The Ten Most Famous Diamonds in the World

This page was created by Jim Odgers to fulfill an assignment for Gemstones and Gemology, an online course offered by Emporia State University.  Information on famous diamonds is paraphrased from the textbook Gemstones of the World [1], as well as other sources.

Table of Contents

     Diamond Facts

     Carat, karat or carrot?

     10 Greatest Diamonds

     Honorable Mention

     Greatest Gem Rough


Diamond Facts   

v    Up to eighty percent of the world's diamonds are only suitable for industrial purposes.

v   Diamond is the hardest naturally occurring substance known to manthe only thing that can cut a diamond is another diamond.

v    Diamonds are crystals formed out of carbon.

v   Diamond is considered a traditional engagement ring in many parts of the world and an anniversary gift for the sixtieth and seventy-fifth years of marriage.

v   Some diamonds glow blue or orange when they are exposed to ultraviolet light.

v    The earliest diamonds came from India, and were found in the beds of streams.

v    Pink diamonds are rather common in Australian diamond mines. A one carat pink diamond recently sold for over $850,000.

v    Diamonds are formed 190 miles or more beneath the earth's surface, and rise upward through kimberlite and lamproite igneous pipes.

v    The Brilliant Cut is most often seen today and has gradually evolved since the early 1600's. Today it has 58 facets.

v    Until very recently, eighty percent of the world diamond trade was controlled by DeBeers. This cartel kept the value of diamonds at a consistent level.

v    Diamonds are evaluated by the four C's: Color, Clarity, Cut, and Caratage.

v    The Hope Diamond is in the Smithsonian Institution.

Carat, karat, carrot?

   The term carat refers to a unit of weight equivalent to 200 milligrams or 0.2 grams. Since an ounce is 28.3 grams, a diamond has to weigh 141.5 carats to equal an ounce or 2264 carats to equal a pound.

   The term karat refers to a ratio and is used in describing the fineness of gold. Ten karat gold is 10/24ths (41%) pure gold. Fourteen karat gold is 14/24ths (58%). Twenty-four karat gold is not normally used is association with diamond jewelry because the prongs created with it are too soft and bendable to hold a gemstone.

   A carrot is an umbelliferous plant of the genus Daucus. In cultivation it is valued for its yellowish edible root(aka veggie).

The 10 Greatest Diamonds  

Dresden Hope Cullinan I
Star of Africa
Sancy Tiffany
Koh-I-Noor Cullinan IV Nassak Shah Florentine

The Dresden diamond weighs 41 carats. It probably came from India, but its early history is obscure. Schumann (1995) stated it was supposedly bought in 1742 by Friedrich August II, Duke of Saxony, for 400,000 taler. Kept in the Green Hall in Dresden.[2]  This diamond is cut in a pear shape and has a beautiful emerald-green color.

The Hope Diamond is a 45.52 cart diamond, and is now in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.  It first appeared in the diamond trade in 1830.  It was first bought by a banker whose name was H. Ph. Hope, and it is believed the diamond was cut from a larger gemstone.  The Hope diamond has an emerald cut and is a deep blue color.  The Hope diamond became the property of the Smithsonian in 1958.

The Cullinan I, Star of Africa, is a pear shaped fine white diamond that weighs a whopping 520.02 carats. It has the further distinction of being cut from the largest rough diamond ever found--the Cullinan--which weighed 3106 carats or over 1 pounds. The Cullinan I gets its name from Sir Thomas Cullinan who was chairman of the mining company that discovered it. The Cullinan was discovered in 1905. It was purchased by the Transvaal Government and presented to King Edward VII of England, [3] In 1908 the diamond cutting firm Asscher in Amsterdam, Holland cut the Cullinan I and 104 other diamonds from the original piece of rough stone.  The Cullinan I is kept in the Tower of London.  The gem adorns the scepter of the English king and is by far the largest cut diamond in the world.

The Sancy is a 55 carat diamond, and is also cut in a pear shape. It has been a cut stone for over five hundred years. Legend has it that it was worn by Charles the Brave in the 1470s. It was bought on the open market in 1570 by Signeur de Sancy, whose name has been associated with the diamond ever since. The stone has belonged to the Astor family of London since 1906.

The Tiffany diamond comes from the famous Kimberley mine in South Africa. The Tiffany diamond weighs 128.51 carats, and was cut from a piece of rough stone that weighed 287.42 carats. The diamond has 90 facets, was cut in Paris, and was bought by the jewelers Tiffany of New York. The Tiffany diamond is a yellow- orange, almost amber, color.

The Koh-i-noor diamond has a long and controversial history, first mentioned as being acquired in 1304 from an Indian family who had owned the stone for generations. Other accounts of the stone's history begin in 1526, while conflicting reports contend the stone was mined near the Krishna River and presented to an emperor in 1656. The diamond did originate in India though and was stolen from Delhi in 1739, taken to Iran. From Iran it was acquired by Afghans, who lost it to Indian rulers, who then came under British rule in 1849 and placed the diamond among the crown jewels. Koh-i-noor's first faceting resulted in a 191 carat irregular shaped gem with little fire, somewhat contrary to the translation of Koh-i-noor, which means mountain of light. It was recut to enhance brilliance and fire, reducing the size to a 109 carat, shallow, oval brilliant cut. [4]

The Cullinan IV is one of the 105 stones that were cut from the greatest piece of rough diamond ever found. It weighs 63.60 carats. It was once in the crown of Queen Mary, and can be removed from the crown to be worn as a brooch. It is stored in the Tower of London.

The Nassak diamond originally weighed over 90 carats. It as in the Temple of Shiva near Nassak (namesake). In 1818 the English looted the temple and in 1927 the stone as re-cut in New York. It has been in private possession in the United States ever since. The stone has a rounded-corner triangular shape.

The Shah diamond came from India and weigh 88.70 carats. Ithas the names of three monarchs engraved on it, including the Shah of Persia (namesake). It is now in the Kremlin in Moscow, where it has been since 1829, when it was given as a gift to Tsar Nicholas. It is partly polished along its cleavage planes.

The 137.27 carat Florentine diamond is a yellow diamond. In 1657 in the possession of the Medici family in Florence (hence the name). During the 18th century in the Halsburg crown, then used as a brooch. Whereabouts after First World War unknown.[5]

Very Honorable Mention--Cut Stones

Cullinan II
317.40 carats

273.00 carats

De Beers
234.50 carats

Great Mogul
280.00 carats

125.65 carats

Jubilee or Reitz
245.35 carats

277.00 carats

189.60 carats

Regent or Pitt
140.50 carats

228.50 carats

  Greatest Diamond Rough

3106 carats

995.2 carats
Star of Sierra
968.9 cts

Great Mogul
787.5 carats
Woyie River
770 carats
President Vargas
726.6 carats
726 carats
Jubilee or Reitz
650.8 carats
616 carats
609 carats
601.25 carats
599.0 carats
440 carats
De Beers
428.5 carats

Citations & Links

More information on gemstones can be found  at famous diamonds.

Graphics for this project came from a webclipart site.


[1] Gemstones of the World: Revised & Expanded Edition  Walter Schumann  Sterling Publishing  Co., Inc. New York

[2] ibid page 78

[3] The World Book Encyclopedia Volume 5 Field Enterprises Educational Corporation 1967

[4] The New Encyclopaedia Britannica Volume 6 Chicago, IL: Encyclopeaedia Britannica, Inc. 1989, p. 931.

[5] Gemstones of the World: Revised & Expanded Edition  Walter Schumann  Sterling Publishing  Co., Inc. New York

This page was last updated on January 14, 2001.

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copyright 2001 © Jim Odgers. All rights reserved.