Famous Diamonds

By Margaret Burgon Klemp

Hope Diamond

Author Marian Fowler in Hope: Adventures of a Diamond quotes an early Sanskrit manual that dates back to 500 A.D., "He who wears a diamond will see dangers recede from him whether he be threatened by serpents, fire, poison, sickness, thieves, flood or evil spirits." Besides, tracking the life of The Hope Diamond Fowler shares a lot good information about diamonds. She describes in some detail how they are processed. It is a good resource for diamond jewelry enthusiasts.

A French globetrotter and entrepreneur named Jean Baptiste Tavernier first introduced this diamond into Europe. Born in 1605, he was the son of an engraver and mapmaker. His whole family ended up being involved as engravers or goldsmiths. His great love of travel came about because he listened to his father discuss geography and his maps with friends and clients. He became fascinated with the Far East, and devoured every manuscript he could find on Marco Polo. Marco Polo visited the famous Golconda mines in India. He recounted finding diamonds after the monsoon rains washed them from their clefts and hideaways in the mountains.

Tavernier learned several foreign languages, and started preparing for travel to the East. His first of five trips happened in 1638. Each trip lasted for 5 years each. He went to Persia (modern day Iran) and bought pearls, rare fabrics and Persian rugs and brought them back to Europe and then sold them for a profit. During this time he also apprenticed himself out to a Jewish jeweler in Paris to learn as much as he could about all types of precious gems. The goods that he advertised were in great demand in Europe, and he fashioned a very lucrative business in exotic items specializing in precious gems.

He loved diamonds, and on his 4th trip to India he attempted to visit all the diamond mines there. Tavernier bought the famous Hope Diamond at the Golconda mine, and upon returning to France sold it to King Louis XIV who called it "the blue diamond of the French crown". The rest is history. There is a whole legendary journey associated with this diamond that was supposed to have been cut by a sun god. There was a widespread belief that the stone was cursed. Interestingly enough most of the owners did have calamities befall them after the diamond came into their lives.

It actually became The Hope Diamond when a British banker named Henry Phillip Hope purchased it at an auction in 1839, and forever after it has been known as The Hope Diamond. It remained in the family until his grandson, Lord Francis Hope, sold it to pay his debts. The London company he sold it to turned around and sold it to Joseph Frankels and Sons in New York City. Then when they fell on hard times it was sold again and finally ended up at Cartier's in Paris. In 1910 The Hope Diamond was purchased by Evalyn Walsh McLean of Washington D.C., and eventually she had it set into the diamond necklace that is in the Smithsonian today.

After her death in 1947 Harry Winston purchased the entire McLean collection. After several years of exhibiting The Hope Diamond at various events, Winston donated it to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.

For further information about The Hope Diamond the researcher can visit the wonderful website furnished by The Smithsonian Institute. The concise and informative dialogue really provides good statistical and historical information on the diamond.


The Koh-i-noor diamond is known as "The Mountain of Light." The name was supposedly given to the diamond by Nadir Shah when he sacked Delhi in 1739. Legends abound about this diamond. It is said that the Persian Shah was tipped off by a member of Mohammed Shah's harem about the location of the diamond. Up to that time its hiding place was a closely guarded secret. The lady of the harem claimed that Mohammed Shah carried the treasure in his Turban. The wily Persian leader had a feast where he was going restore Mohammed to his rightful place on the throne. He did so, and then as gesture of eternal friendship suggested that they exchange turbans. Mohammed Shah was not really in any position to say no. Following dinner Nadir went to his room and unwrapped the turban to find the diamond in all its' glory, and he exclaimed, "Koh-i-noor" (Mountain of Light).

Legends follow the life of most famous diamonds. The Koh-i-noor originally belonged to the Sun God, and he gave it to his disciple, Satrajit. Then it was stolen by one of the disciple's relatives, and then a lion killed the thief and took the stone to Lord Krishna who gave it back to the rightful owner. Then as legend will have it, the stone ended back in Krishna's hands when Satrajit gave it as part of his daughter's dowry when she married Krishna, and then he in turn returned it to the Sun God. Somehow it ended up in the hands of Porous of Punjab in 325 B.C.

Several owners possessed it until the Punjab was taken over by the British. One of the provisions in the Treaty of Lahore said, "The gem called the Koh-i-noor which was taken from Shah Shuja-ul-Mulk by Maharajah Ranjit Singh shall be surrendered by the Maharajah of Lahore to the Queen of England." It was placed under the guardianship of Sir Henry Lawrence the regent at Punjab, his younger brother John Lawrence and C.C. Mausel. They put it aboard the H.M.S. Medea under very tight security. What followed was a legendary trip to London in 1850. The voyage turned out to be a nightmare with an outbreak of cholera, expulsion from the port at Mauritius, and they were plagued with severe storms. They were very relieved when the ship reached Plymouth, England where everything and everyone was unloaded except the diamond. Then under careful watch the Koh-i-noor was sent to Portsmouth to the East India Company and placed in the hands of the Deputy Chairman.

The stone actually needed to be recut before it could be placed in the Queens. crown. Sebastian Garrard provided a workshop where the repair could be done, and further treatment of the stone removed a lot of the yellow colour and produced a more brilliant diamond. In 1853 artisans set it into a tiara for the queen. In 1911 they fashioned another crown for Queen Mary which included the Koh-i-noor, and in 1937 it was transferred into a crown made for Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother). Today the crown is housed in the Tower of London along side other artifacts making up the Crown Jewels of England.

There are other famous diamonds. The two diamonds mentioned above are more well-known to the general populace. For the avid researcher Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia has a comprehensive list of famous diamonds. More Famous Diamonds from Wikipedia

Bibliography: (not mentioned above)

Gems: A Lively Guide for the Casual Collector, Daniel J. Dennis Jr., 1999 Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York, New York

Gemstones: Symbols of Beauty and Power, Eduard Gubelin and Franz-Xaver Erni, Geoscience Press, Tucson, Arizona

Information on the koh-i-noor diamond

Notes on the koh-i-noor diamond

If you are purchasing a diamond, see our Diamond Buying Guide for helpful advice.

Find fashion jewelry and links for more famous gemstones on our Fashion Jewelry page.