The largest diamond in the world

The Cullinan

In February, the first blush of springtime starts to appear and Valentine's Day celebrations come along. Among the young fiancés planning to get married, there are many dreaming of a fabulous myth that is actually quite real: the largest diamond in the world.

There really is a stone that, when it was discovered in South Africa, weighed more than half a kilo. It was extracted from a mine near Pretoria in 1905. The diamond was named after the owner of the mine, a lucky man to say the least, called Sir Thomas Cullinan. The stone was then acquired by the South African government for the modest sum of $750.000. An amount we would happily pay today for this priceless diamond.

The stone most definitely presented an opportunity for somebody to get rich; its colour was exceptionally white. Yet, in a gesture of gratitude for their recent independence, the South African government gave it to the King of England, at the time Edward VII.

This precious treasure was transported from Africa to the United Kingdom in great secret. The jewel was actually sent by post in a standard package, whilst a heavily armed and guarded ship was sent as a decoy. The decoy worked and the Cullinan arrived safely in Europe.

The following year Edward VII sent it to Amsterdam to be cut. The king left the diamond in the expert hands of diamond specialist Joseph Asscher. The story goes that the first steel knife they tried to use on the stone was broken in two. But those that followed had the measure of the Cullinan, and it was soon cut into 9 main stones and 96 brilliants.

It was certainly enough to adorn many beautiful pieces of jewellery. The two largest stones cut from the original rough diamond can still be admired by many today. The first, the Cullinan I, also known as the ‘Great Star of Africa’ (520.2 ct) decorates the British Sovereigns Sceptre. The Cullinan II, or ‘Lesser Star of Africa’ (317.4 ct) has been set into the front of the Imperial State Crown. Both are displayed alongside all the other Crown Jewels in the Tower of London.

©Photos credits: Royal Collection. 

Photo1: Joseph Asscher holding a hammer in his raised right hand about to strike the cutting tool.

Photo 2: Crown Jewels of the United-Kingdom