Famous Diamonds: A Glimpse into History and Myth

Diamonds have fascinated humanity for centuries, not only for their beauty but also for their complex and often controversial histories. Here are some of the most renowned diamonds in the world, each with a unique story to tell.

The Star of Africa

At 530.20 carats, the Cullinan I, or Star of Africa, is the largest cut diamond in the world. This pear-shaped gem with 74 facets is set in the Royal Scepter, part of the British Crown Jewels housed in the Tower of London. The Cullinan I was cut from the 3,106-carat Cullinan diamond, the largest diamond crystal ever found, discovered in 1905 in the Premier Mine of South Africa. Joseph Asscher and Company of Amsterdam spent six months examining the crystal before cutting it into nine major stones and 96 smaller brilliant-cut stones.

The Excelsior

The Excelsior is probably the second-largest diamond ever found, discovered in 1893 by a South African mine worker. This high-clarity, blue-white stone was irregular in shape and was ultimately cut into 21 polished stones, with the largest being a 69.80-carat marquise. A smaller 18-carat marquise stone cut from the Excelsior was displayed at the 1939 World’s Fair by De Beers.

The Great Mogul

Named after Shah Jehan, the builder of the Taj Mahal, the Great Mogul is the third-largest gem-quality diamond ever found. Discovered in the mid-17th century in Hyderabad, India, its current whereabouts are unknown. The diamond has been confused with several other famous stones, including the Orloff, and was famously described by the traveler Tavernier as looking like an egg, weighing 280 old carats.

The Darya-i-Nur

The Darya-i-Nur is a flawless, transparent pink diamond estimated to weigh between 175 and 195 carats. It is the largest and most remarkable gem in the Iranian Crown Jewels, captured during Persia’s attack on Delhi in 1739. The diamond is set in a gold frame adorned with other diamonds and topped by a crown featuring lions with ruby eyes holding scimitars. It was worn by the last Shah of Iran for his coronation in 1967.

The Koh-i-Nur

The Koh-i-Nur, meaning “Mountain of Light,” has a storied history dating back to 1304. It was captured by the Rajahs of Malwa in the 16th century and later came into the possession of the Mughal emperors. After changing hands multiple times, it was presented to Queen Victoria in 1850 by the British East India Company. Originally weighing 186 carats, it was later recut to 108.93 carats and is now part of the British Crown Jewels in the Tower of London.

The Hope Diamond

The Hope Diamond, a 45.52-carat blue diamond, is infamous for its supposed curse. Thought to be part of the Blue Tavernier Diamond, it was brought to Europe from India in 1642 and later purchased by King Louis XIV. After being stolen during the French Revolution, it resurfaced and was sold to Henry Thomas Hope in 1839. The diamond eventually came into the possession of American widow Mrs. Edward McLean, whose family experienced a series of tragedies. The Hope Diamond is now displayed at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

New Famous Diamonds

The Pink Star

Discovered in 1999, the Pink Star is a 59.60-carat oval-cut pink diamond that holds the record for the highest price ever paid for a diamond at auction. This vivid pink diamond was sold for $71.2 million at a Sotheby’s auction in 2017. Its exceptional size and color make it one of the most celebrated diamonds of the 21st century.

The Lesedi La Rona

The Lesedi La Rona, discovered in Botswana in 2015, is the second-largest gem-quality diamond ever found, weighing 1,109 carats. Its name means “Our Light” in Tswana. This rough diamond was sold for $53 million and has since been cut into several smaller, high-quality diamonds.

Diamond Magic

Historically, diamonds were believed to possess magical, mystical, and medicinal properties. Their phosphorescence (ability to glow in the dark) was considered evidence of their extraordinary powers. Diamonds were thought to calm the mentally ill, ward off evil spirits, and protect against nightmares. They were also believed to impart virtue, generosity, and courage, and to ensure favorable outcomes in legal disputes. Medieval beliefs included the idea that diamonds could heal if warmed by the body or worn next to the skin.


Famous diamonds carry with them rich histories and legends, reflecting humanity’s enduring fascination with these remarkable gems. From the ancient beliefs in their mystical powers to their storied journeys through history, diamonds continue to captivate and intrigue people around the world.