The Most Expensive Diamonds all have a tale to tell…

A girl’s best friend, something that’s meant to last forever and an old adversary to a man’s wallet. Diamonds are naturally occurring gemstones and, on a surface level, are treasured for their beauty and rarity. On a historic level, they became valued as a result of the De Beers diamond cartel’s highly successful advertisement campaign in the middle of the 20th century (1). The most expensive diamonds in the world were all formed under extraordinary conditions of high pressure and low temperature. This kind of environment can only be found either deep within the earth or at the crash site of a meteor. The most expensive diamonds in the world all come with rich histories to match their hefty price tags.

The Most Expensive Diamonds in the World


The Cullinan – £1 billion+ ($2 billion+)


3,106.75 carat

Discovered in the mine of Sir Thomas Cullinan in South Africa, 1905, the Cullinan diamond is the largest diamond to be ever uncovered. Upon discovery, the huge chunk of diamond was so large that it was originally mistaken by the mine manager for a crystal, due to its freakish size. The rough diamond was voted to be sent as a gift to King Edward VII by the British Transvaal Colony in South Africa, 1907 as an act of loyalty. To distract potential thieves from stealing the diamond in transit, a fake was transported to the UK officially via steamboat. The fake diamond was locked in the captain’s safe and placed under guard during a public display to reinforce the guise. Meanwhile, the real Cullinan diamond was shipped to England in a plain parcel box. The King received the great diamond on his birthday, who accepted “for himself and his successors.” It was then divided into 9 large polished stones and 96 separate smaller stones, all of which eventually became either part of the United Kingdom’s Crown Jewels collection or fashioned into remarkable pieces of jewellery. The knife that made the first incision into the diamond was said to of broken in two during the attempt to cut the stone. The largest diamond that was cut from the rough Cullinan diamond is known as the Great Star of Africa and is set in the Royal sceptre of the United Kingdom’s crown jewels.

The Hope Diamond – £123m – £153m ($200m – $250m)


45.52 carat

The Hope Diamond has gone by many names, the Kings Jewel, the Blue of France and has also been known, more unconventionally, as the most famous diamond in the world. Estimations suggest the diamond was first formed under the Earth around 1.1 billion years ago. Since its entrance into the diamond market, the deep blue diamond has been soaked in superstition. A curse is said afflict anyone who comes into contact with the diamond, which has had effect since it was plucked from the head of a Hindu idol. The curse is said to deliver bad luck and an untimely end to its victims (2). The first trader that brought it from India to France, Jean Baptiste Tavernier, was said to of been torn apart by dogs for desecrating the idol (3). The truth of this trader’s fate, however, is that he made his wealth selling the jewel and plenty of others like it to royalty and retired to Russia where he lived out the rest of his days (3). Others who have come into contact with the diamond have been recorded to meet with their fair share of bad luck and death however. Another alleged victim of the Hope diamond is said to be the French Queen Marie Antoinette, who wore the diamond. She was beheaded during the French revolution, but so were a lot of French aristocrats. Evalyn Walsh Mclean, one of the more recent supposed victims, was a glamorous figure from the early 20th century and sadly endured a tragic life. Her son was killed in a car accident, her daughter passed away from an overdose and her husband ran off with another woman, eventually dying in an insane asylum (4). The French Jeweller, Pierre Cartier, who sold the diamond Mclean was one of the diamond’s owners to have been seemingly unaffected by the alleged curse. The diamond was then acquired by Harry Winston who sent the diamond on a tour around the world and he had only good fortune attached to him. After the Hope diamond’s global display, he sent it onto the Smithsonian institution, where it currently resides as part of the ‘America’s Crown Jewels’ collection. The supposed curse has not had a fresh victim in the 50 years of its residence in the Smithsonian institution.

Centenary Diamond – £61m ($100m)

273.85 carat

Flawless and colourless, the heart shaped De Beers Centenary Diamond was discovered in the Premier Mine in South Africa, 1986. The rough diamond was first discovered through the use of an X ray imaging system. It took three years to cut the diamond into its current shape and had its very own room created in the De Beers diamond research laboratory to do it. It was then presented in 1991 and showcased in the Tower of London. The diamond is, at present, privately owned.

The Sancy Diamond – Priceless 


55.23 carat

With its pale yellow hue the Sancy Diamond, is cut like a shield of gold. Its origin is not noted in the pages of history, but it has been assessed to originate from India and the legendary mines of Golconda. The diamond has passed into many royal hands, one of which being James II, who took refuge in the court of King Louis XIV of France after a great defeat. James II grew poor in his exile and resulted in selling the Sancy diamond to a French cardinal for £25,000. The Cardinal then bestowed the diamond to the French King and in France was where it stayed, for a time (5). During the French Revolution, the diamond was pilfered from the Royal Treasury by raiders, along with the Hope Diamond. The diamond was not recorded to be seen again until it was acquired by the Russian prince known as Demidoff. After the diamond sat in Russia for 37 years, it was sold to an Indian Prince, who went on to sell it a year later and once again, the Sancy diamond vanished from recorded history (5). It then reappeared at an Exposition in Paris along with a price tag of 1 million francs. The Sancy was purchased there and once more disappeared for approximately 40 years, until a wealthy American, by the name of William Waldorf Astor, is recorded to buy it in 1906. It remained in his family for 72 years until the family sold the Sancy diamond to the Louvre for $1m, where it currently dwells within the Louvre’s, Apollo gallery (5).

Koh-I-Noor – Priceless


105.6 carat

Originally the largest known diamond in the world. Koh-I-Noor translates from its Persian name into ‘Mountain of Light’. When first uncovered and it had yet to be cut, the Koh-I-Noor diamond weighed 793 carats. This diamond is another gem that came from the Golconda mines in India and one with many a tale linked to it. One such being a Persian legend surrounding the true wealth of the stone that states if a strong man should take 5 stones, cast one North, one East, one South, one West and one straight up, and that area was filled with gold and jewels, it would equate to the worth of the Koh-I-Noor (6). The diamond was taken as a spoil of war from the fallen Persian Empire and taken by the founder of the Sikh Empire Ranjit Singh. Upon his death, British administrators of the East India Company claimed the diamond and raised the British flag over his citadel. It was then presented to Queen Victoria by Ranjit Singh’s successor, a 13 year old prince. The Governor General who sanctioned the treaty, organised the young Prince to give the Queen the diamond directly, not as a gift, but as a direct act of surrender. It then returned to the vaults of the British fort of Lahore in India. It was later shipped back to the UK and given to the Queen in 1850 in accordance with the terms that were agreed upon in the treaty drafted after the conclusion of the Sikh War. The diamond is still currently set into the crown of the British Queen and on display in the tower of London. India has since stated that the Koh-I-Noor was taken illegally and that it should be returned to them. In 1997, many Indians in both India and Britain have demanded that this request be fulfilled when Queen Elizabeth II paid her state visit to India. More recently in 2013, the present UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, insisted that the return of the diamond would be illogical. (7)

The Most Expensive Diamonds Sold at Auction

The Orange – £21m ($35.54m) 

14.82 carat

A tear drop of gold. The Orange is the greatest orange diamond to ever be uncovered and is the most expensive orange diamond ever sold. Orange coloured diamonds are among the rarest colour of diamonds in the world. The Orange was auctioned at Christie’s in November 2013. What gives the orange diamond its colour? All coloured diamonds gain their colour due to an impurity or flaw in the diamond’s structure (8). The Orange hue created in this diamond is due to the structure of the nitrogen atoms within the stone’s lattice (9).

The Pink Dream – £52m ($83.19m)

59.60 carat

Once known as the Steinmetz Pink and more commonly known as the Pink Star, The Pink dream was renamed to its current title by its latest attempted buyer, Isaac Wolf. Mr. Wolf won the bid against 3 other people for the diamond in the Sotheby’s 2013 diamond auction, where it broke the world record for the most expensive diamond ever auctioned. The pink panther theme was played at the auction of course when the hammer dropped and the diamond sold (10). However, Isaac Wolf has since defaulted on his bid, due to an inability to pay the auction price, making his ownership of the diamond comparable to name he gave it; a dream. At present, the stone still remains in the inventory of Sotheby’s. The fancy pink coloured diamond was mined by the diamond cartel De Beers, in 1999 from the mines in South Africa and was first unveiled in Monaco in 2003.

The Princie Diamond – £23.4m ($39.54m)

34.65 carat

The third largest pink diamond in the world. It was once owned by the old royal rulers of Hyderabad in India; a city now known as the city of pearls, due to it once being a bustling diamond and pearl trading post. This diamond became the most expensive diamond ever sold in the US in April 2013 at an auction in Christies to an anonymous bidder (11). The stunning pink stone was first uncovered in the Golconda mines in India over 300 years ago (11). These mines are believed to be the birthplace of many of the world’s most famous diamonds, including the Hope diamond and Wittelsbach Graff Diamond. The Princie Diamond is assumed to of once resided in the vaults of the fort that still stands in Golconda, along with the other two famous blue jewels. As a result of the remarkable diamond discoveries in the Golconda mines, the name Golconda has attained a mythical aura, adding a higher status to the gemstones linked to the name.

Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond – £16.4m ($10m)


31.06 carat

Once known as simply the Wittelsbach Diamond, after its acquisition by Laurence Graff in 2008, he proceeded to rename this diamond after himself. The deep blue coloured stone was rumoured to once belong to the Spanish King Philip IV, who used it as part of the dowry for his daughter in 1664 (12). The King’s daughter, Margarest Teresa was betrothed to her uncle from infancy; the Holy Roman Emperor, Leopold I and the rumour surrounding her dowry accompanying her betrothal has been identified to be likely untrue. The original name for the diamond was taken from the Bavarian royal family, whose first king implanted the diamond into the royal crown in 1806. The origin of the blue diamond is known to stem from the Kollur mines in the Andhra Pradesh state, India. Graff has since supposedly sold the diamond to the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Chilifa, for approximately £49m ($80m).

Graff Pink – £29m ($46m)


24.78 carat

This fancy pink diamond once held the record for the most expensive diamond ever sold at auction that the Pink Dream currently holds. The Graff Pink was owned for 60 years by the famous American jeweller Harry Winston; a man whose legend began when, at the age of 12, he spotted a 2 carat emerald in a pawn shop (13). He bought the emerald for $25 cents and sold it two days later for $800. In 2010, the Graff Pink sold at the Sotheby’s auction in Geneva Switzerland to Laurence Graff who saw fit to name another diamond after himself. The early history of this diamond and its origin is unfortunately unclear.

A New Discovery…

A 122.52 carat blue diamond has been recently discovered in the same mine in which the Cullinan diamond was excavated from. This diamond could become the latest addition to this list of most expensive diamonds, once it has been cut and made ready for the markets (14).    

The Most Expensive Diamonds by Color


The Value of Coloured Diamonds | The Diamond Spectrum | Infographic


Diamonds as an Investment

There’s no denying the value of a rare diamond, but the majority of diamonds unfortunately don’t make the best investments. Find out why
















About the Author:

Adam is a freelance writer that focuses on luxury asset trends for Borro Private Finance.