HISTORY AND EVOLUTION OF GEMSTONES
Gems have long been seen as exotic, rare and valuable. Many were carried long distances along perilous trade routes and their value. As different gemstones have become available, fashions have changes and preferences have varied worldwide. Nowadays, a DIAMOND is thought of as the ultimate gem, worn in engagement rings and given as token of love, but this has not always been the case.
At various times in the past, TURQUOISE, AMETHYST, LAPIS LAZULI, JASPER and CARNELIAN have all been regarded as the ultimate gem. JADE was a favourite in China and Mexico. The ancient Egyptians and the civilizations of Central and South America valued EMERALDS. SAPPHIRES, AMERHYST, EMERALDS, JASPER and CARNELIAN were the Roman’s preferred choice, while Diamonds were used to engrave cameos rather than be worn as jewelry.
The oldest diamonds with the longest histories largely originate from the alluvial deposits of the Golconda region of south-central India. They include the Koh-i-Noor, Orlov, Regent (Pitt) and Hope diamonds. Some of the largest and most famous diamonds are from the Premier Mine in South Africa, including the Cullinan and the Taylor-Burton (cut 69.42 carats). The largest diamonds in the world, the Golden Jubilee or Unnamed Brown (545.67 carats) and the De Beers Millennium Star (203 carats, which took ten people two years to cut) are both African. In 1988 the Centenary diamond (599 carats uncut, 273. 85 carats cut) was cut by the company De Beers Consolidated mining operations.
Famous coloured diamonds include the blue Hope diamond, the Dresden Green, and the golden-yellow Tiffany diamond (cut 128.54 carats). Other blue diamonds include the Townshend Blue(in the Victoria and Alberta Museum, London), and the aforementioned pale-blue Nassak. The Dresden Green is the world’s largest pear-shaped green diamond (41 carat) and apart from occasional loans, it has been kept in the vaults at Dresden Palace since its purchase by Frederick Augustus II of Saxony for US $150,000 at a Leipzig fair in 1743
Other famous gemstones include the red spinels known as the Black Prince’s ruby (in the British crown jewels) and the Kuwait ruby (formerly the Timur ruby), Saint Edward’s sapphire and the Stuart sapphire (both in the British crown jewels), the Devonshire emerald, the Edwardes ruby, and the Rosser Reeves and Appalachian Star rubies.
THE MOST FAMOUS DIAMONDS IN HISTORY
The Transvaal government bought the stone and presented it to King Edward VII on his 66th birthday in 1907. In 1908 the Amsterdam lapidary Joseph Asscher was given the task of cleaving the diamond. Apparently, the knife broke on the first attempt but the diamond remained intact. At the second attempt, the diamond broke as expected and Asscher fainted! A second cleavage yielded three main sections. Each day for eight months, diamond cutters worked on the stone, producing nine major gems (Cullinan I – Cullinan IX) and 96 smaller brilliants.
Cullinan I (also known as the “Star of Africa”) was the largest diamond cut from the rough crystal. Cut as a pear-shape and weighing 530.20 carats, it is mounted in the Sovereign’s Royal Scepter of the British crown jewels. Cullinan II is a 317.40 carat, cushion-cut stone mounted in the British imperial state-crown