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Famous Gemstones

Many famous gemstones have fascinated mankind for centuries. It’s not surprising that folklore and superstitions have arisen around them. We attach meaning to jewelry in our everyday lives and in stories we tell.

An image of cut diamonds. Most famous gemstones are diamonds.

For centuries, humans have given these rocks value. But why?

Everyone knows the story of Frodo and the Ring, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Think about a piece of jewelry that means something to you. Maybe it’s your parents’ wedding rings. Maybe a necklace from your best friend, or a watch your grandfather gave you. Some gemstones have such a significant history attached to them, they’re world renown. 
 

The Hope Diamond

The Hope Diamond

The Hope Diamond is one of the most famous gemstones in the world. And not just for its exceptional size and color. For geologists, the Hope Diamond holds a significant mystery. There is no other diamond like it on earth. 

The Hope Diamond in India

The Hope Diamond’s long history began in India, its original home. It was first sold to a French merchant, Jean Baptiste Tavernier. During this sale, the diamond was poorly cut and 112 3/16-carats. In 1668 Tavernier sold the diamond to King Louis XIV of France. The stone was recut by the court jeweler, Sieur Pitau in 1673. This resulted in the diamond being a 67 1/8-carat stone and it gained the name, Blue Diamond of the Crown or the French Blue.

The Hope Diamond in France and Britain

The French Royal family owned the diamond for over a hundred years and many kings and queens wore it. The last queen of France to wear the Blue Diamond of the Crown was none other than Maire Antoinette. Then the French Revolution happened in 1789. The jewels of the French Royal crown were turned over to the government. The jewels were later looted and the Blue Diamond stolen in September of 1792. 

An image of a statue of Marie Antoinette.

Marie Antoinette, the last queen of France.

 
20 years later, in 1812 the diamond resurfaced, believed to be in the possession of London diamond merchant, Daniel Eliason. Eliason had the diamond recut into the shape we see today. Several sources say that King George IV of the United Kingdom acquired the diamond. It was then sold again after his death in 1830 to cover his debts. 

The Hope Diamond Goes to the Smithsonian

The next known owner was Henry Philip Hope in 1839. This owner is from whom the diamond gets its current and final name. The Hope Diamond had many owners after that. Including Joseph Frankels, Selim Habib, C.H. Rosenau, and Pierre Cartier. Evalyn Walsh McLean was one of its more noted owners. She had the diamond made into the pendant on a diamond necklace as we know it today.
 
Harry Winston Inc. of New York City is the final owner of the Hope Diamond. They acquired it in 1947. They donated it to the Smithsonian Institution on November 10, 1958. There it has remained a premier attraction. 
 
2018 is the Hope Diamond’s 50th anniversary of being at the Smithsonian. To mark the occasion, the Hope Diamond was reset in a new necklace for the year. At the end of the year, it will return to its original necklace.
 

The Koh-i-noor Diamond

 

The Queen Mother's Crown Jewels

©Crown copyright. The Crown of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. She wore it with the arches removed at her daughter’s coronation in 1953.  (You can seen the large Koh-i-noor diamond in the center above another slightly smaller diamond.)

The Crown Jewels for the British Royal Family are some of the most famous jewels in the world.  The Crown Jewels include crowns, swords, jewelry, scepters, and the Koh-i-noor Diamond. The Koh-i-noor was once the largest known diamond in the world. 
 
The Sovereign's Sceptre is over 350 years old

©Crown copyright. Dating from 1661, the Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross signifies temporalpower. The sceptre is 92.2cm (36.2 inches) long. Precious stones include the 530carat Cullinan I diamond.

 

The Queen wore some of the royal regalia for her coronation in 1953

©Crown copyright. TheQueen holds the Orb and Sceptre used at her Coronation, 2 June 1953.

The British crown jewels are only ever worn on very special occasions.
Like the Hope diamond, the Koh-i-noor diamond has a long history. Though unlike the Hope diamond it has a more scandalous past. Britain, India, Pakistan, and the Taliban of Afghanistan all claim ownership of the Koh-i-noor diamond to this day

The Koh-i-noor Diamond in India

For many years India was the only known source of diamonds. In fact, the worlds oldest writings on gemstones come from India. In 1526 the Mughals conquered India. They ruled northern India for 330 years. The Mughals expanded to nearly all present-day India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and eastern Afghanistan. In 1628, Mughal ruler Shah Jahan ordered the making of a jewel-encrusted throne.  On this throne, called the Peacock throne, was two very famous gems. One was the Timur Ruby, which was later discovered to not be a ruby at all. The other was the Koh-i-noor diamond. The diamond was set at the very top of the throne. It remained there for a century.
 
Persian ruler Nader Shah invaded Delhi in 1739. He left the looted city with so much gold and gems that he needed 700 elephants, 4,000 camels and 12,000 horses to pull it all. He also took the Peacock throne but removed the Koh-i-noor diamond and the Timur ruby to wear on his person. These two gems remained away from India for 70 years until the British Empire came. 
 
After much fighting and war, the diamond had was reclaimed by Sikh ruler Ranjit Singh in 1813. This recapture had made the Koh-i-noor diamond a symbol of power rather than beauty. After Ranjit Singh’s death in 1839, a sect of Hindu priests was meant to receive the diamond. Yet, politics were a little unstable. Over the next four years, four different rulers took the throne. In the end, a young boy of 10, Duleep Singh took the throne.

 The Koh-i-noor Diamond Goes to Britain

The British East India Trading company saw the time to act and seized the gem as well as a few other things. The British took his mother prisoner in 1849. They forced him to sign the Treaty of Lahore. This required Duleep to give away the Koh-i-Noor and all claim to power. 
 
The Koh-i-noor diamond was then given to Queen Victoria in Britain. It has been in the possession of the British Royal Family ever since. They had it recut to almost half of its original size. The diamond is currently mounted in a crown. This crown belonged to the Queen Mother, wife of George IV and mother of Elizabeth II. It was last seen in public in 2002 when it rested on the casket of the Queen Mother at her funeral.
 

Most of the worlds most famous gemstones are diamonds but there are others as well!

For More Information:

The World’s Most Famous Gemstones https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YgIY4e9muK4

The Hope Diamond’s New Setting Revealed https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HW2Us7p1aSU

 

Written By: Monica Siegenthaler