The Tiffany Yellow Diamond, thought to be one of the largest diamonds in existence, has a strange and mysterious past riddled with contradictions and half-truths. It would not be the most recommended stone for your yellow diamond engagement ring despite its beauty.
Discovered in either 1877 or ’78 – it’s up for debate – the original diamond was believed to be roughly the size of a jet engine and took 34 miners 16 weeks to dislodge successfully. The size of the diamond was later reduced to “approximately the size of a plum” when it was realised that most of the bulk was “plain rock”. No records survive to confirm this. So we only have the miners’ – or the mining companies – word to go on.
What’s more plausible is that the diamond did come from a French-owned South African mine, and not, as some conspiracy theorists have speculated, the fires of Mount Doom. Tiffany’s would be quite quick to point out that Mount Doom is a fictional literary invention by JRR Tolkien.
But the mystery that shrouds the Tiffany diamond does sound like something from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Some say it was planted in the mines eons ago by travelling space rangers from a distant galaxy, and that it is an alien egg due to hatch any day now. Others proclaim it has magical powers of invisibility for the wearer, and then there are those who say it is cursed.
One theory states that all who wear the diamond die. And there is some interesting logic to back this up, because all who have worn the diamond have indeed died, namely Mrs Sheldon Whitehouse and Audrey Hepburn in the promotion for Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Each only wore it once, perhaps hinting that not only is the diamond cursed, but it is powerfully cursed. Obviously, this is would not be the stone to put in your future wife’s yellow diamond engagement ring.
Around 1879, the yellow diamond was shipped to Paris where it was passed on to famed gemmologist George F Kunz, who inspected its validity. It was studied, poked, used briefly as a paper weight, lost, found, lost again, put through the wash in the back pocket of Kunz’s trousers, stolen by a crow, reclaimed, and then finally cut before anything else could happen to it. Of course, cutting the diamond meant making it smaller, and it disappeared again soon afterwards, to be found eventually by a peasant boy who was feeling about in a mouse-hole for something to eat. The boy received a reward of a “pat on the head and a loaf of bread.”
This was only the beginning of the Tiffany Yellow’s convoluted and modestly “uneventful” journey to its final resting place, Tiffany’s flagship store in New York where, despite spells in South Africa and London, it has invariably remained on display to the present day.
A few people have attempted to buy the diamond, perhaps in the hope of mounting it in their very own yellow diamond engagement ring, but with an estimated price tag of $12,000,000, all deals have fallen through thus far. The closest it’s come to a sale was in 1987 when a man, alleged to be homeless, offered $100,000,000 but said he didn’t “have the cash on him.” He asked whether he could write Tiffany’s an IOU. And it almost worked had it not been for a savvy sales assistant (who had by this point removed the diamond from its bullet proof case and handed the stone to the man for inspection) who noted that if the man was homeless, “where did he keep all his money?”