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    Start with a Diamond
    Start with Setting
    Apr 08

    When the contents of the Iranian Treasury were opened up in the 1960s, the existence of three legendary Indian diamonds was revealed. They are the Darya-I-Nur, the Nur-Ul-Ain and the Taj-I-Mah. The first two diamonds are said to have been cut from a legendary stone known as the Great Table Diamond.

    dhbtsb8r_771c5zfjkfj.jpgThe Darya-i-Noor

    Considered to be the most celebrated diamond in the Iranian Crown Jewels and one of the oldest known to man, the 186-carat Darya-i-Nur is mounted in an elaborate frame, surmounted by the Lion and Sun, the emblem of the Imperial Government of Iran. It is set with 457 diamonds and four rubies. Both the Darya-i-Nur and the historic Koh-i-Noor are said to have belonged to the first Mogul emperor of India, from whom they descended to Mohammed Shah. When he was defeated by Persia’s Nadir Shah during the sack of Delhi in 1739, he surrendered all his valuables, including the diamonds and the Peacock Throne.


    The Nur-Ul-Ain

    One of the largest pink diamonds in the world, the Nur-Ul-Ain is an oval brilliant cut weighing around 60 carats. Set in a diamond tiara made by Harry Winston in 1958 for Empress Farah’s wedding to the Shah of Iran, Moahammad Reza Shah Pahlavi. The Nur-Ul-Ain is set in platinum, surrounded by diamonds in shades of pink, yellow, and colorless, with a row of colorless baguettes lining the base of the tiara. The tiara contains 324 diamonds in all. When the Shah was overthrown in 1979, the crown jewels became the property of the state.

    dhbtsb8r_773d6sj4rg3.jpgThe Shah Diamond

    It’s not surprising that many of the world’s greatest gems have Iranian connections; Persia was a great empire for thousands of years. One of the most curious diamonds originating from Persia is the Shah diamond. Now the property of Russia, which overthrew its own royals in 1917, the Shah formed part of the Persian regalia from the remotest times. The 86-carat yellow diamond was said to have weighed about 95 carats in the rough, nine carats through the cutter’s hand. Inscribed in the diamond are the names of three Persian rulers: Akbar Shah, Nisim Shah, Fat’hh Ali Shah.

    dhbtsb8r_774ctkxx9g2.jpgOrlov Diamond

    Another gem from the Russian crown jewels, this 189-carat gem is in the shape of half a pigeon’s egg and mounted in the Russian imperial scepter. There are many stories about the stone’s origin. According to one account, it was set as one of the eyes of an idol in a sacred temple in India. A deserter from the French Army disguised as a Hindu gained plucked the jewel from the diety’s eye. Eventually, it fell into the hands of Khojeh Raphael, an Armenian “scoundrel” who sold the jewel in Russia. It eventually came to be owned by Count Orlov, a Russian nobleman and the lover of Catherine, consort of Peter the Great, tsar of Russia. Orlov and his brother, Count Aleksei Grigorievich, organized the coup of July 1762 in which Peter was dethroned and then murdered. Catherine took his place. Orlov presented the jewel to Catherine in hopes of being restored to her favor–she had thrown the Count over and taken new lovers first Aleksander Vassilchikov, then Grigori Potemkin. The gem didn’t do the trick. Orlov left Russia in 1775, but Catherine kept the diamond. The Orlov’s story doesn’t end there. Napoleon also hankered after the diamond.

    As the Emperor of France’s forces were approaching Moscow during the campaign of 1812, the Orlov was secreted in the tomb of a priest in the Kremlin. When Napoleon entered Moscow he gave orders that the gem be sought. After he learned of its whereabouts, Napoleon in person, accompanied by his bodyguards, proceeded to the Kremlin to secure the diamond. The tomb was opened to reveal the great gem. One of the bodyguards stretched out a hand to take the diamond, but before he had touched it the ghost of the priest rose up and cursed the invaders. Napoleon and his bodyguards are then suppose to have fled empty-handed from the Kremlin.

    dhbtsb8r_775cpfspkhp.jpgNow on display at the Louvre, the French crown jewels were lost, recovered and added to several times since the 1789 French Revolution.

    Regent Diamond

    The Regent has a long and colorful history. Said to have been discovered by a slave in the Parteal Mines in Inida in the early 18th Century, it was eventually bought by British Prime Minister William Pitt the elder, who had it cut into it a 140 carat brilliant cushion. Pitt sold it to Philip II, Duke of Orleans, then Regent of France, which is how it got its name. It was set in the crown of Crown of Louis XV and worn at his coronation in 1723. Two generations later, Marie Antoinette used the Regent to adorn a large black-velvet hat. The gem disappeared when the Garde Meuble was robbed in 1792. Fifteen months later it was recovered from a Paris garret. Napolean had it mounted in the sword he carried at his coronation in 1804. When Napolean went into exile in Elba in 1814, Marie Louisa, his second wife, carried the Regent 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. French Blue Diamond Another diamond stolen from the treasury is the fabled French Blue. It was never recovered, though rumor has it that the famous Hope Diamond was cut from the French Blue. Like the Orlov, the original gem was alleged to have been stolen from the eye of a Hindu idol. It’s also said to bring misfortune to whoever wears it. Louis XIV gave the t67.5 carat pear-shaped stone to his mistress Madame de Montespan, who soon fell out of favor and was banished from the court. She left the diamond behind. In 1831, years after the Garde Meuble was robbed, a a large steel blue diamond of a different shape, and weighing only 44.50 carats appeared on the market and was purchased by Henry Thomas Hope, an English banker. His heir eventually went bankrupt and the diamond vanished again, only to be discovered by the estate’s trustees after it had been sold as a piece of costume jewelry. The next owner was Abdul Hamid II, Sultan of Turkey. During the last year of his reign Abdul had the jewel smuggled to Paris to be sold. Unfortunately, he was dethroned before he could sell it. The diamond then went to Washington socialite Evalyn Walsh McLean. Harry Winston bought her jewelry collection in 1949. He gave the stone to the Smithsonian, where it is now on display. The Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom are considered to be the most valuable and one of the largest jewelry collections in existence, with a number of famous diamonds and rubies including the Cullinan Diamonds and the mysterious Koh-I-Noor.

    dhbtsb8r_776fr5cfncx.jpgThe Koh-I-Noor

    Said to be more than 5,000 years old, the Koh-I-Noor can be traced back to India’s first Mughal emperor, Babur, in the 15th Century. The Koh-I-Noor passed from emperor to emperor and from kingdom to kingdom until it was confiscated by the British when they conquered India. It’s been the subject of great controversy since the British acquired it: There were superstitions that the diamond was unlucky and controversy about its recutting. The British public got a glimpse of the diamond at an exhibition in Hyde Park. They were not dazzled by the 186-carat rose-cut diamond. The queen’s husband, Prince Albert, was likewise unimpressed. He had the diamond recut as an oval brilliant weighing 108.93 carats. Newspaper editorials criticized the move as ‘wasteful.” In the 20th Century, questions about the Koh-I-Noor’s rightful ownership have erupted from time to time with some arguing that the diamond should be given back to India. But the diamond remains in Britain. In 1853, Garrards—the royal jeweler–mounted the Koh-I-Noor in a tiara for the Queen which contained more than two thousand diamonds. Five years later Queen Victoria ordered a new regal circlet for the Koh-I-Noor. Garrards made a new crown which Queen Mary wore for the coronation in 1911. In 1937 the diamond was transfered to the crown made for Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, which was based on Queen Victoria’s regal circlet. The Koh-I-Noor is set in the Maltese Cross at the front of the crown.

    dhbtsb8r_779c8bjk7gq.jpgThe famous Cullinan diamonds are also part of the British crown jewels.

    The 3106 carat Cullinan rough was discovered in 1905.

    Many diamond experts believe that the huge stone was only a fragment, and that another piece, (possibly as large or even larger) either still exists and awaits discovery, or was crushed in the mining process. The latter is very unlikely. The prospect of finding the portion of the Cullinan has added zest to the activities of numerous miners and prospectors. The Cullinan was sold to the Transvaal government, which presented it to King Edward VII on his 66th birthday on November 9th, 1907. It was insured for $1,250,000 when it was sent to England. 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. The huge diamond was studied for months. On February 10th, 1908, Mr. Asscher placed the steel cleaver’s blade in a previously prepared V-shaped groove and tapped it once with a heavy steel rod. The blade broke, but the diamond remained intact! The second time, it fell apart exactly as planned, and an employee at the factory reported that Mr. Asscher had fainted. dhbtsb8r_778dd7w73fs.jpgA second cleavage in the same direction produced three principal sections; these in turn would produce nine major gems, 96 smaller brilliants, and 9.50 carats of unpolished pieces.

    Cullinan I, also known as the Star of Africa, is a pear-shaped stone weighing 530.20 carats.

    dhbtsb8r_780fjztchhg.jpgThe second-largest cut diamond in the world, the Star of Africa is part of the royal scepter. The Cullinan II is a 317.40-carat cushion shaped diamond that sits in the center-front of the Imperial State Crown.

    dhbtsb8r_781f7hmtzc7.jpgThe Dresden Green Diamond

    The 76 carat Dresden Green gets its name from the capitol of Saxony where it has been on display for more than 200 years. The earliest known reference to its existence occurs in The Post Boy, a London newspaper of the 1700s. Originally purchased by Frederick Augustus II, king of Poland and Elector of Saxony, the stone is a rare type IIa diamond and said to be internally flawless. Its unique green color is due to natural exposure to radioactive materials. In 1768, the green diamond was worked into a hat clasp along with two other white brilliants, weighing almost 40 carats total, and a number of smaller diamonds.

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