Diamonds that became world famous and historical include the Koh-i-Noor Diamond, Cullinan Diamond, Orlov Diamond, Great Mogul Diamond and the Hope Diamond.
"From the earliest civilizations, diamonds have been prized possessions. Their rarity, and the immense skill required to release their extraordinary brilliance, makes them unlike any other jewel. Worn by people as potent symbols – of love, devotion, pride, wealth and power – they convey a lexicon of meaning."
Some of the diamonds that have been prized by the ancients as gems of unsurpassed brilliance and beauty and became the symbol of kingship and prestige of individuals are as follows:
The Koh-i-Noor (Mountain of light) dates from before 1304. In that year, Sultan Ala-ed-din is said to have taken it from the Rajah of Maleva in whose family the stone had been for many generations. When it came into the possession of the British in 1849, it was a sort of irregular rose cut weighing 186 carats. It was recut by order of Queen Victoria to a weight of 108.93 carats. It is now part of the Crown of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.
The Cullinan diamond was found in 1905 in the Transvaal, South Africa by an overseer of mines and named after the chairman of the company. This magnificent gem weighed 3,106 carat, or slightly over 1 1/3 pounds (621 grams), when found. It was purchased by the South African government and presented to King Edward VII of Great Britain. A 530.2 carats was cut from it and renamed Star of Africa by George V, successor of Edward II. Other stones weighing 317.4 carats and seven other large gems, ranging from 94.45 to 4.39 carats each and 96 others with a total weight of 7.55 carats, were cut from it. On final cutting, a loss of 66 percent by weight had resulted. Its two main portions are set in the British crown jewels.
Great Mogul Diamond
There are records of a very large Indian diamond, called the Great Mogul, which was cut to a weight of 240 carats by Hortensio Borghese, a Venetian lapidary about 1665.
The fabled diamond is now lost, although presumed by historians to have been re-cut as the Orlov
The Orlow or Orlov (pronounced Orloff) Is another large diamond of Indian origin. Its weight is 193 carats. It is recorded that this stone – and another of comparable size were set as eyes in the head of an image in a Hindu temple. It is said that a French soldier stole one of the diamonds and sold it to an English captain, who sold it to a Jewish merchant, who sold it again to Catherine II, Empress of Russia.
It is currently part of the Kremlin diamond fund, weighing approximately 190 carats (38 g).
The Hope Diamond
This famous diamond is of sapphire-blue and extremely brilliant. It weighs 44 1/8 carats. It was broughtf rom India by Ravernier (traveler-jeweller 1605-1689), sold to Louis XIV of France, and lost during the French revolution but found again afterwards and purchased by the wealthy banker Thomas Hope. It (or its largest part) has passed to several purchasers before Harry Winston gave it to the Smithsonian Institution in 1958, that also contributed to its fame.
"Today like every day, thousands to tens of thousands of visitors will press into the Harry Winston Gallery of the Smithsonian’s Geology, Gems and Minerals exhibition to experience the beauty, magic and mystery of the Hope Diamond, making it, perhaps, the most visited museum object in the world."
The Pitt, or Regent diamond has had several owners—East Indian, British, and French, famous and otherwise. It now weighs 140.5 carats, having been reduced in size from a rough of 410 carats. Other historical and colored diamonds are the Sancy, the Shah, the Nassak, and the Dresden Green. After the Cullinan, is the Exelsior, discovered in South Africa in 1893, which weighed 995.2 carats. Another is the Star of Sierra Leone, weighing 969.8 carats, which was found in 1972.
1. Collier’s Encyclopedia, Vol. 8 © 1996 By P. F. Collier, L. P.
2. Precious Stones by W. B. Crow, © A. M. Crow 1980