Nature makes them. Men sweat for them, cut them, polish them, steal them and also kill for them. Gemstones impress everyone, but some stones seem to take on a life of their own. These famous gemstones still fascinate us today.
Probably the most famous gemstone in the world, the Hope Diamond hides quite a tale in her lovely steel-blue facets. Mined originally in India, the owner sold it to the French King Louis XIV in the mid-1600s. About 100 years later when Louis XVI lost his throne and his head, the diamond disappeared along with the other French crown jewels. It turned up in the hands of Henry Hope in 1839 and received the name we know. Hope died shortly after he bought it. In 1910 an unfortunate lady named Evalyn Walsh McLean acquired it. She lost a daughter to a drug overdose, a son to a car accident and her husband to a sanitarium. She also lost her fortune. Henry Winston purchased her estate jewelry in 1949 and later donated the diamond to the Smithsonian Natural Museum of History. He seems to have escaped the curse the stone acquired through the years. Today, it is one of the most popular displays at the Museum.
The Museum also houses another famous gemstone, the Star of India. About the size of a golf ball, the Star is one of the largest sapphires in the world. It weighs in at 1563 carats! Its value lies not only in its size and color but also in the rare double star it carries. Mined in Sri Lanka, J. P. Morgan owned the stone before donating it to the Museum in 1900. Due to poor security, in 1964 thieves took it from the museum along with several other stones. It was later recovered from a bus terminal in Miami and returned. It currently rests safely in the museum with improved protection.
The British Crown Jewels displayed at the Tower of London contain several famous gemstones. The Koh-i-Noor diamond came originally from Indian mines. It's name means "mountain of lights" for its dazzling pure white color and near flawless beauty. It was given to Queen Victoria and set in the crown by Albert. Like many other famous jewels, it carries a curse. It's said that if a man wears it he will die. Only women of the British royal family have ever worn it. After Queen Elizabeth, it will pass to Kate, Duchess of Cambridge.
The Black Prince Ruby in the Imperial State Crown of England is also called the "Imposter Ruby." It isn't a ruby at all, but a huge spinel. Mined in what is now modern Tajikistan, it originally belonged to the Moorish Prince of Granada. It passed through several hands before coming to the son of England's Edward III where it was given its present name.
One more gemstone became famous only in the 20th century. La Peregrina Pearl was found by an African slave in the Gulf of Panama in the 16th century. It passed through so many hands it was given the name Peregrina meaning "wanderer." Philip of Spain gave it to Queen "Bloody" Mary of England, then took it back to Spain when she died. It was later looted from Spain by Napoleon. It continued its "wandering" until Richard Burton bought it in 1969 for a mere $37,000. He gave it to Elizabeth Taylor who had it set in a gorgeous necklace. After her death, it sold at auction for 11 million dollars in 2011.
These stones were famous for their size, their beauty, their perfection and, in part, who wore them. All gemstones become personalized by their owners and have a story to tell. What is your favorite gemstone and your story? Contact us and let us help you find out.