Jonker, was a 66-facet emerald cut that weighed 142.90 carats; later it was recut to 125.65 carats and 58 facets. After being owned briefly by King Farouk of Egypt (when its estimated value was $1,000,000), it became the property of Queen Ratna, of Nepal.”
    “Jubilee Diamond. A 650.80 carat African diamond, found in 1895. It was named in honor of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, in 1897. It was cut into a 245.35-carat cushion shaped brilliant of excellent quality and exhibited in Paris in 1900. Thereafter, it was owned by an Indian industrialist and a London firm. Since 1937, the gem has been the property of Paul-Louis Weiller, of Paris, who loaned it to the Smithsonian Institution in 1961 for display. Its present value is estimated to be $1,500,000.”
    I would say those are old values. While researching the diamond book, I remember seeing a few large pinks come up for sale and they can fetch 1/2 to 1m per carat. Colourless diamonds less.
    All I know is, I’d have to sell more books than Nora Roberts to even buy a little smidgen of a true pink diamond…

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