Throughout history, diamonds have been prized and valued for their beauty and rarity.
Diamonds were first discovered about 5000 years ago in India and used for decoration and jewelry. But it wasn’t until 300 BC that Alexander the Great brought diamonds to Europe. In Austria in 1477, the first diamond engagement ring was given to Mary of Burgundy.
Over the centuries, some diamonds became notable for reasons other than beauty, including their history, owners, and more. Let’s take a look at some of the most famous diamonds in the world today as well as how diamonds are evaluated.
The Hope Diamond
The Hope Diamond might be the most famous diamond in all of history. It is a bit over 45 carats in weight (don’t worry, we’ll explain more about carat weight later on in this post) and has a beautiful blue color caused by boron deposits hidden in the diamond itself.
But its fame and notoriety are due to its history, not just its physical characteristics.
The Hope Diamond was discovered in India around the year 1600. Over the past 400+ years, it has traveled from India to France to England (where it was named for its owner Thomas Hope) and eventually wound up in the United States, where it is currently on display in the National Gallery. Throughout its history there have been controversies surrounding its ownership, as well as rumors of a curse.
Nearly a dozen owners of the Hope Diamond have died or met with misfortune, including Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI (both decapitated by guillotine). Plus there’s the tale of William Fals, a jeweler who cut the Hope Diamond, whose life was said to have ended in ruin.
Is the curse real? We may never know. But it hasn’t stopped the Hope Diamond from becoming one of the most valuable and famous diamonds in the world, with a value estimated at $200-300 million dollars!
The Great Star of Africa
The largest diamond ever discovered is known as The Great Star of Africa or the Cullinan Diamond. Found in South Africa in 1905, it weighed nearly 1.5 pounds before being cut and was nearly twice the size of the next largest diamond at the time.
It was purchased by the British government for £150,000 and cut into 9 large and 96 small diamonds. The two largest became centerpieces of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom. Today, their value is almost immeasurable, with some estimates as high as $400 million.
The Orlov Diamond
The Orlov Diamond, currently property of the Russian government, has a long and sordid history. Perhaps found as early as the year 300 AD, it was part of a Hindu temple, serving as the eye of a revered god. Around 1750, the diamond was stolen by a French soldier.
Eventually, it was purchased by Grigory Orlov who was in the midst of an affair with Catherine the Great. He presented her with the diamond as a token of his love and she had it made into the sceptre you see above.
The Orlov Diamond is nearly 200 carats. Interestingly, that figure is simply an estimate because it has never been formally weighed or inspected. Or if it has, those details have been lost to history. It’s also unique because even with such a long history, it still maintains its original Indian rose-style cut.
The Regent Diamond
The Regent Diamond (a sketch of which appears above) has quite a grisly backstory. It was found by a slave in a 17th century diamond mine, who hid the uncut diamond inside of a cut in his leg. His theft was discovered by the captain of a slave ship, who stole the diamond and killed the slave.
It was eventually cut into a 141 carat diamond and sold to the Duke of Orleans in 1717 and made into a crown for King Louis XV in 1775. During the French Revolution, The Regent Diamond was stolen and hidden in the rafters of a farm house, eventually being recovered in 1801 by Napoleon!
It has been on display in the Louvre since 1887 and has an estimated value of $100,000,000.
Crater of Diamonds State Park
The above picture might not look like much, but it’s one of the most productive (and accessible) diamond mines in the United States.
This isn’t the story of a single diamond, but rather an amazing place here in the United States. Crater of Diamonds State Park is located in Arkansas and sits atop an ancient (and extinct) volcano. Turns out, this is the perfect place for diamonds to form.
For over 100 years, diamonds have been found here, often by people simply walking around the park’s loamy soil. Since 1972, the park has been open to the public who can pay a small fee to wander around, searching for diamonds. Nearly 600 diamonds are found every year!
One of the most perfect diamonds in history, the Strawn-Wagner Diamond, was discovered here in 1990. It received the first ever perfect score from the Gemological Institute of America and has been considered a one-in-a-billion find.
Recently, in June of 2015, an 8.52 carat diamond was discovered by Bobbie Oskarson of Longmont, Colorado.
If you’re ever in the area, check it out! You never know what you might discover!
The 5 Cs of Evaluating Diamonds
If you’re shopping for a diamond, or thinking about selling yours, you’re not likely to be looking at one of the most famous diamonds in the world. But, you should still know how diamonds are evaluated and how you can make the best decision when it comes to buying or selling a diamond.
There’s a common rule of thumb called “The 5 Cs.” This refers to 5 characteristics that are the basis for evaluating and assigning a valuation to a diamond.
Don’t confuse carats with karats. Karats, with a “K” are how jewelers measure the purity of gold. A diamond’s weight is measured in units called carats– with a “C”.
Over the centuries, the definition of a carat has changed. But today, jewelers around the world have settled on a carat as equaling .2 grams. That’s roughly the same as a small coffee bean.
Carats matter, because larger diamonds are much more rare than smaller ones, making them increasingly more valuable. For example, all other things being equal, a 2 carat diamond may be worth 4 times as much as a 1 carat diamond, because the larger size is so much more rare.
A raw diamond is just a lumpy rock. It takes the skill of an expert to cut it into the diamond shapes we’re all so familiar with. That shape is known as the “cut.”
Common shapes include:
- Round – The most popular cut and the shape most people think of when they imagine a diamond.
- Princess – A modern square cut, popular for engagement rings.
- Brilliant – A many-faceted cut meant to reflect light and maximize a diamond’s brilliance.
- Radiant – The first square cut, and a style that looks great when set amidst smaller round cut diamonds.
- Royal – A very technically demanding cut, requiring the steady hand of a skilled jeweler. The Royal cut has 74 faces!
When evaluating a white diamond, it is assigned a grade from D to Z depending on how white (also known as colorless) they are. Diamonds with a grade of D,E, or F are considered truly colorless and are the most valuable white diamonds. Most retail white diamonds will have a grade of D to K or L.
Aside from white diamonds, there are also colored diamonds that come in all colors of the rainbow, including blue, purple, and red.
If you’ve ever heard someone mention a flawless diamond, they’re talking about one that’s perfectly clear with no external or internal flaws. When identifying these flaws, also known as inclusions, a jeweler will look at the diamond under 10x magnification.
Small flaws may be barely visible even under high magnification, while larger inclusions will be visible to the naked eye. Too many flaws and a diamond may start to look cloudy or even black in places.
Several professional organizations offer certifications of diamonds. A certification is an independent analysis and objective rating of a diamond. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) is the oldest certifying association and the most common and trusted certification available.
A diamond certification report will include the results of a variety of tests, measurements and observations, including:
- Depth – Refers to the height of the diamond from the base (known as the culet) to the top face (known as the table). A diamond with a short depth will appear larger when viewed from the top compared to a deeper diamond of the same carat count.
- Fluorescence – Refers to how much a diamond glows under ultraviolet light and is considered to be a flaw.
- Cut and Color Grade – Certifications often include a grade for other aspects of the diamond, including its cut and color.
Other diamond certifiers include the American Gem Society (AGS), International Gemological Institute (IGI), and European Gemological Laboratory (EGL). You should also remember that a lab certification isn’t the same as an insurance appraisal.
Selling Your Diamonds in Washington DC
If you’re thinking about selling your diamonds, contact us to learn more. We offer private, secure, professional evaluations and we offer the best prices for diamonds in the Washington DC area.
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