The world’s most famous gem is probably the Hope Diamond due to the legend that says it is cursed. But the world’s biggest stone, the most valuable gem, with 127 carats is said to be the Portuguese Diamond. No one knows for sure where it originally came from, but it is thought to have once been part of the Portuguese crown jewels. It is currently in the Smithsonian in Washington DC, which acquired it in 1963 and has displayed it in the American capital’s Museum of Natural History.
With the wealthiest royal family in the world at one point, and with diamond-rich Angola and gold-filled Brazil as colonies, Portugal transported priceless treasures around the world, and many of them currently lay at the bottom of the oceans. Many shipwrecks traced back to Portugal’s voyages of discovery have been widely reported while many others have been kept largely in secret, but those interested in the subject will want to read an article in National Geographic magazine from a couple of weeks ago. It tells the story of a 16th century Portuguese ship carrying gold and diamonds to India that was blown off course by a storm and never reached its destination. It was only discovered in April of 2008 with thousands of priceless artifacts inside which is firing the imagination of the world’s archaeologists. You may read the entire article here: Diamond Shipwreck.
If you have the “treasure hunter” spirit, you should visit the Ajuda Palace when you’re in Lisbon. It’s the last royal palace built in Portugal, and the last official royal residence until the end of monarchy in 1910. It stands just as the royals left it, and shows off an opulent and extravagant collection of decorative arts. Other royal treasures are found in Mafra Palace and inside the “Disneyesque” Pena Palace in Sintra.