The largest diamond in the world: Cullinan Diamond
Often known as the “Star of Africa”, or the Cullinan Diamond, this gorgeous stone is a whopping 3,106 carats for a weight of 1.3 pounds.
Incipiently found in 1905 in the Premier Mine in Pretoria, South Africa by Thomas Evan Powell. Being just a humble employee, Powell gave the diamond to Frederick Wells, the mines supervisor, to decide what to do with it.
The process of uncovering this diamond was in no way special or different from other finds. Powell found it during a routine inspection eighteen feet below. What is strange is that despite the diamond mine being large, it is by no means the largest diamond mine in the world. In fact, it is not even in the top ten! The respective sizes of the mine and the diamond turned this story into an international sensation.
It has been argued that the largest diamond in the world seems to be part of an even larger stone. Sir William Crookes performed his analysis of the diamond and highlighted the black spot in the middle of the stone, despite its exceptional clarity. Black spots are not uncommon in diamonds but Crookes ascertained that since the colours around the black spot were incredibly vivid, they were a sign of internal strain.
As well as the black spots, Crookes observed one side of the diamond was nearly perfectly smooth. Crookes took this to mean that diamond was much larger at a point, but natural forces had broken it up, leaving a smooth edge.
Despite the Cullinan Diamond being the largest diamond discovered as of yet, Crookes came to the conclusion that it was found with less than half the entire diamond!
The name Cullinan comes from the owner of the mine. Wells decided to present his finding to Sir Thomas Cullinan on January 25th, the same day it was found. Immediately, Cullinan wanted to document the find and had a picture of the largest diamond in the world taken while he sat right beside it. Instead of keeping this diamond to himself, Cullinan sold the diamond to the Transvaal provincial government, who later gave the diamond away to King Edward VII as a present for his 66th birthday.
Initially, the King did not want to accept a gift of such monumental importance and value, but it was Winston Churchhill who convinced him to accept the diamond. Churchill did not come out of this empty-handed, receiving a replica of the diamond which he often showed to guests with a beaming smile across his face. King Edward was so aware of the importance of the diamond, that when having it shipped over to England, he also sent decoy diamonds to confuse any potential thieves.
After receiving the diamond, the king sent it to one of the most prestigious diamond cutters in the world at the time, Joseph Asscher, in Amsterdam. Although the cutter was extremely talented and experienced, the Cullinan diamond was no easy feat for him. Instead, he spent six months studying all aspects of the diamond before making a single cut.
With Asscher’s first attempt, the blade he used broke. Therefore, during his second attempt at cutting, Asscher was so nervous that after the diamond was cut as planned, he fainted. However, there is little evidence that this story happened, and his nephew has said that Asscher would never faint over a diamond.
Unfortunately, the diamond is no longer fully intact; instead, it has been cut into nine large stones and nearly 100 smaller ones. This cutting does not diminish the value, as all the stones are valued at millions of dollars together. “Star of Africa I,” or “Cullinan I,” is the largest stone to come of the original Cullinan diamond. Estimated at 530 carats, the diamond is the largest cut colourless diamond in the world.
Today, the diamond is located in the Tower of London in the British Sovereign’s Royal Scepter. The diamond is not alone there, as the Cullinan II, along with some of the other smaller cuts of the original Cullinan diamond, is also located in the Tower of London as part of the Crown Jewels.
Queen Elizabeth II holds a private collection inherited from her grandmother, Queen Mary, with seven of the major cuts and 96 minor cuts.