Simanaitis Says

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F. SCOTT FITZGERALD wrote a novella about a diamond the size of a mountain. However, the massive diamonds discussed here yesterday aren’t fictional. These Type II diamonds are real, with tales involving the likes of French kings, English Queens, a thief here and there, and Mickey Mouse.

For instance, the Hope Diamond is 46 carats in its most recent cut, about the size of a pigeon egg. Perhaps discovered in India prior to 1653, the original larger stone may have been bought–or stolen–by Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, who sold it to French King Louis XIV to adorn a cravat pin. Subsequent owners included other French and British royalty; at least one thief; a London banker Henry Phillip Hope; an American musical theater actress; several jewelers, one of whom might have bought it for a Turkish Sultan; heiress Evalyn Walsh McLean and, currently, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.


The Hope Diamond, 46 carats. Photo by David Bjorgen.

There are tales of the Curse of the Hope Diamond. Beyond the mystique, it’s often the case of an erstwhile owner dying–of old age 40 years later.

Like the Hope, other Type II diamonds were considerably larger in their original uncut state. The Koh-i-Noor Diamond was rough, colorless and 793 carats when discovered in India, possibly in the 13th century. By 1852, Britain’s Prince Albert wanted more pizzazz for his Queen Victoria and ordered the gem refashioned from its first-cut 186 carats to a new oval cut. The result is a 106-carat stone, part of the British Queen Mother’s Crown.


A replica of the Koh-i-Noor, 106 carats.

Governments of India, Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan have claimed ownership of the Koh-i-Noor, but the Brits maintain they won it fair and square when they showed ’em what for in 1849.


The Constellation, 813 carats, $63.1 million. Image from, photo by Lucian Coman.

In May 2016, the 813-carat Constellation set a record for the highest price for a rough diamond, $63.1 million. It was discovered in Botswana in the Karowe Mine operated by Canada-based Lucara Diamond. The Karowe Mine has yielded an even larger diamond, the Lesedi La Rona, at 1111 carats.


The Cullinan, 3107 carats.

The 3107-carat (1.4-lb.) Cullinan Diamond has been the largest gem-quality rough diamond found so far. It was discovered on January 26, 1905, in the Premier No.2 Mine in Cullinan, South Africa. The Cullinan has been cut into significant gems, including Cullinans I through IX. Two of these are part of Britain’s Crown Jewels. Others are privately owned by Queen Elizabeth II, inherited in 1953 from her grandmother, Queen Mary, along with what Wikipedia calls ninety six “minor” stones.


The Diamond as Big as the Ritz, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Smart Setmagazine, June 1922.

The F. Scott Fitzgerald novella The Diamond as Big as the Ritz is a parable of wealth, greed and ultimate control. A young man encounters a rich family with a terrible secret, with terrifying results. The novella was source for a 1947 Orson Welles radio play, a 1955 Kraft Theater TV production and a 1956 Mickey Mouse feature. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2017

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