How Diamonds Work

By: Kevin Bonsor

Famous Diamonds

Cullinan II, the Lesser Star of Africa, was cut into many smaller diamonds that are in the Imperial State Crown.
Photo Courtesy Getty Images


The world's most famous diamonds are its largest diamonds. At staggering weights up to thousands of carats, these diamonds have been cut, re-shaped and sold many times, contributing to their rich, interesting histories. Despite diamond's natural, clear brilliance, some of these stones have a dark side.


  • The Cullinan - This 3,106-carat diamond is the largest diamond ever found. It was discovered in 1905 in Transvaal, South Africa. In 1907, the diamond was presented to King Edward VII of England. Later, it was cut into nine major stones, including the 530.20-carat Star of Africa diamond that is set in the Royal Scepter displayed in the Tower of London.
  • The Hope Diamond - Possibly the most famous diamond in America, this 45.52-carat diamond is on display at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. Its history dates back to the 1600s, when it was originally a 112.1875-carat diamond. In 1668, it was purchased by King Louis XIV, of France. It is believed to have been originally found in the Kollur mine in Golconda, India. The diamond was recut in 1673, creating a smaller 67.125-carat stone. You can learn more about the Hope Diamond at the Smithsonian.
  • The Excelsior - Perhaps the second-largest diamond ever found, the Excelsior was found in 1893 in South Africa. The original stone weighed about 995 carats. In 1904, I.J. Asscher and Company of Amsterdam cut the Excelsior into 21 polished stones weighing between 1 and 70 carat­s.
  • The Great Mogul - Believed to be the third-largest uncut diamond ever found, it was discovered around 1650. Its original size is said to have been 787.50 carats, but it was cut to just 280 carats. The diamond is named for Shah Jehan, who built the Taj Mahal. After the diamond was cut, he fired the cutter for doing such a poor job. Mysteriously, the whereabouts of the Great Mogul diamond are unknown today.

Most people can only dream of owning a diamond as large as these famous stones -- but synthetic diamonds could change that. In the next section, we'll learn about different synthetic diamonds.