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World's Largest Diamonds Steeped in Mystery, Intrigue

Because of their rarity and beauty, large diamonds have a mystical and romantic allure that make them the perfect stuff of legend ? both historical and fictional. Films from ?The Pink Panther? (which was a diamond, not an inspector) to ?Titanic? have used rare gems to drive story lines, but in the real world, the tales are no less fascinating.

Though no fewer than 50 diamonds are so famous that they have names, the Hope Diamond is surely the most recognizable. Thought to be stolen from a Hindu idol, this famous blue 45-carat gem was the inspiration for Titanic's Heart of the Ocean. Nicknamed ?The Killing Stone? because of a series of tragic fates that befell its owners, Hope was donated to the Smithsonian Institute in 1958.   

The famous yellow diamond featured in Breakfast at Tiffany's was mined in South Africa in 1878. Originally 287 carats, the Tiffany Diamond was cut down to 128.54 carats and is said to have been worn only twice, once by Audrey Hepburn as promotion for the film. Now at the Smithsonian, the Tiffany is the country's largest publicly displayed diamond.

It takes celebrities of stature to have diamonds named for them, but when Richard Burton bought the 69-carat Cartier for Elizabeth Taylor, it became known as the Taylor-Burton Diamond. Taylor showed off the stone at Princess Grace's 40th birthday party, but sold it in 1978 to help finance a Botswana hospital. The diamond is now owned by Robert Mouawad, who reportedly paid more than $5 million for it, a full $4 million more than Cartier paid at auction. What Burton negotiated the day after he was outbid remains a mystery.

The Sancy Diamond, a 55-carat stone with a slight yellow hue, had a colorful history before it went on permanent display at the Louvre. First recorded in 1389 when it was part of the dowry of Valentina, the bride of Duke d'Orleans, the stone was measured at 100 carats (experts say it has since been recut) and was thought to have been stolen from India.

The stone's path includes many wars, mysterious disappearances and ownership by both Elizabeth I and Marie Antoinette. Now that's a movie!