World's Largest Diamond - Cullinan 'The Star of Africa'

world largest diamond cullinan

Diamonds, as the most prized gemstones in the world, is one of the most impeccable artworks of nature indeed. As the greatest source of value and fascination since the ancient era, diamonds were initially thought to be broken pieces of the falling stars by the Romans, whereas, the Greeks considered these to be 'tears of the gods' as sparkling gems. The word 'Diamond' has been derived from the Greek word 'Adamao', which means 'unconquerable' and undoubtedly is one of the most 'craved for' gemstones all across the globe.

Though the first-ever discovery of diamond dates back to the era of the 4th century and the earliest archived evidence of it is seen in a Sanskrit manuscript inscribed by a minister of the North Indian empire during the period of 320-296 BCE. However, here we would like to bring the story of the largest uncut diamond ever being discovered in the world.

The Discovery of 'Cullinan'
Way back on Jan 25, 1905, a 3106-carat diamond nugget was unearthed at the preeminent Premier Mine in Pretoria, South Africa by one of the mine's superintendents, Frederick Wells, during a daily inspection trip. Having a weight of around 1.33 pounds, this precious piece was coined as the 'Cullinan' after the name of the mine's owner, Sir Thomas Cullinan. Soon after, the owner sold the 'Cullinan' to the government of Transvaal Province and they finally presented this treasure to King Edward VII of Great Britain as a birthday present. While having the fear of the diamond getting stolen on the way to London from Africa, the majesty planned to transport a counterfeited diamond by a steamer ship with a team of detectives for distracting the looters. As the fake piece slowly moved from Africa, the original piece was been sent in a normal box to England.

The Cutting of 'Cullinan'
Kind Edward assigned the critical and meticulous task of cutting the 'Cullinan' to the head of Amsterdam's Asscher Diamond Company, Joseph Asscher. Noticeably, Asscher had already gained immense appreciation by then for cutting the world-renowned Excelsior diamond in 1893. He took a period of around 6 months just for studying the nature of 'Cullinan' and the ideal method to deploy for cutting the piece precisely. Though the steel blade broke during his first attempt on 10th Feb 1908 without any effect as such on the diamond, he succeeded in his next attempt as the diamond broke exactly in the same way as he wished. One of his factory workers even reported that Mr. Asscher almost fainted after he accomplished the task successfully.

The 'Cullinan' was being cut into 9 large pieces and another 100 smaller pieces, which valued a whopping amount of millions of dollars altogether. Following here is a brief description of the nine large pieces being sheared from the massive-sized original 'Cullinan'.

  • Cullinan I: The Star of Africa
    The most magnificent and largest part of the original chunk is termed as Cullinan I, 'the Star of Africa' which was a pear-cut stone with a weight of 530.2 carat. It was placed in the British Royal Sceptre as a prestigious part of the Crown Jewels. However, it was configured later such that it can be removed and worn as a pendant as well. Presently, it is showcased in the Tower of London. Both the Cullinan I and II diamonds were being adorned with pint-sized loops of platinum for allowing the Royal British heads to wear them.
  • Cullinan II: Second Star of Africa
    The 2nd-largest segment was coined as Cullinan II, the Second Star of Africa which, is a rectangular-shaped, cushion-cut gem and weighed around 317.4 carats. This royal treasure was mounted in the circlet portion of the Imperial State Crown in London.
  • Cullinan III and IV: 'Granny's Chips'
    Cullinan III was a pear-cut-shaped stone which, weighed around 94.4 carats and was placed in the coronation crown of Queen Mary, the wife of King George V which was also being worn as a pendant brooch with IV. On the contrary, Cullinan IV is a square-shaped, cushion-cut segment which, weighs around 63.6 carats, which was also initially a part of the crown of Queen Mary. Queen Elizabeth II admiringly alludes to the Cullinan III and IV as 'Granny's Chips' and she had worn this precious piece for a period of 6-7 times during her rule.
  • Cullinan V: The Queen's Favourite
    Quite smaller in comparison to the 'Sister Diamonds' the Cullinan V is an astonishing piece with a weight of 18.8 carats. Being heart-shaped, it was fixed in the centre of a precious brooch of Queen Mary, which was adorned with other smaller stones along with a pair of Cullinan III and IV diamonds. Being worn by Elizabeth II, this is known to be one of her favourite jewellery pieces.
  • Cullinan VI: Worth all Attention
    As a marquise-shaped priceless piece, it has a weight of around 11.5 carats and is fixed in the brooch with Cullinan VIII, thereby forming a part of the stomacher of Delhi Durbar Parure. Both these pieces of Cullinan can also be placed together for making another new brooch, embellished by a throng of smaller diamonds.
  • Cullinan VII: The Royal Necklace
    Cullinan VII is a marquise-cut-shaped, 8.8-carat diamond piece which, was initially gifted to Queen Alexandra by her consort King Edward VII. After the King's death, she handed over the precious to Queen Mary, who wore it as a hanging pendant from diamond and emerald necklace of the Delhi Durbar Parure.
  • Cullinan VIII: The Less Worn
    This is a precisely-cut, 6.8 carat weighed piece of Cullinan, which is fixed at centre of the brooch that was inherited by Queen Elizabeth in 1953, but was less worn by the queen compared to other pieces of the 'Cullinan'.
  • Cullinan IX: The Imperial Ring with Regal Allure
    The last of the lot, Cullinan IX was the smallest in the gamut of these nine large pieces and weighs around 4.39 carat. It is pear-shaped and is placed in a platinum ring which, is widely known as the Cullinan IX Ring.

All these nine pieces are displayed in the Tower of London Crown Jewels Exhibition and Star Rooms at the Buckingham Palace for public viewing.

Ranging from beauty, rarity, durability to enduring value, the quality and value of a diamond is determined by evaluating the piece on a gamut of significant parameters. Adhering the same, every royal piece of the 'Cullinan' is believed to exhibit a glorious mix of cut, clarity and color because of which, it is profoundly admired all across the globe since its discovery and will continue to cherish its royal glory for many more years to come.

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