India’s Glittering Past: From the Tavernier Blue to the Hope Diamond

Amit Kapoor of Saffronart on some of India’s most famous precious stones and jewels

In my last blog post, I spoke about the ‘rich India’ of the past and its noble treasures. Some of the famous diamonds that have originated in India include the Hope Diamond, the Kohinoor, the Darya-i-Noor, and the Dresden Green, to name but a few.

Almost all of these stones were owned or were in the possession of the wealthy and elite classes, most often emperors and nobles. Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, a French national who used to travel to India frequently during 16th century, documented and traded some of these precious jewels.

The Tavernier Blue sketch
Image credit: wikipedia

Of the jewels Tavernier successfully brought back from India to France, a 118-carat (24 g) blue diamond is probably the most famous. This diamond came to be known as the Tavernier Blue, and was subsequently sold to Louis XIV of France in 1668. In 1678, Louis XIV commissioned the jewel to be re-cut to a stone weighing 67.125 carats (13.425 g), which became known as The French Blue. In 1792, during the French Revolution, The French Blue mysteriously disappeared.

The Hope Diamond
Image credit: Smithsonian Institution

Twenty years later, this stone re-emerged in London as the Hope Diamond, now weighing approximately 45.52 carats, and is currently housed at The Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC after the famous jeweler Harry Winston donated it to the institution. The Hope was graded by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) as a VS1 clarity diamond of fancy dark grayish blue colour. Read more about the GIA’s diamond grading.

The parcel in which the Hope Diamond was shipped
Image credit: Smitsonian Institution

Most of the gems that remained in India while it was under British rule, were used to pay the taxes they exacted from the rulers and nobility. The few jewels that survived were passed down through the generations. However, with changes in consumer preferences, many old cut diamonds and older pieces of jewelry have been refashioned to match modern trends.

This article talks about some of the noble, ancient jewels that have survived this refashioning process.

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