The Cullinan

The world’s largest diamond ever found to date was discovered in South Africa in 1905 and was 3,106 carats in the rough and originally weighed just under one and a half pounds. It was presented to King Edward VII in 1907 by the Government of the Transvaal (South Africa). The Cullinan was cut into 9 major stones and 96 smaller stones. 530.20 Carats - the Cullinan I or Star Africa diamond is the largest cut diamond in the world. Pear shaped, with 74 facets was added to the top of the Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross (1661) in 1910. It remains the largest colourless cut diamond in the world. In 1908 the King entrusted the cutting of the stone to the famous Asscher's Diamond Co. in Amsterdam, which had cut the Excelsior and other large gems. It was cut by Joseph Asscher, who examined it with his 5 brothers the enormous crystal for around 3 months before determining how to divide it. It was eventually cleaved into 2 pieces then 3 which were polished for up to 14 hours a day over the next 8 months to eventually yielded nine major, and 96 smaller brilliant cut stones.

The Cullinan II is a rounded square shape, not unlike a wide cushion cut: it has 66 facets and a 317.40 carat weight and is mounted in the band of the Imperial State Crown. The two largest Cullinan diamonds are forever a part of the crown jewels, while the others became the personal property of the British royal family.

The Cullinan III is a pear-shaped diamond weighing 94.40 carats, and is in the finial of Queen Mary's Crown and can be worn with the Cullinan IV as a pendant-brooch. Many of Queen Mary's portraits show her wearing these two stones, and Elizabeth II makes use of them the same way.

The Cullinan IV is a 63.60-carat cushion shape, was originally set in the band of Queen Mary's crown, but can also be worn as jewellery, as described above.

The Cullinan V is a triangular-pear cut weighing 18.80 carats. The mounting of the jewel was designed to be as adaptable as possible, so that it could be worn in several different guises. It was most often worn by Queen Mary and now by The Queen (who inherited it 1953), as a brooch. It forms the detachable centre section of the diamond and emerald stomacher made for Queen Mary for the Delhi Durbar in 1911. 

The Cullinan VI & VIII. The Cullinan VIII is an emerald-cut 11.50 marquise cut stone and was originally presented by King Edward to his wife, Queen Alexandra. Cullinan VI was then inherited by Queen Mary after Queen Alexandra’s death in 1925,. In 1953 our current Queen inherited the stones. Generally worn as a pendant to the Cullinan VIII, it was mounted to be as adaptable as the other numbered stones and can be worn as part of the Delhi Durbar stomacher and also linked to the Cullinan V Brooch.

The Cullinan VII is an 8.80 carat marquise-cut stone mounted as an asymmetrical pendant on a detachable chain of ten graduated brilliant diamonds, to counterbalance the pear-shaped emerald pendant, which is pavé-set and similarly suspended from a detachable, graduated chain of 12 brilliant diamonds. The necklace incorporates nine of the Cambridge emeralds, originally owned by Queen Mary’s grandmother, the Duchess of Cambridge. The eight cabochon-cut emeralds are set between six large brilliant diamonds on a double platinum chain, with 94 smaller brilliant-cut diamonds.

The Cullinan IX is a 4.39 carat pear shape. Mounted in a platinum ring with a prong setting that was made for Queen Mary, it is sometimes worn by Queen Elizabeth II. The smallest of the nine numbered stones is a pear-shaped diamond weighing 4.4 metric carats. 

The Excelsior

The second largest stone ever found is the Excelsior, however at the time of its discovery in 1893 the Excelsior Diamond was the largest diamond discovered at an impressive 995.2 carats. The crystal was flat on one side and raised up on the other to a peak. It was displaced by the size of the Cullinan Diamond found in 1905. The Excelsior stone had a blue and white colour and was eventually cut after a long study by Asscher and Company of Amsterdam into 21 stones ranging in weight from less than 1 carat to more than 70 carats. It is a shame that one exceptional large diamond wasn’t cut for posterity from the Excelsior rough. The 70 carat pear-shape The Excelsior 1 was purchased in 1996 by Robert Mouawad. No known record of what might have become of the other larger examples of the 21 diamonds that were initially fashioned from the Excelsior. Most of the other “major” Excelsior diamonds were between 50 and 15 carats with a large number under 10 carats, which were also included in the yield of the remarkable Excelsior rough.

KOH-I-NOOR " Mountain of Light"

First mentioned in 1304, it weighed 186 carats and was an oval cut stone. It originated in India where it passed through the hands of both Indian and Persian rulers who fought over its possession. It is believed to have once been set in the famous peacock throne of Shah Jehan as one of the peacock's eyes. For hundreds of years it was one of the most sought after spoils of war in the region. When England seized control of the region in 1849 British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli took control of the Koh-i-Noor Diamond and had it sent as a gift to Queen Victoria. However it lacked any brilliance and was visually unimpressive so it was re-cut in the reign of Queen Victoria to 105.60 carats. The stone was then set into the Crown of the Queens Consort and was first worn by Queen Alexandra, then Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth. The diamond is currently part of the Collection of Crown Jewels in the Tower of London.

The Regent

A truly historic diamond discovered around 1701 in India slanear Golconda, it weighed 410 carats in the rough. The exceptional characteristics and perfect cut of the Regent diamond gives it the reputation as the world’s most beautiful diamond. Acquired by William Pitt, it was then sent to England where it was cut into a cushion shaped brilliant of 140.50 carats. The Pitt diamond as it was known was sold to the Duke of Orleans, Regent of France when Louis XV was a boy in 1717. It was then renamed The Regent and set in the crown Louis XV wore at his coronation. After the French revolution, it was owned by Napoleon Bonaparte who set it in the hilt of his sword. However when Napoleon went into exile in Elba, Marie Louisa his second wife, carried the diamond to the Chateau of Blois. Later, however, her father, Emperor Francis I of Austria, returned it to France and it again became part of the French Crown Jewels. Many of the French Crown Jewels were sold at auction in 1887, but the Regent diamond was reserved from the sale. It can be seen today on display in the Louvre, Paris.

The Blue Hope

A beautiful violet diamond 112 3/16-carat thought to have come from Golconda, India where a French traveller purchased it. He then sold it to Louis XIV of France who had it re-cut and named the “Blue Diamond of the Crown” which he wore on ceremonial occasions. More notorious and some say cursed than any other diamond, it was stolen during the French Revolution but it turned up in London in 1830. Many references say it was then acquired by King George IV but later sold on his death to pay debts. It was then bought by Henry Philip Hope, after whom it is currently named. It was while the diamond was in the possession of the Hope family that it acquired its gruesome reputation for bad luck as all his family died in poverty, although that could be said to have started with the French Revolution itself. A similar misfortune befell a later owner, Mr. Edward McLean but his wife Mrs McLean's flamboyant ownership of the stone lasted until her death in 1947. Harry Winston Inc. of New York City purchased Mrs. McLean's entire jewellery collection, including the Hope diamond, from her estate in 1949. For the next 10 years the Hope diamond was shown at many exhibits world-wide. In 1958 they donated the Hope diamond to the Smithsonian Institution, Washington. The weight of the Hope diamond for many years was reported to be 44.5 carats but in 1974 it was removed from its setting and found actually to weigh 45.52 carats.

The Sancy

Once believed to be the largest white diamond in the Western world at 55 carats is part of the French Crown Jewel Collection housed in the Louve in Paris.  Once one of the most coveted diamonds which has over 600 years of history that began its journey from the mines of Golconda, India through some of the most eventful times in European history.  It was thought to impart invincibility to whoever wore it but  also believed to be the source of an ancient curse that visited a violent death to any who owned it. Over the centuries, the diamond adorned the crowns of several French royals and was worn as a lucky hatpin by King James VI of Scotland and I of England. In the fifteenth century, it was lost on the field of battle by Charles the Bold of Burgundy only to be found by a Swiss soldier who sold it for one florin to a priest from Basel. In the sixteenth century, while en route to be pawned to raise a mercenary Swiss army, it was stolen from King Henry IV’s courier.  Won and lost by the Kings of Portugal and lusted after by several Spanish monarchs, the elusive Sancy was hotly pursued for decades by England’s Queen Elizabeth I, stolen from the Louvre during the French Revolution it was instrumental in Napoleon’s meteoric rise to power.


This pear-shaped 69.42 carat diamond was sold at auction in 1969 with the understanding that it could be named by the buyer. Cartier of New York successfully bid for it and immediately christened it "Cartier." However, the next day Richard Burton bought the stone for Elizabeth Taylor for an undisclosed sum, renaming it the "Taylor-Burton." It made its debut at a charity ball in Monaco in mid-November where Miss Taylor wore it as a pendant. In 1978, Elizabeth Taylor announced that she was putting it up for sale and planned to use part of the proceeds to build a hospital in Botswana. Just to inspect the diamond, prospective buyers had to pay $2,500 to cover the cost of showing it. In June 1979, it was sold for nearly $3 million and was last reported to be in Saudi Arabia.


This peach coloured stone of 20 carats was named after Hortense de Beauharnais, Queen of Holland, who was Josephine's daughter and the stepdaughter of Napoleon Bonaparte. The Hortensia had been part of the French Crown Jewels since Louis XIV bought it. Along with the Regent, it is now on display at the Louvre, Paris.