Sunday, May 31, 2009

Famous Gemstones

Koh-i-Noor
It was the mines of Kollur in Golconda which produced the Koh-i-Noor (“Mountain of Light” in Persian) diamond that today adorns the crown of Britain’s Queen Mother and resides n the tower of London. Koh-i-Noor (or Kohinoor) was once the largest known diamond in the world and this diamond weighed 800 carats when found, sometimes during the 14th century, and it eventually became the most coveted jewel of the Mogul Dynasty.

It is a legend that whoever owns the Koh-i-Noor rules the world. The first owner of Kohinoor was Rajah of Malwa. Two hundred years later it was claimed by Sultan Babar, the first Mogul Emperor in India. He passed the diamond on to successive generations of mogul rulers, including Shah Jehan ( the builder of one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Taj Mahal). When the Persian Nadir Shah overran Delhi in 1739 he searched in vain for this prize. Indian folklore reveals that the defeated mogul cleverly hid the jewel in his turban. Nadir learned of this subterfuge and invited the mogul to a feast where he ordered him to exchange turbans. Nadir unwound the cloth until the diamond fell out. The sight of the gem so overwhelmed him that he cried, “Mountain of Light!”

The Koh-i-Noor eventually went to Lahore, the capital of the Punjab, which was later annexed by the East India Company. The diamond was presented to Queen Victoria and recut to 109 carats to enhance its brilliance. A superstition grew up around the diamond that it brings luck to women wearers and misfortune to men. The Shah of Persia died in a place revolt trying to defend histreasures, including the Koh-i-noor. Most of the Indian empires that came into power suffered misery and misfortune, like Ranjit Singh, whose eight descendants were unable to produce heirs and his entire royal line was eventually wiped out. The Bristish overran the region with the support of Kharag Singh, but he himself died after one year of rule. After this Duleep Singh, the son of Ranjit Singh came into power. Subsequwntly he went to war with the British and suffered a great lost. Acording to the conditions of the peace treaty the Kohinoor was to be handed over to the british but Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth both wore the Kohinoor and neither of them fell prey to any misfortune. On the contrary Queen Victoria's status improved on acquiring the diamond and on January 1, 1877 she became the Empress of India.

The Great Mogul, the Orloff, the Idol’s Eye and the Hope Diamond are diamonds so rare and magnificent that it is impossible to assign a value to them. All reside in royal treasuries and museums.

The Hope Diamond
The Hope Diamond is a 45.52 carat fancy dark grayish-blue diamond. It is currently in the possession of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC. The Hope Diamond is the most infamous gemstone in history and is the world's largest blue diamond, came from the mines of Kollur, India. The French gem dealer Jean Baptiste Tavernier bought this magnificent blue diamond in its rough form of 112 carats during a trip to India in 1642. Tavernier described the diamond as a brilliant violet and sold it along with many other diamonds to Louis XIV who had it cut into a drop shape weighing 67 carats. It was called the Tavernier Blue and was the pride of the French royal jewels. The diamond’s large size and color makes it truly one of a kind—a deep, indigo blue radiating red, green, purple and black highlights. The distinct blue color of the Hope Diamond is believed to be caused by boron impurities in the stone, which has been categorized as VS1, means that this diamond is faintly clouded when examined under a microscope.

Somehow the gem acquired an association with evil forces while at the French court. Apparently, a mistress of the king, Madame de Montespan, fell out of favor and was banished from the court after she wore it. Louis XIV later died of gangrene. The gem’s reputation became much worse when Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette were killed by their own subjects.

The diamond was stolen during the French Revolution and never appeared in the same form again. It is believed to have been cut into three smaller stones, one of which ended up in the shop of London jeweller Daniel Eliason. In 1830, Eliason sold this 45-carat, cushion-shaped blue diamond to British banker Lord Henry Philip Hope, and the diamond took on its present name.

French jeweler Pierre Cartier obtained the stone in 1911 from descendants of Hope, who blamed their bankruptcy on the gem, and passed the stone on to US mining heiress Evalyn Walsh McLean for $180,000. Fearful of the diamond’s dark reputation, McLean had the gem blessed by a priest. But that apparently failed to remove its curse, since her son was hit by a car and died at the age of nine, her husband became an alcoholic and died in an insane asylum and her daughter committed suicide at age 25. New york diamond dealer Harry Winston acquired he stone after McLean’s death and donated it to the Smithsonian Institution.

The Hope diamond has some interesting properties after being studied, this stone actually has a reddish cast under certain light and this color is not visible to the naked eye. It is possible that when Tavernier first purchased it, the violet color was more apparent, and subsequent cutting and recutting of the stone changed the nature of the stone's color. The stone also exhibits delayed fluorescence. Like other diamonds, it will glow dully under ultraviolet light. When the light is removed, however the Hope Dianond flashes a dep red color before fading.

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