From crown jewels to semi-precious baubles, humans have always been fascinated by gemstones.
In 2015, the world’s second-largest uncut diamond – the size of a tennis ball – was discovered in Botswana. This year, a pastor in Sierra Leone unearthed a 709-carat diamond and, in South Africa, Diamcor Mining discovered a rare green diamond that’s now ranked as the world’s third largest.
With bigger gems being pulled out of the ground every few decades, the list of record-breaking gems continues to grow. Here are some of the most famous, record-breaking gemstones from around the world.
Discovered in Sri Lanka in 2016, the Star of Adam is the largest blue star sapphire in the world. The “star” in this type of sapphire appears only when the gem is put under a light.
The Star of Adam has been valued at US$300 million. It was named in accordance with the Muslim belief that Adam went to Sri Lanka after being banished from Eden.
The increase in popularity for sapphire engagement rings over the more traditional diamond has been attributed to the Duchess of Cambridge’s engagement ring, which holds the 12-carat oval Ceylon blue sapphire, originally worn by Princess Diana.
Olympic Australis, discovered in 1956 in Australia, is the world’s largest and most valuable opal. The decision was taken to keep it whole – but were it to be cut, the opal’s overall value is an estimated US$1,8 million.
The gem was named in honour of the 1956 Olympic Games held in Melbourne. It’s on permanent display in Sydney, at the offices of Altmann & Cherny Ltd.
This enormous 22,892-carat (roughly 4.6 kilograms) yellow topaz was discovered in Brazil. Originally weighing in at 11.8 kilograms, it was cut into its 172-facet shape over the course of two years in the late 1980s. It is one of the largest faceted gems in the world.
The American Golden Topaz is on permanent display at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C.
This unfaceted gemstone weighs an astounding six tonnes and is 1.6 metres in diameter. Despite its name, the stone is not actually a pearl but rather a crystal, made up mostly of the mineral fluorite. It is estimated to be worth US$301 million and took three years to grind down to its round shape.
The Pearl can be found in China, where real pearls are more highly prized than diamonds.
Carved into a faceted obelisk shape by Bernd Musteiner over a number of months, the Dom Pedro is the largest single piece of cut aquamarine in the world, at 10,363 carats.
It was cut from a much larger 1-metre long piece, which was discovered in Brazil. Unfortunately, the giant gem was dropped and broke into three pieces, one of which was later cut into the Dom Pedro.
The obelisk weighs 27 kilograms and is 36 centimetres tall. The volume of aquamarine can be valued at roughly US$6 million; however, the actual worth of the piece has been referred to as “incalculable”. The Dom Pedro is on permanent display at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C.
A fisherman discovered this natural pearl in a giant clam in the Philippines. He then kept the gem hidden under his bed for ten years as a good luck charm. The pearl weighs 34 kilograms and measures 60 by 30 centimetres.
It hasn’t been officially valued, but the previous record holder, the Pearl of Lao Tzu, which is one-fifth the size, was valued at US$93 million.
The pearl is on display at the City Hall in Puerto Princesa.
This sapphire was dug out of the ground in 1907 in Sri Lanka. The rough, uncut gem weighed in at more than 600 carats. It’s 466 carats in its faceted and polished state. Originally sold to an anonymous American collector, it disappeared from public view until 2004, when Christie’s unexpectedly billed it for auction.
The 6.3-centimetre sapphire was estimated to go for upwards of $1.5 million but after a disappointing auction, an anonymous British buyer offered $1 million for the gem. It has remained out of sight ever since.
This recent find might not be much to behold now, but at a remarkable 175 tonnes, it is the largest piece of jade ever unearthed. Once cut and polished, jade is a green, near-translucent gem that is Myanmar’s biggest export. It’s sold primarily to China, where it’s known as the “stone of heaven”.
At 5.5 metres in length and width, the stone has been valued at approximately US$240 million.
This 545.67-carat champagne diamond stole the title as the world’s largest faceted diamond from the Cullinan I, also known as the Great Star of Africa. It was discovered in Gauteng by De Beers in 1985. In its rough state, it weighed in at 755 carats. Its value is estimated at US$4 to 12 million.
In 1997, the Golden Jubilee was presented to the King of Thailand for his Golden Jubilee. Today it’s in the Royal Thai Palace as part of the Crown Jewels of Thailand.
This rare gem forms part of the collection of G. Vidyaraj, a member of the fourth and last Hindu dynasty that ruled the Vijayanagara Empire in South India.
The Neelanjali Ruby features a unique 12-point star-shaped refraction – called an asterism – that is visible only when it’s under direct light. This forms a double star.
This 1,370-carat ruby is reportedly in Bangalore, India and has been valued at roughly US$100 million.
The Bahia Emerald is a 341-kilogram uncut emerald, discovered in Brazil in 2001. It’s made up of several emerald shards, which are encased in a host rock. It is the largest and heaviest emerald cluster ever found and is reportedly worth US$400 million.
The emerald spent two months under water during Hurricane Katrina and is currently the subject of a lengthy, unresolved custody battle between multiple parties, including the Brazilian government.
The 125West is the world’s largest uncut ruby, weighing in at 18,696 carats and measuring 122 by 112 centimetres. It’s suspected that if the ruby were polished but not cut, it would display an asterism, or star-shaped refraction. The ruby is currently available for purchase from its current owners.
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