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The history of great diamonds is intimately interwoven with the lives of emperors and conquerors, great kings and queens, with statesmen and soldiers, the rich and famous - but also, inevitably, with those who lead more shadowy lives. Diamonds have been objects of passion, sometimes of war, violence and theft.
As well as being objects of exceptional beauty and rarity, they were once thought to possess magical properties that protected their owners from enemies. Initially a male prerogative reflecting status and authority, these incredible gems later adorned the wives of powerful men, and at times were offered as influential gifts. Few were immune to the temptation of diamonds; many sacrificed their lives and souls to them.
In Famous Diamonds, Ian Balfour tells the fascinating stories of almost 80 of these remarkable gems including the famous: Koh-i-Noor, which is set in the British Crown Jewels; the infamous: the deep blue Hope Diamond, which is said to bring bad luck to all who handle it; the biggest: The Cullinan; and the Hollywood romantic: the Taylor-Burton Diamond. Some have detailed histories that can be traced from the present day back to the moment they were mined, while others have a more mysterious past or have disappeared from view. Also included are shorter entries on a further selection of some forty notable diamonds.