Weight: 3106ct rough
Origin: Transvaal, South Africa
The Cullinan, the largest gem quality diamond ever found, was discovered at the Premier Mine on 26th January 1905. The rough diamond was nearly flawless and named the Cullinan in honour of Sir Thomas Cullinan, the founder of the Premier Mine, who was visiting that very day. Louis Botha, premier of the Transvaal, persuaded his government to buy the diamond for approx. US $1 million and presented it to England’s King Edward VII as a token of thanks for granting Transvaal its own constitution.
The Cullinan was handed to Amsterdam’s House of Asscher to polish. The diamond was divided into 9 major gemstones, 96 smaller stones and about 19.5cts of unpolished pieces. The two largest gems were kept for England’s regalia and the rest went to Asscher as payment. King Edward bought one of the major gems for his consort, Queen Alexandra. The Transvaal government bought the remaining stones and pieces, and presented the other 6 major gems to Queen Mary in 1910. Two of the small stones were presented to Louis Botha, who gave one to his daughter when she turned 17.
Weight: 10.73ct polished, one of two diamonds cut from 21.25ct of rough
Shape: Oval Brilliant
Origin: Northern Cape, South Africa
The Eureka was discovered per chance by a 15-year-old boy, Erasmus Jacobs, on the south bank of the Orange River near Hopetown, Kimberley in 1867 and later handed it to his neighbour, farmer Schalk van Niekerk, who was a collector of unusual stones. Van Niekerk entrusted the stone to John O’Reilly, a travelling peddler, who sent it in an unsealed envelope to Dr. W.G. Atherstone of Grahamstown, one of the few people who knew anything about minerals and gems. Dr. Atherstone identified the stone as a 21.25ct brownish-yellow diamond and was sold to Sir Phillip Wodehouse for GBP 1,500.
CULLINAN I, STAR OF AFRICA
Weight: 47.75ct polished, 83.50ct rough
Shape: Pear Shape Brilliant
Origin: Zandfontein Farm, South Africa
At 530.20 carats the Cullinan I, or Star of Africa diamond is the largest cut diamond in the world. Pear shaped, with 74 facets, it is set in the Royal sceptre (kept with the other crown jewels in the Tower of London). It was cut from the 3,106 carat Cullinan, the largest diamond crystal ever found. The Cullinan was discovered by Frederick Wells, a mine superintendent in Transvaal, South Africa in 1895 on an inspection tour of the Premier Mine. 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. It eventually yielded nine major and 96 smaller brilliant-cut stones. When the Cullinan was first discovered, certain signs suggested that it could have been part of a much larger crystal, but no discovery of the ‘missing half’ has ever been authenticated.
Shape: Oval Brilliant
Colour: Dark Blue
Clarity: Reported Flawless
Origin: Unknown but believed to originate from India
Widely considered the most famous diamond in the world, the Hope Diamond receives its name from Henry Thomas Hope and was discovered centuries ago in the southern region of India. Long before the fabled bad luck associated with its owners, the Hope Diamond has an illustrious history. It was believed to have a great mystical power that surrounded this unusual size and unique colour, a deep indigo blue. The Hope was reputedly used to adorn the statue of a Hindu idol.
In 1642, the famous Blue Tavernier Diamond from Europe was in the hands of King Louis XIV who had it cut to bring out its brilliance. Later, the diamond was discovered stolen during the French Revolution. For many decades, the Hope Diamond could not be found. It was rumoured, according to legend, jewellers and thieves had previously acquired the stone. Some say, those who owned the blue stone, had some kind of back luck associated with them wherever they went.
At the turn of the century, in 1911, the diamond was purchased by a young American socialite heiress named Evalyn Walsh McLean who bought the Hope Diamond from Cartier for US$185,000. This gift was given to Evalyn by her husband Ned, who owned the Washington Post and Cincinnati Enquire newspapers. After time, Evalyn became convinced that the true power of the Hope Diamond came from the joy and awe which filled the faces of those who gazed upon it. Mrs McLean was the longest private owner and she owned the diamond for 36 years until her death in 1947.
Harry Winston purchased the Hope Diamond from her estate in 1949, and 9 years later it was given to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C.
Weight: 995.2ct rough
Origin: Jagersfontein Mine, South Africa
Probably the second largest stone ever found. A high clarity, blue-white stone, found in 1893 by a South African mine worker who picked it out of a shovel full of gravel. Due to its irregular shape, it was cut into 21 polished stones, of which the largest is a marquise of 69.80 carats. A smaller, 18 carat marquise stone cut from the Excelsior was displayed at the 1939 World’s Fair by De Beers.
The shape of the stone was out of the ordinary: flat on one side and rose to a peak on the other, somewhat like a loaf of rye bread. It is believed that this is what inspired the diamond to be named ‘Excelsior’, meaning higher.
THE STAR OF SIERRA LEONE
Weight: 968.90ct rough
Origin: Yengema, Sierra Leone
Discovered on 14th February 1972, the Star of Sierra Leone is the third largest rough diamond discovered, and the largest alluvial gen diamond ever found. Harry Winston purchased the rough diamond in October 1972, but it was not cut until August 1973. The diamond was originally cut into a 143.02ct Emerald cut, but upon close examination it revealed inclusions. The diamond was recut into seven smaller stones, the largest of which weighs 32.52ct.
THE GOLDEN JUBILEE
Weight: 545.67ct polished
The Golden Jubilee is the largest faceted diamond in the world, weighing 545.67 carats. Gabi Tolkowsky, who also designed the 273.85 carat Centenary Diamond, designed the stone. The Golden Jubilee was purchased from De Beers by a syndicate of Thai business men, and presented to the King of Thailand in 1997 for his Golden Jubilee, the 50th anniversary of his coronation.
Weight: 407,48ct rough
Origin: Mbuji Mayi District, Democratic Republic of Congo
Weighing 407.48 carats, the Incomparable is the third-largest diamond ever cut, surpassed only by the Cullinan 1 and the Golden Jubilee. The stone is remarkable for its internally flawless clarity, its unusual triangular shape, called a ‘triolette’, and its fancy brownish-yellow colour.
The Incomparable was discovered in the Mbuji Mayi district of the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly known as Zaire), almost a decade before the Millennium Star was discovered in the same region.
Weight: 273.85ct polished, 599ct rough
Shape: Pear Shape
Origin: Premier Mine, South Africa
The Centenary was found on 17th July 1986 by the electric X-ray recovery system at the Premier Mine. Only a handful of people knew about it and all were sworn to silence. In its rough form, it resembled an irregular matchbox with angular planes, a prominent elongated horn jutting out at one corner and a deep concave on the largest flat surface. The shape of the stone expressed problems in cutting with no apparent solution.
De Beers unveiled the Centenary Diamond, the world’s second-largest modern-cut flawless diamond, on the company’s 100th birthday in 1988. At 273.85 carats, this stone is remarkable for its numerous facets: 164 on the stone and 83 on the girdle. The stone was cut from a 599ct flawless rough diamond and was found in the renowned De Beers Group Premier Mine, birthplace to many other famous diamonds such as the Cullinan and the Heart of Eternity. The Centenary is the largest modern fancy cut diamond in the world and the only one to combine the oldest methods – such as kerfing – with the most sophisticated modern technology in cutting.
Weight: 245.35ct polished, 650.80ct rough
Shape: Cushion Cut
Origin: Free State, South Africa (Originally known as the Orange Free State)
The Jubilee Diamond was discovered by workers in the Jagersfontein Mine in 1895 and weighed 650.80ct rough. Initially named the Reitz Diamond, at the time it was the world’s second-largest known diamond. Currently, it is the sixth-largest diamond ever discovered. The diamond was cut into two large diamonds of exceptional colour, clarity and brilliance. The larger of the two diamonds was named the Jubilee in honour of the sixteenth anniversary of Queen Victoria’s coronation. A consortium of London diamond merchants comprising the firms of Wernher, Beit & Co., Barnato Bros. and Mosenthal Sons & Co. acquired the Jubilee together with the Excelsior.
THE DE BEERS
Origin: De Beers Mine, Kimberley South Africa
Not long after the formation of De Beers Consolidated Mines Limited in March 1888, a huge light yellow octahedral crystal was found in the De Beers Mine. The gem weighed 428.50 old carats (old carats being the pre-1913 non-metric carat) and measured 47.6 mm through its longest axis and 38.1 mm square. Excluding Victoria, aka the Great White or Jacob, the source of which remains doubtful, the De Beers was the largest diamond found at the four mines at Kimberley during that time period.
Weighing 234.65 carats, the De Beers is the seventh largest faceted diamond in the world, not including the Nizam, a now-lost stone which is said to have been only partially cut. It isn’t known where the De Beers was cut, but because of its pre-eminence as a cutting centre at the time it is very likely that the work was carried out in Amsterdam.
After its display in Paris, the Maharaja of Patiala bought the De Beers. In 1928 Cartier of Paris set it as the centrepiece of a ceremonial necklace that came to be known as the Patiala Necklace. Sometime during the 1930′s the diamond was acquired by its present owners who loaned it in 1973 for an exhibition in Israel.
THE MILLENNIUM STAR
Weight: 203.04ct polished, 777ct rough
A near-perfect diamond, weighing a magical 777 carats in the rough, falls into the hands of an alluvial digger from a small village. He approaches a De Beers diamond buyer stationed nearby and sells the magical stone. After several years of deliberation, the cut is decided, yielding 203.04 carats of stunning, internally and externally flawless pear-shaped stone. It is the second-largest faceted D-flawless diamond in the world; the 273.15 carat Centenary Diamond is the first. The Millennium Star is arguably the most beautiful diamond in the world and one that experts have declared priceless.
The Millennium Star is the centrepiece of the company’s Limited Edition Millennium Diamonds collection, which further consists of 11 highly unusual blue diamond’s cut into a variety of shapes, having a total weight of 118 carats.
Weight: 142.90ct polished, 726ct rough
Origin: Elandsfontein, Pretoria South Africa
Discovered on 16th January 1934 by Mr. Jonker, this diamond was sold to Sir Ernest Oppenheimer for the equivalent of US $700,000. The rough diamond yielded 12 beautiful stones, the largest of which is name the Jonker and weighs 142.90ct.
THE PREMIER ROSE
Weight: 137.02ct polished, 353.9ct rough
Shape: Pear Shape
Origin: Premier Mine, South Africa
Weighing 137.02 carats, Premier Rose is one of the largest D-colour flawless diamonds in the world. In March 1978 the Premier Mine in South Africa, the mine that produced the 1,306 carats Cullinan Diamond, yielded yet another remarkable diamond, triangular-shaped cleavage of the finest colour, weighing 353.9 carats. Like an earlier gem found at the Premier, the Niarchos, this one too travelled right through the various stages of mining recovery only to emerge at the final one, the grease table in the recovery plant.
THE TIFFANY YELLOW DIAMOND
Weight: 128.54ct polished, 287.42ct rough
Shape: Cushion Cut
Origin: Kimberley, South Africa
The Tiffany Yellow Diamond, one of the largest fancy yellow diamonds ever discovered. It weighed 287.42ct in the rough when discovered in 1878 in the Kimberley mine in South Africa, and was cut into a cushion shape of 128.54cts with 90 facets – 32 more than a traditional round brilliant – to maximize its brilliance. It appears in the ‘Bird on a Rock’, a setting designed in the early 1960s by Jean Schlumberger, loaned by Tiffany & Co., New York.
THE NIARCHOS DIAMOND
Weight: 128.25ct polished, 426.5ct rough
Shape: Pear Shape
The diamond weighed 426.5 carats, was internally flawless, but was slightly chipped, probably due to contact with the mine’s underground crusher. Sir Ernest Oppenheimer considered that it possessed the most perfect colour of any diamond he had seen, an opinion shared by others who were fortunate enough to view it. In due course, the unnamed diamond was shipped to London and in February of 1956 it was announced by the Diamond Trading Company that a sale of rough diamonds totalling GBP 3,000,000 had been made to the firm of Harry Winston Inc. of New York. At the time this transaction represented the largest single sale ever made to one of its clients.
Ultimately it yielded a pear shape weighing 128.25 carats, possessing 58 facets, plus 86 facets around the girdle, totalling 144. On February 27th, 1957, the ‘Ice Queen’, as de Haan had nicknamed it, was unveiled to the world. The April 1958 edition of National Geographic magazine featured an article on diamonds, in which the Niarchos’ cutting process was shown.
Soon after, the late Stavros Niarchos, the Greek shipping magnate, bought the gem for his then wife, formerly Charlotte Ford, for a reported US $2,000,000. Members of the Ford family were not polite, referring to the diamond as ‘the Skating Rink’, but Niarchos remained unperturbed, having also bought the two other gems that had been fashioned from the original 426-carat rough. For that amount, and after they were divorced, he was surely entitled to bestow his name upon the diamond which he generously lent to many exhibitions. In 1966 the Niarchos returned to South Africa for the famous centennial ‘Jewel Box 1966′ exhibition. Since his death in April of 1996, no further information about the Niarchos Diamond has been forthcoming.
Weight: 108.93ct rough
Shape: Brilliant Cut
This diamond was discovered around the 13th Century but only received the name Koh-I-Noor in 1739 when a Persian conqueror, Nadir Shah, took Delhi and acquired the diamond. He named it Koh-I-Noor meaning ‘Mountain of Light’. The diamond was given to Queen Victoria in 1850 and weighed 186ct. In 1852 it was cut into a Round Brilliant weighing 108.93ct. The diamond has been used in the crowns of various Kings and Queens and is currently on display in the Tower of London.
THE GREAT MOGUL
Weight: approx. 793ct rough
The diamond was discovered in the 17th Century. It was named after Shah Jehan who built the Taj Mahal. Its current location remains unknown.
THE TAYLOR BURTON
Weight: 69.42ct polished, 240.80ct rough
Origin: Premier Mine
By far the best known of Richard Burton’s purchases was the 69.42-carat pear shape, later to be called the Taylor-Burton Diamond. It was cut from a rough stone weighing 240.80 carats found in the Premier Mine in 1966 and subsequently bought by Harry Winston. After the rough piece of 240.80 carats arrived in New York, Harry Winston and his cleaver, Pastor Colon Jr. studied it for six months. Markings were made, erased and redrawn to show where the stone could be cleaved. There came the day appointed for the cleaving, and in this instance, the usual tension that surrounds such an operation was increased by the heat and glare of the television lights that had been allowed into the workroom. After he had cleaved the stone, the 50-year-old cleaver said nothing – he reached across the workbench for the piece of diamond that had separated from it and looked at it through his horn-rimmed glasses for a fraction of a second before exclaiming ‘Beautiful!’. This piece of rough weighed 78 carats was expected to yield a stone of about 24 carats, while the large piece, weighing 162 carats, was destined to produce a pear shape whose weight had originally been expected to be about 75 carats.
Weight: 55.09ct polished (previously 70ct polished)
Cut: Step Cut
Origin: Kimberley, South Africa
A flawless, 70-carat, step cut, the champagne-coloured diamond was found in the Kimberley Mine, South Africa. It was recut into this modern shape in 1921 from a large, flat stone that was once in the Russian Crown Jewels. In 1958, the stone was again recut by its owners, Baumgold Bros., New York City, to improve the proportions and increase brilliancy. It now weighs 55.09carats and is valued by the firm at the US $500,000, but is probably worth considerably more. Baumgold Bros. sold the stone in 1971 to an undisclosed collector.
HEART OF ETERNITY
Weight: 27.64ct polished
This 27.64 carats heart-shaped stone is renowned for the intensity of its colour, described by experts as ‘vivid blue’. The Heart of Eternity was one of 11 rare blue diamond’s unveiled to the world in January 2000 as part of a special collection of De Beers Millennium Jewels. This collection, which also featured the famous Millennium Star, was gathered by the De Beers Group over many years to celebrate the new millennium.