Golden Maharajah Diamond

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Origin of name

The "Golden Maharajah" is a golden brown diamond of unknown early history, but almost certainly of South African origin, which surfaced in its cut and polished form in 1937, when it was first exhibited at the Paris World fair. The origin of the name Maharajah is uncertain, as much as the early history of the diamond itself. The owner of the diamond may have chosen the name on purpose, as it translates to mean, the "Golden Prince" which perhaps reflect the exceptional quality of the stone. It may also be, that the owner got his inspiration from the royalty of India, the Maharajahs, the rulers of the princely states of India, who were well renowned as connoisseurs and collectors of diamonds. It may also be possible that one of the previous owners of the diamond was a Maharajah, a title that ceased to exist after the abolition of the princely states, when India became a Republic in 1947.

However, if the name was chosen deliberately, to imply an Indian Origin, because of the superior quality of the Indian diamonds as opposed to their South African counterparts, it has not achieved it's purpose, as not a single brown diamond of significance has ever been discovered in India, and even the famous yellow diamonds that were discovered in India in the past are just a few, such as the Florentine diamond and the Shah diamond. Diamonds of brown and yellow hues, known as the Cape series, came to the forefront only after the discovery of diamonds in South Africa in the late 19th century.


Characteristics of the diamond

The G. I. A. certificate of this diamond gives it's weight as 65.57 carats. The color grading is given as fancy dark orange-brown and the clarity as VS-2. The cut of the diamond is a modified pear-shape.

In the table given below the Golden Maharajah occupies the 7th position, yet it is perhaps the largest fancy dark orange brown diamond in the world.


List of famous brown diamonds


Name Carat Weight Shape/Cut


1 Golden Jubilee 545.67 cushion fancy yellow brown
2 Star of the South 128.48 cushion fancy light pinkish brown
3 Earth Star 111.59 pear brown
4 Cross of Asia 109.26 radiant light brown
5 Great Chrysanthemum 104.16 pear fancy brown
6 Ashberg diamond 102.48 cushion amber
7 Golden Maharajah 65.57 pear fancy dark orange brown
8 Kimberley 55.09 emerald light brown


Brown color in diamonds is usually caused by plastic deformation of the crystal structure of the diamonds during their formation in the earth's mantle, or their subsequent rise to the earth's surface.

The plastically deformed areas in the diamond change the absorption spectrum of the stone, imparting the brown color. If this happens in diamonds that are free of nitrogen and other impurities also known as Type IIa diamonds, the resulting color will be different shades of brown. However, if plastic deformation occurs in diamonds that also contain significant quantities of nitrogen, occurring as single atoms (Type Ib) or groups of atoms (Type Ia), a yellow or orange color will also appear together with the brown, giving color combinations such as brownish yellow, yellowish brown, brownish orange, and orangish brown. Yellow color in diamonds is caused, when nitrogen absorbs visible light in the blue region of the spectrum, causing the complementary color yellow to appear. Likewise, orange color, which is the complementary of green, appears when nitrogen absorbs light in the green region of the spectrum.

The Golden Maharajah, being an orange-brown diamond, is therefore a Type Ia or Type Ib diamond. According to the GIA color grading system, a brown diamond in which the orange color accounts for 25 % to 50 % of the color, is known as an "orange brown" diamond. But, a brown diamond, where the orange color accounts for less than 25 % of the color, is known as "orangy-brown". Thus the Golden Maharajah, which is classified as orange-brown, should contain 25 % to 50 % orange color, indicating that it is most probably a Type Ib diamond, as the orange color is fairly intense, caused by scattered single atoms of nitrogen.



Nothing is known about the early history of the diamond, such as the country of origin. mine of origin, date of discovery, circumstances of the discovery, original owner of the diamond, the person or company involved in the cutting etc. It appears that the faceted diamond made it's first appearance, when it was first exhibited at the Paris World Fair, held in 1937. The diamond was later loaned by it's owner Mrs. Ella Friedus to the American Museum of Natural History, for a period of 15 years, starting from 1975 to 1990. The diamond is most certainly of South African origin, judging from it's  orange-brown color and size, and the period it made it's first appearance.

It is reported that Mrs. Ella Friedus sold the diamond in 1991 for a sum of $ 1.3 million. The diamond came up for sale again on April 25th, 2006, at Sotheby's New York, at a "Magnificent Jewel" sale. The stone fetched a record sales price of $ 1,382,400.

The main source of large brown diamonds in the world has been the diamond mines of Southern Africa, ever since diamonds were discovered in South Africa in the 1860s. Today, the world's main producer of brown diamonds is the Argyle diamond mines of Western Australia. But, these diamonds are smaller in size - Less than one carat. The small brown diamonds are processed in India, and marketed by Argyle, as champagne and cognac diamonds. Jewelry set with these brown diamonds are becoming very popular. Almost 80 % of the Argyle mines gem-quality rough diamonds are brown.


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Dr Shihaan Larif
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