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A guide to the world’s most valuable diamonds

Posted by mandyf on December 12, 2011

The world’s most valuable diamonds are things of legend. Some are said to have spawned wars (Or at least some intense skirmishes), others to have been the product of a divine creator as sign of special powers to be held by its wearer, and others still to be cursed. For the most part though they are just said to be incredible wonders of nature. Trying to determine what the world’s most valuable diamonds are with absolute certainty is a bit of a guessing game due to a number of factors. In some cases appraisals are disputed, in others the need for a proper inflation adjustment is a commonly cited issue, and with others it is said the true price a particular diamond will fetch is unknown because it has yet to and likely never will hit the auction market.

When it comes to determining the listing of the world’s most valuable diamonds it is necessary to go slightly outside the box with the normal thought process. While the 4 C’s of diamond grading which are color, clarity, cut, and clarity weight are always the cornerstones of judging value in a completely objective manner, their is one other factor that is equally important to consider which is history. Many of the world’s most valuable diamonds have in a sense lived a life of their own, been named, and they do demand prices beyond what the norm might be if a near clone of them was recently discovered. he reason for this is the pedigree of who owned them, wore them, and what role they may have played in history adds to their legend and draw. With the ground rules set, let’s take a look at which diamonds make the cut in alphabetical order. No large sets of diamonds will be included except as individual pieces.

The Archduke Joseph diamond is a 76.45 carat diamond which was dubbed as such for Archduke Joseph August who acquired the gem a Hungarian prince hailing from the Hapsburg dynasty bloodline. It is a rectangular cut colorless diamond with extremely high internal clarity and D-Color certification. While the value of the diamond is undisputed on those grounds alone, its connection to Archduke Joseph (Also known as Joseph of Alcsut) adds a little something extra to its legend, As commander of the Hungarian front line forces in WWI, he was heavily credited with the retaking of the eastern portion of Siebenburgen and for initiating the following cease fire.

Later the diamond went through a somewhat mysterious disappearance while being hidden from the Nazis during WWII and was thought to have been passed on to his son, lost, or possibly seized by the Nazis. In reality it was being hidden and was eventually sold to the banker who carried out that service. Since then the Archduke Joseph diamond has been seen adorning the necks of famous entertainers like Celine Dion for high profile performances. The diamond was eventually cut down to it’s current 76.45 carat weight from its original 78.54 carats and sold at auction in 1993 to Molina Fine Jewelers for $6,487,945.

The Blue Magic Diamond was listed by Christie’s Auction House as: A magnificent fancy vivid blue diamond ring.” Weighing in at 12.02 carats the baguette cut diamond registered with GIA as a fancy blue vivid blue, natural color, VVS2 clarity gem from the Kollur mines of Hyderabad is one of the extremely rare Type IIB diamonds which is a semi-conductor of electricity. It further holds the highest color grade of VIVID via GIA, and is the largest blue diamond which has ever appeared at auction so long as such things have been recorded. It’s estimated value is between $5 – $6 million dollars U.S. currency.

The Centenary Diamond was recovered from the Premier Mine weighing in at 599 carats with perfect color. The Centenary was discovered on July 17, 1986 under and incredibly well enforced veil of silence. Gabi Tolkowsky who was considered one of the finest diamond cutters in the world was brought in to handle the shaping of the stone, It wasn’t until 1988 that Gabi along with two master cutters began the actual process of preparing the diamond for cutting after months of planning and designing the final draft of what the stone would look like and how to best salvage the asperity’s which would be cut away in the most profitable manner possible. It then took yet another year to develop the tools necessary to actually handle the cutting job which spilled over into 1989.

It took 154 days to complete the kerfing process by hand to remove large cracks from the stone as a saw or laser could potentially damage the centenary. When the process was done they had salvaged 50 carats which otherwise would have been turned to dust leaving the Centenary weighing 520 carats give or take. Shaping began in 1990 with completion arriving in 1991. The final output left the Centenary as a 273.85 carat diamond which measured 39.90 x 50.50 x 24.55 mm with 247 facets, 164 on the stone and the remainder on its girdle. Two flawless pear shapes of 1.47 and 1.14 carats were further salvaged from the rough stone. The Centenary is the largest modern fancy cut diamond in the world Its GIA color grading is D. While no value has ever actually been assigned to the stone it is insured for around $100 million dollars U.S. Whether or not it has ever sold is a complete mystery which spawns many rumors.

When discussing the Cullinan (Best known as the Star of Africa) it is necessary to do so in a somewhat different fashion. The Star of Africa name actually refers to one diamond which weighs in at 530.20 carats and is officially known as the Cullinan I. It was cut from a rough stone which weighed 3,106 carats. From this one stone the Cullinan I, Cullinan II, and eight other sizable gems were cut. The Cullinan II weighs in at only 317.40 carats. The Cullinan was presented to King Edward VII in 1907 for his 66th birthday after being discovered in 1905 at the Premier mine in Africa. Shockingly enough, most experts believe that this was just a fragment of a much larger stone that has yet to be discovered based on the nature of its shape in the original full form.

Producing as many different stones as the original Cullinan did was not the original intention. It initially snapped the blade use to try to cut it. The second attempt worked and it is noted that Asscher whom cut the diamond fainted when it finally cleaved. The stone fragmented into three large pieces which in turn produced nine major gems, which again produced 96 smaller brilliants and around 9.5 carats of unpolished pieces. The nine largest stones are in the British Crown Jewels. The Cullinan I rests atop the Royal Sceptre, the Cullinan II is mounted on the band of the Imperial Crown. The Cullinan III (94.40 carats) is in Queen Mary’s crown while the Cullinan IV is a brooch weighing 63.60 carats. The Cullinan IV was originally a part of her crown but later removed. The Cullinan V weighs 18.80 carats and was originally a brooch which was later added to the crown of Queen Elizabeth as a replacement or the Koh-i-Noor diamond. The Cullinan VI is 11.5 carats is now worn on a drop down emerald necklace, while the Cullinan VII (8.80 carats) was mounted on a pendant worn as a brooch in which the Cullinan VIII also resides as the center seat. Finally the Cullinan IX is a 4.30 carat pear shaped diamond set in a ring made for Queen Mary which is on occasion worn by Queen Elizabeth. The value of the original stone and the Culiinan I and II are considered beyond estimation due to not just their inherent beauty but historical significance.

Other highly notable diamonds which are considered among the world’s most valuable are as follows:

The Darya-i-Nur is a part of the Iranian Crown Jewels with an estimated weight of 186 carats and a known light pink color. It is described by GIA as “Famous, notable, and unique.” It’s sole value may never be known as removing it from setting would likely destroy it. Due to being believed to have been cut from the 400 carat Great Table Diamond and its extraordinarily unique properties and history no value will likely ever be truly known although some feel it could if completely salvaged from setting in tact fetch in the range of $15-$25 million dollars.

The DeBeers diamond which is the seventh largest in the world weighs in at 234.69 carats. While it has been offered at auction with a reserve of only $4.5 million dollars, it has failed to meet that minimum bid. Why this stone has not held more demand on the open market is considered a mystery.

The Dresden Green diamond was evaluated in 1988 by the GIA but has a history going back over two hundred and fifty years. It was graded as VS1 and has the potential of being internally flawless. it measures 29.75 x 19.88 x 10.29 mm and weighed over 100 old carats (40.70 modern) in its original form. In 1731 it sold for 30,000 pounds before landing in the hands of Augustus the Strong. The Dresden Green resides in the Smithsonian and while a true value is unknown an insured value has been rumored of over $25 million due to its historical significance and extreme rarity.

The Excelsior which weighed 971 old carats or 995.2 metric carats was once considered one of the most valuable diamonds in the world only surpassed by the Cullinan. Due to its inability to be sufficiently insured at the time of its discovery, numerous debts of the owner, and the inability to find a buyer for it in its full state, the Excelsior was chopped down into halves repeatedly and sold off piecemeal. It eventually yielded the Excelsior I-X, the largest stone only being 69,86 carats with 63% of the original carat weight lost to cleaving and polishing. At the time of its cutting it was the largest known diamond in the world and the decision was described as an unpardonable sin. The Excelsior I has sold for $2.642 million, but if in tact the Excelsior value would be inestimable.

The Golden Jubilee at 545,67 carats is a fancy yellow brown stone which is the worlds largest faceted diamond. It was presented to the King of Thailand in 1997 and its value is unknown on the open market. but certainly considered to be worthy of an extraordinary price tag.

The Graff Pink Supreme 10.83 carat diamond was rated as internally flawless and sold in 1993 at a Christie’s auction for $6,163,500 Swiss francs.

The Great Chrysanthemum is a 198.28 carat fancy brown diamond currently owned by Gerard’s of London with unknown purchase price.

The Heart of Eternity blue Diamond is 30.82 carats with a yet unknown true market value. Based on the sales of smaller blue diamonds of equal quality being valued at $550,000 or more per carat, it is believed this can easily exceed $20 million under the worst of conditions, potentially nearly $30 million die to its size and added notoriety.

The 45.52 steel blue Hope Diamond is one of the most famous in history not only due to its quality but its alleged curse which brings misfortune to its owners. It’s estimated value is $300 -$350 million dollars. A detailed history of its curse and history is available in numerous sources and far too lengthy to fully explore in this venue.

The Star of the Season 100.1 carat pear cut diamond sold for $16.5 million dollars to Sheihk Ahmed Fithai in 1995.

The Koh-iNor weighs in at 105.6 carats and is part of the British Crown Jewels. It’s value is considered inestimable.

The Millennium Star is a flawless D color 203.4 carat diamond with an estimated value of $205 million dollars.

While assessing the value of the world’s most valuable diamonds for a list is far from perfect as it is simply unknown what prices some would see if ever offered on the free market, these presented are certainly a strong representation. In tangible terms historical significance has no set dollar value which makes estimates even more difficult even among experienced auctioneers. Some realize far higher prices than ever dreamed and others fail to even meet what is considered a minimum value for the stone itself. Any way you slice it though, you can be sure these are at the very least among the world’s most valuable diamonds, until the next auction of course.

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