A Complete Guide to Pear Shaped Diamonds

A Complete Guide to Pear Shaped Diamonds

The third installment in our series on different cuts of diamonds, such as round diamonds and emerald cut diamonds.


By Beth Bernstein


The Popularity of Pear-Shaped Diamonds


There has been much interest around pear-shaped diamonds recently. There is the largest diamond ever to appear at auction which will lead the Geneva Magnificent Jewels sale on May 11, 2022. This massive gem has been named ROCK and is a 228.31-carat exceptional stone. Around the same time this announcement was made, a well-known estate dealer M.S. Rau purchased the pear-shaped diamond necklace that Aristotle Onassis bought for his daughter Christina, who was known for her extravagant jewelry. The pendant is a 38-carat Golconda diamond, which is the purest of all diamonds, universally accepted as the finest diamonds in the world. It was purchased by a private at auction originally in 2008 after Christina’s daughter put it up for auction after her mother had died.


It’s not surprising that pear-shaped diamonds are turning up on auction block, are back in style again, and seen on engaged A-list celebrity’s fingers, as many of the world’s most famous and largest diamonds throughout history were pear-shaped.


The Celebrity of Pear-Shaped Diamonds


Before we go way back in history of diamonds, let’s talk about one pear-shaped diamond in particular, The Taylor-Burton Diamond.

Richard Burton had bought sensational jewels for Elizabeth Taylor at auction. When the twelfth largest diamond in the world originally cut by Harry Winston went up for auction, Burton had some heavy competition in the bidding. It was purported that Aristotle Onassis was also bidding on the 69.42-carat pear-shaped diamond ring. Burton gave his representative at the auction a limit of $1 million to spend. But when the hammer went down, the ring was sold to Cartier for $50,000 more. Burton was distraught at missing out. Refusing to take no for an answer, he negotiated with Cartier and bought the ring from them for $1.1 million, with the agreement to allow Cartier to name it the Cartier Diamond and display the stone for a limited period in their Chicago and New York stores.


The pear-shape ring was renamed ‘The Taylor-Burton Diamond’. One of the most charming narratives about the diamond was that a ‘double” of the ring guest-starred with the couple in a two-part episode of Here’s Lucy, entitled ‘Lucy Meets the Burtons’. In this episode, Lucille Ball tries the ring on and gets it stuck on her finger. You can find it on youtube.com and its worth the laughs. Which brings us back to how Taylor wore the ‘rock’. She originally wore the diamond as a ring yet found it too huge, so she therefore decided to have Cartier design a necklace around it. She wore it to Monte Carlo to celebrate Princess Grace’s fortieth birthday. The diamond had to be delivered in the company of two armed guards hired by Burton and Cartier; and then it was stipulated, apparently, that whenever she wore it in public, Taylor had to be escorted by security guards carrying machine guns as per the requirements of the diamond’s insurers, Lloyd’s of London. This must have been a sight to see when she wore it to the 42nd  Academy Awards.


The Royal Pear-Shaped Diamonds


For the purposes of this blog, we will concentrate on the history of the rough Cullinan and the pear-shaped cut that is part of the crown jewels, along with those that are in her majesty The Queen’s personal collection. The rough Cullinan was the largest diamond ever found and is named after the chairman of the mining company, Thomas Cullinan. The massive stone was discovered in South Africa in 1905 and weighted 3,106 carats in its uncut state. It became the most celebrated diamond in the word and in 1907 was presented to King Edward VII as a symbolic gesture to repair the relationship between Britain and South Africa after the Boer War. It was given to the King on his 66th birthday. The challenge of cutting the stone followed. After several attempts were made to split the stone, Joseph Asscher of Amsterdam completed the task in 1908. Over eight month his workers cut and polished nine large stones (which were all given numbers) and approximately 96 small, brilliant diamonds were created. After King Edward's death in 1910, King George V had Cullinan I made, an extraordinary pear-shape diamond weighing 530.2 carats, which is also called The Great Star of Africa, set in the Sovereign's Sceptre and Imperial State Crown. (The Star of Africa is a pear-shaped stone is removable and can be worn as a brooch).


As payment for their work the remaining numbered pear cut diamonds were kept by Asschers. However Cullinan VI and VIII were later brought privately by King Edward VII as a gift for Queen Alexandra, and the others were procured by the South African Government and given to Queen Mary in 1910, in memory of the Inauguration of the Union. They were bequeathed to Her Majesty The Queen in 1953.


Queen Elizabeth II affectionately and jokingly dubbed the pear shaped diamond brooch she inherited from Queen Mary, her grandmother ‘Granny’s Chips’. It consists of the Cullinan III which is a 92-carat pear-shape diamond hanging from the Cullinan IV, a 62-carat square-cut diamond, both of which were taken out of Queen Mary’s tiaras. The Queen was last photographed wearing the brooch to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee in 2012.


Other Historical and Famous Pear Cut Diamonds


The Sancy, the  history of which begins in the fifteenth century and then changes hands in different parts of Europe and many owners until the French Revolution. The 55-carat pear cut gem was eventually sold to the Louvre museum by the Astor family and is now on display at the Apollo Gallery with other legendary diamonds of different cuts.

The Star of The East, a 94.80-carat pear shaped diamond mounted beneath an emerald as a pendant on a chain was sold to Evelyn McClean Walsh (owner at the time of the Hope diamond) by Pierre Cartier. She kept it in her collection for over 40 years. When she died, Harry Winston bought both the Star of The East and the Hope diamonds for King Farouk of Egypt. Eventually after a series of events, one more sale and a display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art,  the diamond came back to Harry Winston.


Back To The Beginning of Pear Cut Diamonds


Although the pear-shape would seem like a modern cut—it actually dates back to the 1400s, yes, the 1400s when Lodewyk van Berquem, a diamond cutter and polisher in Belgium created a diamond polishing machine called the ‘Scaif’ which is still used by diamond cutters today. He figured out a way to cut diamonds and create symmetry as a way to provide the most brilliance in diamonds, hundreds of years before the modern brilliant cut was born. He is credited with the revolutionary invention of the world's first pear-shaped diamond which was also called a pendeloque diamond at the time.


The pear-shape since that time has evolved and is now also called a teardrop shape and the highest quality diamonds hark back to the symmetrical brilliance that allow light to bounce off the diamond from all angles. As a result of their brilliance, pear shaped engagement rings are one of the three top choices for new couples today.