The world’s love for diamonds started in India, as far back as 4thcentury BC. But it is interesting to note that most of the diamonds we hold today were actually formed 1 to 3 billion years ago.
It is because of this billion-year-old legacy that diamonds became family heirlooms and symbols of heritage, carrying with them inherent emotional value.
While, how diamonds are formed is an easily answered question – due to intense heat and pressure deep within the Earth’s upper mantle – they have been a part of royal treasuries and families for centuries, passed down for generations, owing to their magnificence and pricelessness.
As the real and natural beauty of diamonds captured the hearts of the royals, it also made its way from India to Western Europe and by 1400s, the diamond mining process had begun in earnest.
The first example of a diamond’s use in royal jewellery dates back to 1074 AD when a Hungarian queen used it in her crown. From then on, diamonds started being used in crowns and royal jewels.
Though diamonds were reserved for royalty, they were rarely used in engagement rings. They were first used in an engagement ring in 1477, when the Archduke Maximillian of Austria proposed marriage to Mary of Burgundy.
Here are some of the famous royal diamond jewels:
The Patiala Necklace
In 1926, the House of Cartier received a request from the Maharaja of Patiala, Bhupinder Singh, to design a ceremonial necklace worthy of a king. What came about was a multi-layered diamond stringed necklace, worthy indeed of royalty.
This massive necklace containing roughly 3000 diamonds is unique due to its brilliance and unmatched design.
The Patiala Necklace mysteriously disappeared in 1948 after the end of the Raj and its whereabouts were not known till it was discovered by a Cartier representative in 1998 in a random antique shop in London. Though it was passed down from the father to son, Maharaja Yadavindra Singh, no one really knows how it turned up in London, with half its big diamonds missing.
The Imperial State Crown
Made out of 2868 diamonds, and other gemstones like sapphires, emeralds and pearls, this crown was made in 1937 for the coronation of King George VI. The design of this was based on Queen Victoria’s crown from 1838.
Fitted with a soft purple velvet cap and ermine band, the Imperial State Crown is used on formal occasions like the annual State Opening of Parliament.
The diamond carat size of Cullinan II, placed in a prime position of the glorious State Crown is a whopping 317.4 carat.
The Russian Nuptial Crown
Amassed since the time of Catherine the Great, the Russian Crown Jewels, touted to be the most magnificent collection, were feared to have disappeared after one of the most violent revolutions of Russia that led to the slaughter of the Tsar, his wife and children in 1918.
However, the jewels were recovered.
The Nuptial Crown was worn by Empress Alexandra at her wedding to Nicholas II in 1894 but was sold at Christie’s in 1928, following the revolution, and currently resides at the Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens in Washington DC.
Mounted with a cross made of diamonds, six bands of diamonds have been sown onto a velvet orb-shaped support, holding approximately 1500 diamonds.
Fleur de Lys Tiara
The Spanish Royals may not have the envious set of royal jewels of Queen Elizabeth II, but they do have gorgeously designed tiaras that will mesmerize you with their brilliance.
The Fleur de Lys Tiara is among the crème de la crème of the royal jewels. Passed down from one generation to the next, this tiara was worn by Queen Sofia of Spain until 2014, when her husband abdicated the throne. The tiara then went to her daughter-in-law Queen Letizia.
Worn only on special occasions, state visits, etc. this family heirloom was a wedding present from King Alfonso XIII to his wife Princess Victoria Eugene, who wore it in 1906. It is studded with more than 500 large round diamonds set in platinum. It also features the Fleur de Lys, the Bourbon’s emblem.
The Star of South
Discovered in 1853 in the Bagagem Diamond Mines in Brazil by a slave woman, the Star of South was a 261.88-carat diamond. It is said the honesty of the slave woman earned her, her freedom and a life income.
Though it had many owners, it was cut down to 128.48-carats before being sold to Mulhar Rao, the Gaekwar of Baroda, the ruling prince at the time. It was the Gaekwars who used it in a necklace that was specifically designed to show off the Star of South and another 78.5-carat English Dresden.
Diamond Riviere Necklace
Recently auctioned by Christies, the diamond Riviere Necklace from the collection of the Nizam of Hyderabad, was sold for a whopping Rs. 17 crores ($2.4 M).
The necklace features almost 200 carats of diamonds, sourced from the Golconda mines – one of the earliest group of mines known to man.
The Jacob Diamond
We all know about the Kohinoor but did you know there is another diamond, bigger than the Kohinoor, right here in India?
At 185.75 carats, stunningly beautiful for its cut, colour and clarity, the diamond belonged to the Nizam of Hyderabad. Originally known as the Victoria Diamond, it was sold to the Nizam by Alexander Jacob, a notorious diamond dealer. Because of the shady deal between the Nizam and Jacob, it was rechristened to the Jacob Diamond.
The diamond was found in the Nizam’s shoe by his son in 1911 after his father’s death. Thanks to the notoriety the Jacob Diamond had caused his father, the Nizam decided to use it as a paperweight!
Currently, the diamond is kept in the Reserve Bank of India, along with other valuable jewels of the Nizam’s family.
What stands out in all the pieces of royal jewellery is the authentic and rare designs that each of them boasts of. The legacy of a diamond is legendary and it is befitting that diamonds be used for their natural and inimitable quality to create something of lasting value.