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Gems - Historical Diamonds

( Originally Published 1919 )

THE number of diamonds which exceed a hundred carats in weight when cut is very limited. Their extreme costliness renders them something more than mere ornaments ; in a condensed and portable form they represent great wealth and all the potentiality for good or ill thereby entailed, and have played no small, if sinister, role in the moulding of history. In bygone days when despotic government was universal, the possession of a splendid jewel in weak hands but too often precipitated the aggression of a greedy and powerful neighbour, and plunged whole countries into the horrors of a ruthless and bloody war. In more civilized days a great diamond has often been pledged as security for money to replenish an empty treasury in times of stress. The ambitions of Napoleon might have received a set-back but for the funds raised on the security of the famous Pitt diamond. The history of such stones—often one long romance—is full of interest, but space will not permit of more than a brief sketch here.

If we except the colossal Cullinan stone, the mines of Brazil and South Africa cannot compare with the old mines of India as the birthplace of large and perfect diamonds of world-wide fame.

The history of the famous stone called the Koh-i-nor, meaning Mound of Light, is known as far back as the year 1304, when it fell into the hands of the Mogul emperors, and legend even traces it back some four thousand years previously. It remained at Delhi until the invasion of NorthWest India by Nadir Shah in 1739, when it passed together with an immense amount of spoil into the hands of the conqueror. At his death the empire which he had so strenuously founded fell to pieces, and the great diamond after many vicissitudes came into the possession of Runjit Singh at Lahore. His successors kept it until upon the fall of the Sikh power in 1850 it passed to the East India Company, in whose name it was presented by Lord Dalhousie to Queen Victoria. At this date the stone still retained its original Indian form, but in 1862 it was re-cut into the form of a shallow brilliant (Fig. 62), the weight thereby being reduced from 186 1/16 to 106 1/6 carats. The wisdom of this course has been severely criticized ; the stone has not the correct shape of a brilliant and is deficient in ` fire,' and it has with the change in shape lost much of its old historical interest. The Koh-i-nor is the private poperty of the English Royal Family, the stone shown in the Tower being a model. It is valued at £100,000.


This splendid stone was discovered in 1701 at the famous diamond mines at Partial, on the Kistna, about 150 miles (240 km.) from Golconda, and weighed as much as 410 carats in the rough. By devious ways it came into the hands of Jamchund, a Parsee merchant, from whom it was purchased by William Pitt, governor of Fort St. George, Madras, for £20,400. On his return to England Pitt had it cut into a perfect brilliant (Fig. 63), weighing 163 7/8 carats, the operation ocupying the space of two years and costing 5 000 ; more than £7000 is said to have been realized from the sale of the fragments left over. Pitt had an uneasy time and lived in constant dread of theft of the FIG. 64.-Pitt or Regent stone until, in 1717, after lengthy (side view). negotiations, he parted with it to the Duc d'Orleans, Regent of France, for the immense sum of three and three-quarter million francs, about £135,000. With the remainder of the French regalia it was stolen from the Garde-meuble on August 17, 1792, in the early days of the French Revolution, but was eventually restored by the thieves, doubtless because of the impossibility of disposing of such a stone, at least intact, and it is now exhibited in the Apollo Gallery of the Louvre at Paris. It measures about 30 millimetres in length, 25 in width, and 19 in depth, and is valued at £480,000.


One of the finest diamonds existing, this large stone forms the top of the imperial sceptre of Russia. It is rose-cut (Fig. 65), the base being a cleavage face, and weighs 194 3/4 carats, It is said to have formed at one time one of the eyes of a statue of Brahma which stood in a temple on the island of Sheringham in the Cavery River, near Trichinopoli, in Mysore, and to have been stolen by a French soldier who had somehow persuaded the priests to appoint him guardian of the temple. He sold it for £2000 to the captain of an English ship, who disposed of it to a Jewish dealer in London for £ 12,000. It changed hands to a Persian merchant, Raphael Khojeh, who eventually sold it to Prince Orloff for, so it is said, the immense sum of ,£90,000 and an annuity of £4000. It was presented by Prince Orloff to Catherine II of Russia.


This, the largest Indian diamond known, was found in the Kollur mines, about the year 1650. Its original weight is said to have been 787+ carats, but it was so full of flaws that the Venetian, Hortensio Borgis, then in India, in cutting it to a rose form reduced its weight to 240 carats. It was seen by Tavernier at the time of his visit to India, but it has since been quite lost sight of. It has been identified with both the Koh. i-nor and the Orloff, and it is even suggested that both these stones were cut from it.


The history of this diamond is very involved, and probably two or more stones have been confused. It may have been the one cut by Berquem for Charles the Bold, from whose body on the fatal day of Nancy, in 1477, it was snatched by a marauding soldier. It was acquired by Nicholas Harlai, Seigneur de Sancy, who sold it to Queen Elizabeth at the close of the sixteenth century. A hundred years later, in 1695, it was sold by James II to Louis XIV. The stone in the French regalia, according to the inventory taken in 1791, weighed SA. carats. It was never recovered after the theft of the regalia in the following year, but may be identical with the diamond which was in the possession of the Demidoff family and was sold by Prince Demidoff in 1865 to a London firm who were said to have been acting for Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy, a wealthy Parsee of Bombay. It was shown at the Paris Exhibition of 1867. It was almond-shaped, and covered all over with tiny facets by Indian lapidaries.


This mysterious stone was seen by Tavernier at Golconda in 1642, but has quite disappeared. It weighed 242k carats.


This diamond is often confused with the Orloff. It was captured by Nadir Shah at Delhi, and after his murder was stolen by an Afghan soldier who disposed of it to an Armenian, by name Shaffrass. It was finally acquired by the Russian crown for an enormous sum.


A large diamond, weighing 340 carats, belonged to the Nizam of Hyderabad ; it was fractured at the beginning of the Indian Mutiny. Whether the weight is that previous to fracture or not, there seems to be no information.


This fine diamond, rose-cut and 186 carats in weight, is of the purest water and merits its title of River of Light.' It seems to have been captured by Nadir Shah at Delhi, and is now the largest diamond in the Persian collection.

(10) SHAH

This fine stone, of the purest water, was presented to the Czar Nicholas by the Persian prince Chosroes, younger son of Abbas Mirza, in 1843. At that time it still retained three cleavage faces which were engraved with the names of three . Persian sovereigns, and weighed 95 carats. It was, however, subsequently re-cut with the loss of 9 carats, and the engraving has disappeared in the process.


Once the property of the great Mogul, Akbar, this diamond was engraved on two faces with Arabic inscriptions by the instructions of his successor, Jehan. It disappeared, but turned up again in Turkey under the name of ' Shepherd's Stone'; it still retained its original inscriptions and was there-by recognized. In 1866 it was re-cut, the weight being reduced from 116 to 71 carats, and the inscriptions destroyed. The stone was sold to the Gaekwar of Baroda for 31 lakhs of rupees (about £23,333)


A beautiful, brilliant-cut stone, weighing 40 carats, which is known by this name, is in the Russian regalia.


The Nassak diamond, which weighed 891 carats, formed part of the Deccan booty, and was put up to auction in London in July 1837. It was purchased by Emanuel, a London jeweller, who for £7200 shortly afterwards sold it to the Duke of Westminster, in whose family it still remains. It was originally pear-shaped, but was re-cut to a triangular form with a reduction in weight to 78 carats.


This diamond was purchased by Napoleon Buonaparte for £8000, and worn by him at his wedding with Josephine Beauharnais in 1796.


This stone, which weighs 32 carats, was purchased by the city of London for £10,000 and presented to the Duke of Cumberland after the battle of Culloden ; it is now in the possession of the Duke of Brunswick.


A fine Indian stone, weighing 47- carats, this diamond was brought to England by Lord Pigott in 1775 and sold for £30,000. It came into the possession of Ali Pacha, Viceroy of Egypt, and was by his orders destroyed at his death.


This fine stone, weighing 51 carats, was given by the Czarina Catherine II of Russia to her favourite, Potemkin. It was purchased by Napoleon II1 as a bridal gift for his bride, and on his downfall was bought by the Gaekwar of Baroda.


Square in contour, measuring 1 1/12 in. (28 mm.), and weighing 48 carats, this stone was purchased by Augustus the Strong for a million thalers (about £150,000).


This 40-carat brilliant was purchased by Ibrahim, Viceroy of Egypt, for £28,000.


Though a comparatively small stone, in weight 25 carats, it is noted for its perfection of form and quality. It belongs to the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austrian-Este, eldest son of the Archduke Karl Ludwig.


The beauty of this large stone, 133 3/4 carats in weight, is marred by the tinge of yellow, which is sufficiently pronounced to impair its brilliancy ; it is a double rose in form. At one time the property of the Grand Dukes of Tuscany, it is now in the possession of the Emperor of Austria. King mentions a tale that it was bought at a curiosity stall in Florence for an insignificant sum, the stone being supposed to be only yellow quartz.


This, the largest of the Brazilian diamonds, was discovered at the mines of Bagagem in July 1853. Perfectly transparent and without tint, it was dodecahedral in shape and weighed 254 1/2 carats, and was sold in the rough for £40,000. It was cut as a perfect brilliant, being reduced in weight to 125 1/2 carats.


This beautiful stone, which weighed 119 1/2 carats in the rough, was found at the Bagagem mines, in Brazil, in 1857, and came into the possession of Mr. E. Dresden. It was cut as a long, egg-shaped brilliant, weighing 76 1/2 carats.


The first considerable stone to be found in South Africa, it was discovered at the Vaal River diggings in 1869, and weighed 83 1/2 carats in the rough. It was cut to a triangular brilliant of 46 1/2 carats. It was finally purchased by the Countess of Dudley for L25,000.


This large diamond, weighing in the rough 288 3/8 carats, was found at the Vaal River diggings in 1872, and was first sold for £6000 and shortly afterwards for £9000 ; it was reduced on cutting to 20 carats. Like many South African stones, it has a faint yellowish tinge.


This blue-white stone, which weighed 150 carats, was found in a claim belonging to Mr. Porter-Rhodes in the Kimberley mine in February 1880.


This large diamond weighed as much as 457 carats in the rough, and 180 when cut ; it is quite colourless. It was brought to Europe in 1884, and was eventually sold to the Nizam of Hyderabad for £20,000.


A pale yellowish stone, weighing 428 carats, was found in the De Beers mine in 1888. It was cut to a brilliant weighing 228 1/2 carats, and was sold to an Indian prince. A still larger stone of similar tinge, weighing 503 1/4 carats, was discovered in 1896, and among other large stones supplied by the same mine may be mentioned one of 302 carats found in 1884, and another of 409 carats found in early years.


This, which prior to the discovery of the ' Cullinan,' was by far the largest South African stone, was found in the Jagersfontein mine on June 30, 1893 bluish-white in tint, it weighed 9691 carats. From it were cut twenty-one brilliants, the larger stones weighing 67 7/8, 45 13/16, 45 , 39, 34, 27 7/8, 25 5/8, 23, 16', 131 carats respectively, and the total weight of the cut stones amounting to 364k carats.


Another large stone was discovered in the Jagersfontein mine in 1895. It weighed 634 carats in the rough, and from it was obtained a splendid, faultless brilliant weighing 239 carats. It was shown at the Faris Exhibition of 1900.


All diamonds pale into insignificance when compared with the colossal stone that came to light at the Premier mine near Pretoria in the Transvaal on January 25, 1905. It was first called the `Cullinan' after Sir T. M. Cullinan, chairman of the Premier Diamond Mine (Transvaal) Company, but has recently, by desire of King George v, received the name `Star of Africa.' The rough stone weighed 621.2 grams or 3025 carats (about 1 1/3 lb.) ; it displayed three natural faces (Plate XXV) and one large cleavage face, and its shape suggested that it was a portion of an enormous stone more than double its size ; it was trans-parent, colourless, and had only one small flaw near the surface. This magnificent diamond was purchased by the Transvaal Government for L150,000, and presented to King Edward VII on his birthday, November 9, 1907.

The Cullinan was entrusted to the famous firm, Messrs. I. J. Asscher & Co., of Amsterdam, for cutting on January 23, 1908, just three years after its discovery. On February 10 it was cleaved into two parts, weighing respectively 1977 1/2 and 1040 1/2 carats, from which the two largest stones have been cut, one being a pendeloque or drop brilliant in shape (Fig. 67) and weighing 516 1/2 carats, and the other a square brilliant (Fig. 68) weighing 309 3/16 carats. The first has been placed in the sceptre, and the second in the crown of the regalia. Besides these there are a pendeloque weighing 92 carats, a square-shaped brilliant 62, a heart-shaped stone 18, two marquises 8 9/16 and an oblong stone 6 5/8, a pendeloque 4-, and 96 small brilliants weighing together 7 3/8; the total weight of the cut stones amounts to 1036 5/32 carats. The largest stone has 74 and the second 66 facets. The work was completed and the stones handed to King Edward in November 1908.

Although the Premier mine has yielded no worthy compeer of the Cullinan, it can, nevertheless, boast of a considerable number of large stones which but for comparison with that giant would be thought remarkable for their size, no fewer than seven of them having weights of over 300 carats, viz. 511, 487, 458, 391, 373, 348, and 334 carats.


This large diamond, which was found in 1911 at the Bagagem mines, Minas Geraes, Brazil, had the shape of a dome with a flat base, and weighed in the rough 35.875 grams (1741 carats).

The large stone called the ' Braganza,' in the Portuguese regalia, which is supposed to be a diamond, is probably a white topaz it weighs 1680 carats. The Mattan stone, pear-shaped and weighing 367 carats, which was found in the Landak mines near the west coast of Borneo in 1787, is suspected to be quartz. For further information about Diamonds:
Diamonds @ Wikipedia
The Diamond
Diamond Mines - The De Beers
Diamonds And Zirconia
Diamonds All Around You
Diamonds With A History

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