Earlier this year, there was great clamour over the Kohinoor Diamond. India, stating that the stone was forcibly handed over to the British, renewed its demand that it be returned to its rightful owners. This sparked off conversations about the true origins of the stone. Soon Pakistan too claimed the diamond!
We decided to take a look at other well-known diamonds that, along with the Kohinoor, have achieved fame, whether for curses, theft, or the love affairs they tried to kindle:
The Hope Diamond
The Hope Diamond is a blue diamond named after the British financier and gem collector Henry Philip Hope, who owned it in the 1830s. Legend has it that the original owner stole it from the eye of a statue of the goddess Sita, earning the wrath of vengeful priests who cursed anyone in possession of it. Soon enough, misfortune fell upon several of its owners, including Hope’s son, who lost his fortune after inheriting the diamond, and American widow Mrs. Edward McLean, who lost her only child, lost all her money, and eventually committed suicide.
The diamond is currently housed in the National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC, where it was sent via U.S. mail!
The Cullinan Diamond
The Cullinan was discovered in South Africa’s Premier Mine in 1905, and was named after the owner of the mine, Thomas Cullinan. The original diamond, at 3,106 carats, is the largest uncut diamond ever discovered! It was presented to King Edward VII and split into nine larger and 96 smaller parts (after being studied for several months), the most well-known of which are the Cullinan I and Cullinan II, also known as the First and Second Stars of Africa respectively. These two stones are part of the crown jewels of Great Britain.
The Orlov Diamond
The Orlov (or Orloff) is a large diamond the shape of half a bird’s egg. Its origins and history are shrouded in myth: it was said to have been discovered in south India, and eventually found its way to the Mughal treasury. The Orlov was part of the spoils of the sack of Delhi by the Persian warlord Nader Shah, and ended up in Iran. But shortly after Nader Shah’s death, his treasure got dispersed, and the diamond found its way to Amsterdam. There, it was bought by Count Grigory Orlov who presented to Catherine the Great of Russia. Orlov, her ex-lover, was hoping to rekindle their romance through the stone. But he was unable to regain her affection, and was gifted the Marble Palace in St. Petersburg instead!
Catherine the Great had it mounted in her sceptre, where it is today, as part of the Diamond Fund of the Moscow Kremlin.
The Tiffany Yellow Diamond
Until recently, the Tiffany was the largest yellow diamond ever found. It was discovered in the Kimberley mines in South Africa and purchased by Charles Tiffany, founder of the jewellery retailer Tiffany & Co. Fans of the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s will be familiar with it — the diamond was set into a necklace and worn by Audrey Hepburn in promotional photographs. It was later used to create a whimsical “Bird on a Rock” brooch, and recently, set into a diamond and platinum necklace to commemorate the 175th anniversary of Tiffany & Co. It is on display at Tiffany’s New York City flagship store.
The Kohinoor Diamond
The Kohinoor, also known as the Mountain of Light, is arguably one of the most famous diamonds in history. Also discovered in south India, the diamond changed hands a number of times before it was forcibly taken by the British from the ten-year-old boy-king of Punjab, Duleep Singh, following the Second Anglo-Sikh War. Said to bring bad luck to any man or reigning sovereign who wears it, the diamond has only been worn by the female consorts of British monarchs. It is currently on display in the Tower of London as part of the crown jewels.
Kohinoor by William Dalrymple and Anita Anand, which chronicles the story of the infamous stone, is out next month. Until then, read an excerpt in the mini-blockbuster The Jewel in the Crown on Juggernaut here.