On January 25, 1905, at the Premier Mine in South Africa, a 3,106-carat diamond was discovered. The diamond was named the Cullinan and it was the largest rough diamond ever found. However, the Cullinan is only one of many famous diamonds. Here are 5 legendary diamonds and their rich history...
The Cullinan The Cullinan was found in 1905 at the Premier Mine in South Africa and later cut up. It was divided into 105 diamonds (nine major and 96 minor) plus several chips. The cut diamonds were known as "Cullinan #" (such as Cullinan I, Cullinan II, and so on), with "Star of Africa I" and "Star of Africa II" used for the largest two cut stones. The Cullinan I is mounted in the British Sovereign’s Royal Scepter, while the Cullinan II sits in the Imperial State Crown.
The Cullinan might be the largest known rough diamond, but the most notorious is likely the Hope Diamond, a brilliant dark violet-blue diamond weighing 45.52 carats. The Hope was once owned by Louis XIV and was officially designated “the blue diamond of the crown.” Stolen during the French Revolution, it turned up in London in 1830 and was bought by Henry Philip Hope, after whom it is currently named. It was while the diamond was in the possession of the Hope family that it acquired its gruesome reputation for bad luck. Harry Winston purchased the Hope Diamond in 1949, and 9 years later it was given to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C.
The Excelsior The second largest stone ever found is the Excelsior, which was 995.2 carats in the rough. 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 Regent A truly historic diamond discovered in 1701 by an Indian slave near Golconda, it weighed 410 carats in the rough. Once owned by William Pitt, the English Prime Minister, it was cut into a cushion shaped brilliant of 140.50 carats and, until it was sold to the Duke of Orleans, Regent of France when Louis XV was a boy in 1717, was called The Pitt. It was then renamed The Regent and set in the crown Louis XV wore at his coronation. After the French revolution, it was owned by Napoleon Bonaparte who set it in the hilt of his sword. It is now on display in the Louvre.
Taylor-Burton This pear-shaped 69.42 carat diamond was sold at auction in 1969 with the understanding that it could be named by the buyer. Cartier of New York successfully bid for it and immediately christened it “Cartier.” However, the next day Richard Burton bought the stone for Elizabeth Taylor for an undisclosed sum, renaming it the “Taylor-Burton.” It made its debut at a charity ball in Monaco in mid-November where Miss Taylor wore it as a pendant. The famous actress cherished it, but sold it after she divorced Burton and used the $5 million dollars to build a hospital in Botswana.