The world's most famous diamonds are its largest diamonds. At staggering weights up to thousands of carats, these diamonds have been cut, re-shaped and sold many times, contributing to their rich, interesting histories. Despite diamond's natural, clear brilliance, some of these stones have a dark side.
Detailed below are some of the leading contenders:
This 3,106-carat diamond is the largest diamond ever found. It was discovered in 1905 in Transvaal, South Africa.
In 1907, the diamond was presented to King Edward VII of England. Later, it was cut into nine major stones, including the 530.20-carat Star of Africa diamond that is set in the Royal Scepter displayed in the Tower of London.
Possibly the most famous diamond in America, this 45.52-carat diamond is on display at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. Its history dates back to the 1600s, when it was originally a 112.1875-carat diamond. In 1668, it was purchased by King Louis XIV, of France. It is believed to have been originally found in the Kollur mine in Golconda, India. The diamond was recut in 1673, creating a smaller 67.125-carat stone.
Perhaps the second-largest diamond ever found, the Excelsior was found in 1893 in South Africa. The original stone weighed about 995 carats. In 1904, I.J. Asscher and Company of Amsterdam cut the Excelsior into 21 polished stones weighing between 1 and 70 carats.
Like the Cullinan Diamond, its predecessor had a fault that prevented its becoming a single gem; this was a black spot in the centre which made it necessary to cleave it, as the Cullinan was cleaved. After prolonged study it was decided to first cleave the diamond into ten pieces: this operation which was performed by Mr. A. Asscher, resulting in the three largest pieces weighing 158, 147 and 130 carats. The larger portion was cut into an absolutely perfect brilliant, weighing 239 international carats of 205 milligrams and measuring one and five-eighths inches in length, one and three-eighths in breadth, and one inch in depth.
The Millennium Star
The Millennium Star weighed 777 carats in the rough, and is the sixth largest diamond of gem quality ever discovered. In 1999, De Beers unveiled the De Beers Millennium Jewels - the centrepiece being the De Beers Millennium Star, a ‘D’ colour, flawless pear-shaped stone weighing 203.04 carats.
The rest of the Millennium Jewels were made up of eleven rare blue diamonds with a total weight of 118 carats. The largest was the Heart of Eternity weighing 27.64 carats.
In the end the diamond was shaped into a classic pear, with 54 facets. Harry Oppenheimer remarked that it was the most beautiful diamond he had ever seen. The De Beers Millennium Jewels were displayed in the Millennium Dome at Greenwich in London, in the year 2000, and later at exhibitions in Tokyo and Dubai.
The Eureka Diamond is perhaps the single most important diamond in the history of South African mining.
Discovered in 1866 by children digging amongst the shrubbery of their father's land, it remained for some time "undiscovered" - a mere plaything for the children of Dutch farmer Daniel Johannes Jacobus Jacobs. No one in the farmer's home took it to be anything more than an attractive rock, and it was not until a neighbour farmer, Schalk van Niekerk, who possessed a smattering of geological knowledge noticed the stone whilst visiting the Jacobs' farmhouse.
In 1946 the Times reported that £5,700 had been paid at a Christie's public auction for a diamond bangle of 20 large stones with the Eureka as its centrepiece. It remained in a private collection until, in 1967, exactly 100 years after its discovery, De Beers purchased the Eureka, gifting it to the people of South Africa.