Gems are varied in their formation, their appearance, and their histories; however, the one commonality that all precious gemstones share is the ability to inspire desirability and awe in humankind. Over the course of human history certain gemstones have forged their own personas, creating a sense of jewel celebrity that, for a few spectacular gemstones, has lasted centuries. Three of those magnificent gemstones possess stories that seem to have been plucked from fairy tales and soap operas alike.
The first on our list is the Black Prince’s Ruby, which turns out is not actually a ruby but is an impressive stone nonetheless. The stone is one of the oldest of the Crowned Jewels of the United Kingdom; taking its name from Prince Edward of Woodstock, the Black Prince’s Ruby has been a prominent stone in the royal collection since it was gifted to its namesake in 1367. The stone, which was once thought to be a ruby, is actually a spinel—a stone type extremely similar in composition to rubies. The Black Prince’s Ruby originally belonged to the Moorish Prince of Granada, but was seized during the Christian reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula by Don Pedro the Cruel, ruler of Castile. However, Don Pedro was not able to hold onto the gemstone for long. In order to quell a rebellion against him, led by his illegitimate brother Henry of Trastamara, Don Pedro sought assistance from Prince Edward III of England. After successfully squashing the uprising, The Black Prince demanded the ruby as payment for his services, and Don Pedro obliged. The Black Prince’s Ruby has been in the custody of the English Crown ever since, and it currently resides in the Imperial State Crown, an emblem of the British monarchy.
The American Golden Topaz, the largest cut yellow topaz in the world, doesn’t possess quite a salacious history but is nonetheless breathtaking. The cushion-cut gemstone originated in Brazil and currently resides in the Natural History Museum of the Smithsonian, in Washington, D.C. The gargantuan colored gemstone weighs roughly 26 pounds and is larger than the average human head. This stellar stone took master cutter Leon Agee approximately two years to cut and polish into its regal shape.
The Star of Bombay, also known as the Star of Asia and the Star of Atraban, is a cabochon-cut star sapphire believed to originate from Sri Lanka. A cabochon-cut polishes and shapes a gemstone rather than actually cutting the stone to create facets, and is an approach that is usually applied to opaque stones. The deep violet blue stone merits the name “star” as the center of the stone resembles a twinkling star. The Star of Bombay is believed to have belonged to the Maharajah of Jodhpur. It is also rumored to have belonged to Artaban, a wise man of Persia, who set out to give the stone to one of the Three Wise Men, who would in turn present the sapphire as a present to the newborn king, but was unable to achieve his goal; it is believed he gave the Star to the needy instead. It is known that the Star of Bombay was given to silent film star Mary Pickford by her husband Douglas Fairbanks, before it was bequeathed to the Smithsonian.
These famed gemstones have lives almost as interesting as their famous owners and are now on display for the world to relish in their beauty.