DIAMONDS—: THEIR HISTORY, FAMOUS ONES AND HOW THEY ARE FORMED

DIAMONDS

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cut diamonds
Diamonds are not the most valuable gems and are not th rarest ones either but they are certainly the most famous and widely sought after. The have found their way in to James Bond movies, Beatles songs and gangsta rappers teeth. In A.D. 1st century the Roman historian Pliny the Elder called diamonds the most "highly valued of human possessions." In the 1950s film Marilyn Monroe called them “a girl’s best friend.” [Sources: Andrew Cockburn, National Geographic, March 2002; Fred Ward, National Geographic, January 1979 <>; George Switzer, National Geographic, December 1971 ╿ ; William Broad, New York Times, February 15, 1994; James Jackson, Time, March 4, 1996]

Tom Zoellner wrote in the Washington Post, “Diamonds, the ads say, are forever. Whether or not that's the case, diamond jewelry is a powerful symbol of status and love, and a $72 billion-a-year retail business worldwide. Diamonds can also be a key source of funding for violent conflicts in Africa. [Source: Tom Zoellner, Washington Post , July 4, 2010]

Ironically, despite their high value, diamonds are made out of carbon, one of the most plentiful elements on earth, and the same stuff that pencil leads and coal are composed of. Like graphite, diamonds are 100 percent carbon. Anthracite coal, oil and wood are respectively 92 percent, 86 percent and 50 percent carbon. What makes a diamond a diamond as opposed to one of these other materials is the pressure they have been exposed to which has forces the carbon atoms to form extremely strong and stable bonds.

Diamonds are crystals---ordered arrays of atoms or molecules---of pure carbon. They are different from graphite which is made of carbon more loosely held together in sheets rather than crystals.

Diamonds aren’t as rare as many people think. About 35,000 kilograms of them were mined worldwide in 2006. They are deemed valuable because people regard them as valuable and supplies are carefully controlled so the market doesn’t collapse.

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Rough diamond
Websites and Resources on Gems: All About Gemstones allaboutgemstones.com ; Minerals and Gemstone Kingdom minerals.net ; International Gem Society gemsociety.org ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Gemstones Guide gemstones-guide.com ; Gemological Institute of America gia.edu ; Mineralogy Database webmineral.com ;

Websites and Resources Diamonds: Info-Diamond info-diamond.com ; Diamond glossary and FAQ heart-in-diamond.com; Diamond Facts diamondfacts.org/about/index ; Diamond Mining and Geology khulsey.com/jewelry/kh_jewelry_diamond_mining ; Diamond Mine mining-technology.com/projects/de_beers ; Costellos.com costellos.com.au/diamonds ; DeeBeers debeers.com/page/home/ ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; American Museum of natural History amnh.org/exhibitions/diamonds ;

Book: The Heartless Stone: A Journey Through the World of Diamonds, Deceit and Desire by Tom Zoellner.

Gems and Birthstones

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bourbon-colored diamond
Most gems are crystals formed by the cooling of hot gases, solutions and melts deep inside the earth. When excited atoms lose energy from cooling they form a lattice, typical of crystals. The natural laws that create gems are the same as those that create snowflakes and salt, except that tremendous pressures and temperatures are needed. Diamonds can only form at depths of 100 miles or more below the earth's surface where pressures are a million pounds per square inch and temperatures are above 2,500̊F.╿

Gems are classified as precious, semiprecious and ornamental stones. The size and weight of many gem is measured in carats. Carat is an ancient term which denotes the uniform weight of a carob seed--- 1/142 of an ounce, 1/5 of a gram, or 200 milligrams. The value of a gem is often determined more by the quality of the stone and lack of imperfections than by size. Cut is term that describes the quality as well as shape of a gem. A loupe is a one-eyed lenses used by jewelers to examines gems closely.

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Ancient man wore different kinds of stones as ornaments and jewelry. There is evidence of trade of exotic stones in Europe as far back as 28,000 B.C. Historical record from India in 300 B.C. describe the mining of moonstones, sapphires, diamonds, emeralds, garnets and agates.

These days all gems are tampered with to some degree. Rubies and sapphires are heated to change their color. A clear topaz can be transformed into a blue one with a dose of radiation. And internal debris is removed from within diamonds with minuscule laser holes. It often very difficult for ordinary people to tell real gems from doctored ones from outright fakes. Glass and man-made zirconia are both passed of as rubies and sapphires.

Birthstones: 1) January: Garnet; 2) February: Amethyst; 3) March: Aquamarine; 4) April: Diamond; 5) May: Emerald; 6) June: Pearl of Alexandrine; 7) July: Ruby; 8) August: Peridot; 9) September: Sapphire; 10) October: Opal or Tourmaline; 11) November: Topaz; 12) December: Turquoise of Zircon.

Diamond Characteristics

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diamond anvil
Diamonds are so dense they reduce the speed of light by almost two thirds. They are cold to the touch because they absorb the heat from your fingers.

Diamonds don’t react chemically with any other substances. They are fully transparent in many wavelengths of light, are excellent electrical insulators and semiconductors, and can be engineered to hold an electrical charge.

But diamonds are not invulnerable. They will burn like coal and be reduced to carbon dioxide if burned with a blow torch. And even though diamonds are world's hardest material, they are also quite brittle and they will shatter like class if smacked hard enough with a hammer. In 1954 a 426.5 carat diamond was rescued at the last minute from the crushers at the Premier mine in South Africa. Raw diamonds have a smooth, soapy, texture. When reduced to dust, diamond are as black as coal.╿

Uses of Diamonds

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diamond chain saw
Diamonds have so many other uses that putting them on rings, earrings and necklaces seems like a waste. They are used in precision equipment, cutting tools for super hard materials such as marble and granite, optical equipment, hacksaw blades and lasers. Their lightness and stiffness makes them ideal for tweeter domes in stereo systems. Cosmetic and eye sturgeons rely on diamond blades and scalpels for unparalleled cutting and precision. In cataract surgery they are values because they cut without tearing. Scientists studying how things react to intense pressures places these things in a “diamond anvil cell”--- a powerful vise with diamonds tips.

Both dentists and roughnecks use drills that are coated with diamonds. They are part of machines that cut through pavement and concrete in highways and pick up sounds and images on a video and audio discs. Industrial diamonds are used for cutting and grinding in a wide range of machinery.

Since they have the greatest thermal conductivity of any material known, and don't burn up, diamond are incorporated into the world's most accurate thermometers and the highest capacity transmitters. These properties also make them an ideal material to place on the bottom of a Venus space probe which can withstand the cold vacuum of space and searing temperatures and immense atmospheric pressure on the surface of Venus.<>

Quality and Color of Diamonds

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yellow diamond
The value of a diamond is determined by the four C's: carat weight, cut, clarity and color. To examine a diamond properly you must look under a magnifying glass in a "north light." Hold a diamond next to white paper helps the color. Stones closest in color to the white paper are called ice and they are regarded as the best quality. Also See Gems Above

Carat, cut and color can be judges objectively but judging a diamond clarity requires an element of subjectivity. Clarity is important to value. Clarity ranges from flawless (no visible imperfections under a ten power loupe) to heavily flawed (defects visible with the naked eye). Experts can often disagree on the clarity of a stone. The best quality diamonds are said to have “brilliance,” “scintillation” and “fire.”

Colored diamonds, called "fancies," are created by impurities. Nitrogen, for example, results in yellow stones and boron produces blue stones. Radiation causes them to turn green. Other colors include orange, green, brown and pink. Red and purple stone are the rarest and most expensive. Diamonds designated as pigeon-blood red (only a half dozen or so are known to exist) are worth up to $1 million a carat (compared to $15,000 a carat for a flawless white diamond). Blues and pinks are also very valuable. They sometimes are sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars a carat). <>

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Pink, blue, champagne, mocha and brown diamonds are rarer and more expensive than white diamonds. Traditionally, though, the most valued diamonds were white and translucent. Stones with color were regarded as impure and inferior. The market for colored stones was created by Australia's giant Argyle mine, which had consistently produced the most diamonds in the world in terms of volume but earned less money that other mines because it stones were deemed poor quality. Little could be done about its small diamonds but something could be done about its large supplies of colored stones. The "brown" and "yellow" stones were renamed "cognac" and "champagne" and featured in glossy advertising spreads with beautiful models. Before long diamonds that were once relegated to industrial use were a $200 million a year market.

Carbonado diamonds, also called black diamonds, are opaque black or gray diamond that have a porous, charcoal-like texture. They are found only in Brazil and Central African Republic and appear to have originated from outer space, perhaps from a giant asteroid that struck the earth three billion years ago.

Book: Collecting and Classifying Colored Diamonds: An Illustrated Study of the Aurora Collection Dr. George Harlow (Ashland Press, New York, 1998).

Rarity and Value of Diamonds

The Economist reported: “The rewards for digging carbon out of the ground differ wildly. A tonne of coal fetches around $120. A diamond for the same price would be so small you’d probably never find it in the first place. [Ibid]

“On the rarity and value of diamonds, Tom Zoellner wrote in the Washington Post,”Although you won't stumble across a diamond while digging in your tomato garden, they are far more common than their cost suggests. The big gem companies aggressively control the supply that arrives at market, creating artificial scarcity and high prices. [Source: Tom Zoellner, Washington Post , July 4, 2010]

This practice was born in the diamond fields of South Africa in the 1880s, when Cecil Rhodes, the chairman of De Beers Consolidated Mines, discovered that he could inflate prices at will simply by locking up the rights to every diamond mine he could find. His successor, Ernest Oppenheimer, developed a complex network of wholesalers that gave De Beers effective control of up to 90 percent of the world's rough-diamond trade through most of the 20th century, as the company hoarded stones in basement vaults and doled them out strategically. [Ibid]

Four Cs

Tom Zoellner wrote in the Washington Post, “This handy mnemonic -- color, cut, clarity and carat -- was developed in the 1940s by the Gemological Institute of America, still the world's premier diamond-grading company. Lore holds that every diamond is unique and a work of nature's art. But this idea was intimidating to American customers who wanted a firm readout of a diamond's worth before buying it. De Beers therefore loved the Four Cs, and the company sent speakers on a promotional tour to explain these standards as if they had been observed for centuries. [Source: Tom Zoellner, Washington Post , July 4, 2010]

But when it comes to the most popular kind of diamond -- the round, brilliant-cut stone that is a staple of engagement solitaires -- a key factor embedded in the cut rating is likely to have a big impact on value. The "depth percentage," the relationship between the stone's top and the angle of its slanted sides, can make a diamond's glitter a little more spectacular thanks to the physics of light. The sweet spot? A ratio of 58 to 60 percent. Too many buyers of stones of less than two carats get hung up on minor gradients of color and clarity, which are invisible to the naked eye and meaningful only at the cash register. [Ibid]

“For those who don't plan to routinely ogle their stone under a microscope, an easier formulation would be the Two S's: size and sparkle. The resale value of a diamond drops between 30 and 50 percent the moment you walk out of the store with it (a sixth myth is that they are good investments; they aren't) so you might as well enjoy its illusory light while you can. [Ibid]

Diamonds, Love and Power

Tom Zoellner wrote in the Washington Post, “The tradition of the diamond engagement ring was largely concocted in the 1930s by De Beers's ad agency N.W. Ayer & Son -- the same Madison Avenue shop that would later craft the wildly successful slogan "A diamond is forever." Through magazine advertisements and Hollywood product placements, American customers were sold the idea that even a man of modest means must give a diamond to his betrothed, just as kings and aristocrats had done in several examples cherry-picked from European folklore. [Source: Tom Zoellner, Washington Post , July 4, 2010]

In fact, diamonds historically served as tokens of statist privilege more than anything so frilly and ordinary as love. De Beers's appeal to royal fantasies (and, more subtly, male fears of inadequacy) nonetheless caught the American public's imagination, as did the notion that a groom is supposed to spend two months of his salary on a rock. This, too, was an invented custom. It was also flexible: In ad blitzes elsewhere, British customers were told to spend one month's salary, while the Japanese were told to spend three. [Ibid]

Diamond Formation

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Volcanic pipe
Diamonds are believed to be among the oldest minerals on earth. Scientists believe that most of them were formed about 3.5 billion years ago when the earth was made up largely of volcanos and the atmosphere was mostly a mixture of carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide.

In 2007, German scientists at the Westfllische Wilhelms Universitat announced they had found the world’s oldest diamonds: 4.25-billion-year-old minerals, 700 million years older than the previous oldest known diamonds, found encased in zirconia silicate in the 80-kilometer-long Jack Hills rock formation near the west cost of Australia.

Diamonds were formed in the upper mantel of the earth's core under enormous heat and pressure that crystallized the carbon into solid cubic patterns, giving them their unsurpassed hardness. Diamonds can only form at depths of 150 miles below the earth's surface where pressures are a million pounds per square inch and temperatures are above 2,500̊F. Many diamonds have remained unchanged since their formation 3.5 billion years ago. Geologist believe that diamonds are still being formed deep in the earth but are far too deep to reach. ╿<>

Pipes and Kimberlites

Scientists have long understood how diamonds are made. What they find puzzling is how and why diamonds rise from deep inside the earth to particular places on the surface. In most cases, diamonds have been pushed to the earth's surface by very unusual, volcanic shaft of metamorphosed lava, known as pipe.

Pipes are super long and deep. The material found in them originates from far greater depths inside the earth than any other known volcanic rock. In contrast to shafts of conventional volcanos, which may extend into the earth 50 miles or so, the volcanic pipes that pick up diamonds may be as much as 300 miles deep. They also tend to be very narrow---a few meters across in some places.

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mining the Udachnaya pipe
No human has ever witnessed a diamond eruption. Still, evidence suggests that the process is explosive and rise fast to the surface and is nothing like the gentle gurgling of some contemporary volcanoes. The tops of many diamond pipes are craters rather than cones, which suggests an explosive event. Experts believe that the overall journey from the earth's interior takes hours, not days or months as is the case with magma and lava from a volcano.

Diamond bearing rock is called kimberlite "after material from a pipe first found and identified at Kimberly, South Africa in 1971. Pipes are often shaped like carrots with the top sticking from the surface. The youngest pipes are aged 45 million years, and the oldest ones go back some 2.6 million years. They have often been weathered by rain and wind and the diamonds have washed away in gravel.

Kimberlite pipes are like solidified volcano vents, bursting from earth’s core through fissures in granite rock. Some of them passed through ancient diamond-bearing, 3 billion-year-old beds of rock, pushing them up to the surface. There are thousands of kimberlite pipes but only a handful have diamonds. The last known eruption of kimberlite to the surface of the earth occurred 47 million years ago.

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England's Imperial
Crown of India
Rivers, runoff and glaciers can transport diamond-bearing rock from kimberlites hundreds of kilometers away for their sources. Often the job of geologists to find this source .<>

History of Diamonds

In the A.D. first century, Romans used diamonds to carve cameos. Despite Pliny the Elder’s claim that diamonds the most "highly valued of human possessions” diamonds were not well known until the A.D. 3rd century and not considered particularly valuable until the 17th century. The word diamond comes from the ancient Greek word adamas , meaning “invincible.”

Early diamonds were extracted mainly from streams. No one knows exactly when man began collecting diamonds. It may have been as early at 800 B.C. around Golconda, India. Through much of human they were considered no more valuable than other gem like topazes and garnets except they were harder to find.

Before diamonds were discovered in South Africa, many of the world diamonds came from India. Diamonds have been mined in India for more than 2,000 years. The diamond and gold mines of Bihar and Golconda were the most famous. Indians systematically organized alluvial digs in Golconda until the early 1700's." Diamond tipped tools were common during this period and jade cutting knives were exported to China. This mines were depleted by the 18th century but not before they produced the Hope and Orloff diamonds as well as the Koh-i-noor, Shah and Great Mogul, all of which were owned by the builder of the Taj Mahal, Shah Jahan.<>

In 1786, the chemist Smithson Tennant discovered that diamonds are made of carbon.

DeBeers launched its “Diamond is Forever” slogan in 1948. Some regard it as the most successful advertising campaign ever. Before the campaign the idea of giving a diamond engagement ring didn’t exist

NASA is checking out other planets for diamonds and other minerals.

Diamonds in South Africa

In 1866 an unusual pebble was found near Kimberly on the banks of the Orange River in South Africa It was a 21-carat diamond. Later named Eureka, it was found some school children between some rocks on a farm near Hopestown.Three years later an 83-carat stone was found and the largest diamond rush in history was on. [Source: Fred Ward, National Geographic, January 1979 [<>]

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South African diamond mine

Diamonds were discovered in Kimberley in 1871 on a farm owned by a family named DeBeers. At first thousands of individual diggers worked claims of 31 square feet with a shovel and bucket. In the chaos deaths occurred from fights and collapsed walls. As time went on the claims became consolidated and after two decades two men owned all of South Africa's mines: the reserved colonialist Cecil Rhodes and the flamboyant Barney Barnato, a former actor and boxer from London’s East End. <>

In 1874 the average "digger" earned the hefty sum of $200 a week. His only expenses were $130 for equipment and $40 to pay eight Zulu warriors to do the digging. Only licensed diggers or claim holders could sell diamond, and any blacks found with diamonds were assumed to be thieves. <>

In 1888 Rhodes outmaneuver Barnato and bought him out with the largest check ever written up until that time---£5,338,650 (about US$400,000,000 today). Rhodes named his new company De Beers, after the family who owned the farm where two mines were located. In the 1920s the company expanded under the stewardship of Ernest Oppenheimer, a former clerk in the company’s London office, and money provided by American financing. Today the Oppenheimer family still largely controls De Beers, a company which still largely controls the world's diamond market.<>

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South African diamond mine

Famous Diamonds

The largest diamond in the universe found thus far is the size of a small planet and was found in the constellation Centaurus 50 million light years from Earth. Discovered in the early 2000s by scientists at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, this diamond is more than 4,000 kilometers wide and once served as the heart of a star. Its estimated size: ten billion trillion trillion carats.

The world's largest diamond---a 545.7-carat brown monster cut from a 755.5-carat rough diamond found at the Premier Mine in South Africa---was given to the King of Thailand by a consortium of Thai businessmen. Named the Golden Jubilee, it is 15 carats larger than the Cullinan.

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Hope Diamond
The 203-carat De Beer Millennium star is regarded as the most perfect large diamond. Valued at $80 million, it is a flawless pear-shaped gem. It was worn by the supermodel Imam in Tokyo in 2002 to mark the opening of De Beers LV’s Japan operations.

The Hope Diamond is regarded as the world largest, flawless blue diamond. Mined in India, it is blue-gray in color and is displayed at the Smithsonian in Washington. One of the unusual things about it and some other blue diamonds is that they glow a a bright, orangish amber color when exposed to ultraviolet light. The color lingers for several seconds after the light is turned off. Scientists do not know why this occurs.

The Hope Diamond is believed to have been mined in India. It had a reputation of being cursed because it was said that every one who owned it came to a disastrous ending. The demand entrepreneur Harry Winston purchased it in 1949 and traveled with it often, without any misfortunes. He donated it to the Smithsonian in 1958, where it is now rests in the Harry Winston Gallery.

According to the Guinness Book of Records, the highest price diamond was purchased on May 17, 1995 at Sotheby's in Geneva by Sheik Ahmaed Fitaihi of Saudi Arabia. Named the Star of the Season, it os a 100.1-carat pear- shaped "D" flawless diamond. It sold for $16,548,750. In November 2007, a huge flawless brilliant-cut 84.37-carat white diamond was sold for $16.21 million at a Sotheby’s auction to Guess Jeans founder George Marciano, who named it the “Chloe Diamond” after his daughter.

Koh-i-noor Diamond

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Koh-i-Noor by Tavernier
The Koh-i-noor, a 106-carat diamond cut from a 186-carat diamond from the Kollur mine in southern India, is one of the world's most famous gem stones and arguably the one with the most colorful stories surrounding it. According to legend whoever possessed it would rule the world. “It is so precious,” one writer wrote, “that a judge of diamonds valued it at half the daily expense of the whole world.”

Perhaps the first extremely large diamond ever discovered, The Koh-i-noor was first reported in 1304 as a possession of an Indian Raj. Later it fell into the hands of Baber, the founder of the Moghul empire in India. Britain obtained it when Lahore and the Punjab became part of the British Empires. It was the centerpiece of a crown made for Queen Elizabeth in 1937. It currently resides in the crown of the Queen Mother of England.

In 1739, Persian king Nadir Shah invaded India and overthrew the Moghuls and spent 58 days looking for the Koh-i-noor. According to one story he was tipped off by a courtesan that the captured Mogul leader was carrying the egg-sized diamond in the folds of his turban. Nadir Shah tricked his rival into trading turbans. When the enormous diamond feel to the floor, the shah exclaimed "Koh-i-noor" ("Mountain of Light"). After the shah died one of his sons chose to die by torture rather than disclose where the diamond was.

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Koh-i-Noor, old-version copy
The Koh-i-noor diamond is reportedly cursed and over the years fell into many different hands. Princes betrayed each other to try and get a hold of it after a maharajah who possessed it failed to produce a suitable heir even though he had several wives and more than 100 concubines A 19th century Afghan prince endured blinding and days of torture before he gave it up, saying he wanted it because it gave him good luck.

The Koh-i-noor diamond passed from Afghans to Sikhs and finally to the British Raj, who took it from 8-year-old Duleep Singh, ruler of the Sikhs, after a fierce battle. After it was shipped to England it “spent six weeks in a forgetful coachman's waistcoat." Today many Sikhs want the British to return the Koh-i-noor diamond. Sandhawalia, a simple farmer and the last surviving heir to Duleep Singh, have filed a suit for the diamond's return

In England, the Koh-i-noor diamond was presented to Queen Victoria as a gift. The royal family found the diamond dull. In 1852, the diamond was recut from 186 carats to its present 108.93 carats to bring out it inner fire and greater brilliance. Still most everyone was disappointed. Some attribute Queen Victoria's trouble to the curse of the diamond. The Koh-i-noor diamond was last worn in 1937 by the late Queen mother at the coronation of her husband, King George VI. It now sits in a vault with the other Crown Jewels in the Tower of London.

Cullinan

For many the Guinness Book of Records listed the largest finished diamond in world as the Cullinan I, or the Great Star of Africa, a 530.2-carat stone that adorns the Royal Scepter in the British Crown Jewels at the Tower of London.

The Cullinan I was derived from a fist-size 3,106-carat (1.3 pound) mother stone that remains the largest uncut diamond ever found. Discovered on January 26, 1905, it was removed with a penknife by a mine manager from the wall of a 30-foot-deep pit in the Premiere Mine near Pretoria, South Africa In addition to the Cullinan I, the mother stone yielded the 317.4 carat Cullihan II, nine major stones and 96 smaller ones. The Cullihan II now lies in English royal crown.

The Cullinan diamonds are named after Thomas Cullinan, discoverer of the Premier mine. The mother stone was bought by the Transval government and given to King Edward VII on his birthday. The huge diamond reportedly was not delivered by courier but rather was mailed third class from South Africa to London in a brown paper envelope because Scotland yard believed that this was the safest way to transport it.

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Cullinan rough pieces

The Cullinan was cleaved by the famous diamond cutter Joseph Asscher, who studied the stone for six month before dividing it into two pieces. After he struck the famous diamond, successfully dividing it the way he wanted, he reportedly fainted and collapsed on the floor of his workshop.

High-Priced Diamonds

The highest auction price ever paid for an item of jewelry is $6.2 million for two pear-shaped diamond drop earrings of 58.6 and 61 carats bought and sold anonymously through Sotheby's of Geneva. According to the Guinness Book of Records, the highest price paid for a rough diamond was $10 million for a 255.1-carat stone from Guinea by William Goldberg Diamond Corporation and Chow Tai Fook Jewelry of Hong Kong in 1989.

In 2009, a flawless 7.03-carat blue diamond was sold at an auction for $9.49 million, in Geneva. It was the highest price paid per carat ever. The rectangular-shaped vivid blue stone went to anonymous bidder by telephone. According to the Guinness Book of Records, the highest price paid per carat paid before that was $926,315 a carat for a 0.95 carat fancy purple-red stones sold at Christies in New York on April 1987.

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copies of the Cullinan Diamond and some of its cuts

The largest yellow diamond ever found was 890 carats.

The 273-carat Centenary has been described as "best stone of earth actually."

The world’s 18th largest diamond was discovered in Lesotho in 2007. The uncut 493-carat diamond was expected to fetch about $10 million at auction when it was sold. The largest heart-shaped diamond ever offered in an auction was 101 carats and valued at $10 million.

Rare Yellow Diamond Sold for $10.9 Million

In November 2011, a rare yellow pear-shaped diamond was sold for $10.9 million at a Sotheby’s auction in Gneva. AP reported: “The so-called Sun-Drop Diamond is described as fancy vivid yellow---the highest color grading---by gemstone experts. It is the largest known diamond of its kind, at 110.3 carats.” "It looks the weight," said David Bennett, the head of Sotheby's jewelry division. "At the same time it's a very bright stone," he added, as a model showed off the diamond to photographers before the sale at Geneva's Beau-Rivage hotel. [Source: Frank Jordans - Associated Press, November 10, 2011]

The jewel was sold by Cora International, which discovered the diamond in South Africa in 2010---meaning it has no history of previous wearers. "Some people find it very attractive to own a stone that's been lying untouched in the earth for millions of years," Bennet told The Associated Press. [Ibid]

Pink Diamond Sold for $46 Million

In November 2010, Sotheby's sold a 24.78-carat fancy intense pink diamond for a record-breaking $46 million. The emerald-cut diamond had a pre-sale estimate of $38 million. Frank Jordans of Associated Press wrote: “A rare pink diamond smashed the world record for a jewel at auction Tuesday, selling for more than $46 million to a well-known gem dealer. London jeweler Laurence Graff paid $46,158,674, for the 24.78-carat "fancy intense pink" diamond, which he immediately named "The Graff Pink." [Source: Frank Jordans, Associated Press, November 16, 2010]

“It is the most fabulous diamond I've seen in the history of my career and I'm delighted to have bought it," Graff said in a statement released by auction house Sotheby's, which offered the stone at its Geneva sale. The sale price was almost double the $24.3 million achieved by the blue 35.56-carat Wittelsbach-Graff diamond in 2008. That was also bought by Graff. [Ibid]

“This is the highest price ever bid for a jewel at auction," said David Bennett, the head of Sotheby's jewelry division, as the auction room in Geneva's luxury Beau Rivage hotel erupted into applause. "Everybody was surprised it went that high," Mart van Drunen, a jeweler from Amsterdam, commented after the sale. "He clearly wants to have all the rarest diamonds in the world.” [Ibid]

“Rich buyers from developing countries have been dipping their hand in the high end of the market in recent years, but experts say emerging middle classes particularly in India are doing as much if not more to lift prices. Ongoing doubts about the stock market have also helped drive up the value of gold and precious jewels, said van Drunen. Four bidders competed for the pink diamond, which was last sold 60 years ago by New York jeweler Harry Winston. The seller chose to remain anonymous, said Sotheby's. [Ibid]

“Graff had the blue diamond recut after purchase, to the displeasure of purists who considered it an act of vandalism against a unique object. It wasn't immediately known whether he planned to alter the pink diamond, which Sotheby's says has a flaw unnoticeable to the naked eye but may be graded as internally flawless after re-polishing. Sotheby's said it sold jewels worth $105.1 million, also a world record for a single sale. The auction included items once belonging to Christina Onassis, the daughter of the Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis, and Cristina Ford, the second wife of Henry Ford's grandson Henry Ford II. [Ibid]

Large Pink Diamond Found in Australia

In February 2012, AFP reported: “Mining giant Rio Tinto said it has unearthed a "remarkable" 12.76 carat pink diamond in Australia, the largest of the rare and precious stones ever found in the resources-rich nation. Named the Argyle Pink Jubilee, the huge rough stone was found at Rio's pink diamond operations in the Kimberley region of Western Australia and would take 10 days to cut and polish, the miner said on Wednesday. "This rare diamond is generating incredible excitement," said Josephine Johnson from Rio's Argyle Pink Diamonds division. "A diamond of this calibre is unprecedented -- it has taken 26 years of Argyle production to unearth this stone and we may never see one like this again...The individual who gets to wear this remarkable pink diamond will be incredibly lucky indeed." [Source: Amy Coopes, AFP, February 21, 2012]

Though it would not speculate on how much the Jubilee was worth, Rio said extremely high quality pink diamonds could fetch in excess of $1 million per carat, meaning it is likely to go for at least $10 million. The light pink Argyle Jubilee is a similar colour to the 24-carat Williamson Pink given to Britain's Queen Elizabeth II as a wedding gift which was later set into a Cartier brooch for her coronation. The Williamson was discovered in Tanzania in 1947 and is ranked among the finest pink diamonds in existence. It is the ninth-largest in the world. [Ibid]

“A Rio spokesman told AFP the recent discovery was named in honour of the long-reigning British monarch, who is celebrating 60 years since her accession to the throne -- her diamond jubilee. "This is the Queen's diamond jubilee year and there is a parallel in that the Queen had a solitaire pink diamond, gifted to her -- The Williamson Pink -- and set in the centre of a flower brooch in the year of her coronation," he said. When asked if Rio was targeting the Argyle Jubilee diamond at the Queen the spokesman said: "Only if she is shopping for new jewellery. She will have lots of competition.” [Ibid]

“Rio produces more than 90 percent of the world's pink diamonds from the Argyle mine, and said large stones like the Jubilee typically went to museums, were gifted to royalty or end up at prestigious auction houses like Christie's. Christie's had only auctioned 18 polished pink diamonds larger than 10 carats in its 244-year history, Rio added. Soaring demand for the extremely rare jewel has seen pink diamond prices skyrocket in the past 20 years and they are now among "the most concentrated forms of wealth on earth and well in excess of white diamonds," Rio said. [Ibid]

“The miner describes it as an "elite and discrete" market with buyers including royalty, heads of state, celebrities and "other very wealthy individuals." When the Jubilee diamond has been cut and polished it will be graded by international experts and showcased globally in private settings before being sold by invitation-only tender later this year. It is not known how the diamonds acquire their pink tinge but it is thought to come from a molecular structure distortion as the jewel forms in the earth's crust or ascends to the surface. [Ibid]

Historic Diamond Sold for $9.7 Million

In May 2012 the historic pear-cut Beau Sancy diamond---one of the world’s oldest and most storied diamond s still in private hands---was sold for $9.7 million at a Sotheby’s sping auction in Geneva. Originating from the famous gem mine sin the Indian citu of Golconda, the diamond was given as a gift to Marie de Medici, when she was one of the rcihest women in Europe. When her husband French King Henru Iv was murdered she into poverty and was forced to sell it. Pawned to pay off royal debts and used to reinfrce alliances between nations, The diamond made its way through four royal European families. Including that of George Friedrich, Prince of Prussia, and was owned efore the auction by descednants of the last emperor of Germany.

AP reported: “Marie de Medici wore it at her coronation as Queen Consort of Henry IV in France in 1610, and now the Beau Sancy diamond is a lavish accessory owned by an anonymous bidder who paid $9.7 million for it at Sotheby's auction. Five bidders fueled the price on at the Sotheby's sale for the Beau Sancy, a 34.98 carat diamond that had passed among the royal families in France, England, Prussia and the Netherlands. It was sold by the Royal House of Prussia, the line of descendants that once ruled Prussia. [Source: John Heilprin, Associated Press May 16, 2012]

“The spring auction season for jewelry and watches is upon Geneva, where elegant lakefront hotels fill with well-heeled buyers and bidders in a scene far removed from the debate over European austerity. Another historical item, the Murat Tiara, sold for $3.87 million. The pearl-and-diamond tiara was created for the marriage of a prince whose ancestors included the husband of Caroline Bonaparte, Napoleon's sister. A diamond brooch known as the "Bonnie Prince Charlie" sold for $968,085. The brooch features a yellow diamond once owned by Charles Edward Stuart, whose attempt to regain the British crown led to the Battle of Culloden in 1745. [Ibid]

“At a Christie's auction Monday to benefit 32 charities favored by the Lily Safra Foundation, Safra's donated jewelry fetched nearly $38 million in sales---almost double what was expected. The most expensive item there was a 32.08-carat Burmese ruby and diamond ring that sold for $6.7 million, a world record price for a ruby sold at auction. Eighteen jewels by the designer JAR collectively brought in $11.4 million. After the auction, the billionaire Lily Safra beamed as she won a standing ovation from the buyers and bidders she had come to thank. She later told reporters that selling a heap of jewels for charity---rather than keeping them unused in a vault---felt like one of the best things she'd ever done in her life. [Ibid]

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, The Guardian, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, NBC News, Fox News and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated August 2012

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