Vainer Briolette Diamond-Famous Diamonds

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Origin of name

The Vainer Briolette gets its name from the onetime owners of the diamond Messrs M. Vainer Limited, gem and jewelry dealers of London, who purchased the diamond in 1984, and subsequently got it transformed by their own master cutters in London, to its traditional briolette shape, one of the oldest diamond cuts known in the history of the gem and jewelry industry, and developed in India at least eight centuries ago.

Characteristics of the diamond

The diamond is a 116.60-carat, briolette-shaped stone with a fancy light yellow color and an unknown clarity grade. The diamond has 192 facets and has been certified by the GIA as having perfect polish and symmetry, a well earned distinction for the relatively small diamond cutting industry of London, in comparison to the well established and internationally renowned  diamond cutting centers of Antwerp and Amsterdam.

The Vainer Briolette diamond is the second largest diamond ever to be faceted in London after the faceting of the 140.64-carat Regent Diamond by the master cutter Harris in 1704. It is also said that the Vainer Briolette is the second largest briolette-cut diamond in the world after the 180.85-carat, unnamed, yellow, briolette-shaped diamond belonging to an anonymous owner. In the list of known yellow diamonds greater than 100 carats in weight, the Vainer Briolette occupies the 18th position, while the unnamed, 180.85-carat briolette occupies the 7th position. The list also shows that the third largest briolette-cut diamond, also unnamed, and weighing 114.64 carats occupies the 19th position. See table below.

List of Famous yellow diamonds greater than 100 carats in weight


Name Carat Weight Shape/Cut


1 Incomparable 407.48 shield shaped fancy brownish yellow
2 Oppenheimer-uncut 253.70 natural octahedral yellow
3 De Beers 234.65 cushion light yellow
4 Red Cross 205.07 cushion canary yellow
5 unnamed 200.87 pear yellow
6 Moon 183.00 round pale yellow
7 unnamed 180.85 briolette yellow
8 Star of Peace 170.49 pear brownish yellow
9 Hope of Africa 151.91 cushion fancy yellow
10 Unnamed 150.00 emerald yellow
11 Florentine 137.27 double rose cut light yellow
12 Algeiba Star 135.03 square brilliant yellow
13 Sarah 132.43 cushion fancy vivid yellow
14 Golden Hue 132.42 cushion yellow
15 Tiffany Yellow 128.54 cushion canary yellow
16 Stewart 123.00 brilliant yellow
17 Meister 118.00 cushion yellow
18 Vainer Briolette 116.60 briolette fancy light yellow
19 Unnamed 114.64 briolette yellow
20 Unnamed 114.03 cushion yellow
21 Mouna 112.50 cushion fancy intense yellow
22 African Yellow 112.00 - yellow
23 Anon 108.04 emerald yellow
24 Rojtman 107.46 cushion yellow
25 Golden Sun 105.54 emerald yellow
26 Golden Door 104.95 pear yellow
27 Alnatt 101.29 cushion fancy vivid yellow
28 Sunrise 100.52 emerald yellow

Being a light yellow diamond the Vainer briolette is undoubtedly a Type Ia diamond, where the pale yellow color is caused by aggregates of three nitrogen atoms, known as N3 centers. Aggregates of 2 atoms and 4 atoms known respectively as A-aggregates and B-aggregates are also present but do not affect the color of the diamond. Thus the diamond belongs to the sub-type IaAB. The intensity of the yellow color increases with the increase in N3 centers, up to a maximum of medium yellow. Almost 98 % of natural diamonds belong to this group.

If the color of the diamond is fancy intense or fancy vivid yellow, the diamond belongs to Type Ib, in which the intense yellow color is produced by single nitrogen atoms scattered throughout the crystal. The canary yellow diamonds belong to this group. However such diamonds are scarce and constitute only about 0.1 % of all naturally occurring diamonds.


The early history of the diamond such as the country of origin, mine of origin, the original owners of the diamond, etc. are not known, but the rough diamond weighing 202.85 carats was discovered in 1984. In all probability the diamond must have originated in South Africa which is renowned for its Cape series of yellow and brown diamonds. The rough diamond was a yellowish, octahedral shaped crystal, and purchased by M. Vainer Limited in 1984.

After a careful study of the stone, the master cutter of the company Michael Gould recommended that the stone be cut into a briolette, which appeared to be the most appropriated shape that would fit an octahedral shaped crystal. The owner of the company Milosh Vainer accepted the suggestion, and work began in transforming the diamond to a briolette shape. When the faceting was completed the stone weighed 116.60 carats, with a loss of weight of only 86.25 carats, which is equivalent to 42 %. In addition the rough stone also produced five other smaller diamonds, with a total weight of 14.93 carats. Thus the actual loss of weight is only 71.32 carats, which is equivalent to 35 %. The relatively small loss of weight compared to average normal losses, is a clear indication of the quality of the rough diamond.

The most famous of all the briolettes is the "Briolette of India" which has a weight of 90.38 carats, and which is perhaps the oldest diamond on record in the world, even older than the famous Koh-i-Noor diamond, with a history dating back to the middle ages between 1122 and 1200. The diamond which originated in India and was also cut in India, eventually reached France and was acquired by Eleanor of Aquitaine, sometime between 1137 and 1152. Eleanor of Aquitaine was the Queen Consort of King Louis VII of France and later King Henry II of England. The diamond was then inherited by Richard the Lion Heart, third son of Eleanor and Henry II. Richard the Lion Heart is said to have carried the diamond, when he took part in the third crusade between 1189 and 1192. The diamond then disappeared for three centuries and re-appeared only during the time of King Henry II of France between 1547 to 1559. Henry II presented the diamond to his mistress Diana de Poitiers, who can be seen wearing the diamond in one of her many portraits. After Henry II's death his Queen Consort, Catherine de Medicis forcibly took the diamond away from Diana de Poitiers. After this the diamond again disappeared for another four centuries and re-appeared only in 1950, when it was acquired by Harry Winston, from an Indian Maharajah. The diamond is now in the possession of a titled European Family.

The Briolette is an 800-year old cut, whose popularity has waxed and waned during this long period. Its recent popularity was in the 18th and 19th centuries in France and late 19th and early 20th centuries in other countries. In America briolettes were quite popular in the 1930s. In 1811 Napoleon Bonaparte presented a 275-carat diamond briolette necklace to Empress consort Marie Louise, to celebrate the birth of their son.

The Gemological Institute of America defines the briolette as a pear or drop-shaped gemstone having its entire surface covered with small triangular facets. The briolette is considered as a modified double-rose cut, with a pointed tip and a rounded bottom and several rows of facets in between. Unlike conventional cut diamonds with a table, crown and pavilion, whose beauty can be appreciated only through the side of the table facet, the beauty of briolettes can be appreciated from all sides. But briolettes lack the brilliance of a conventional cut diamond, as most of the light entering the stone is lost by refraction from the opposite side. They are more suitable for pendants and ear-rings, because they dangle and catch the light. In such jewelry the briolette is also free of any setting except at the top, allowing one to see more of the gem than with traditional cuts.

The briolette-cut that became very popular during the Victorian era, is now having a resurgence again, not so much for diamonds, but for other precious and semi-precious stones. Virtually any gemstone can be cut as a briolette, and briolette pendants and earrings made of gemstones like tourmalines, sapphires, aquamarines, amethysts etc. are becoming increasingly popular.

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Dr Shihaan Larif
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