When we speak about the largest diamond in the world, the gemstone that currently holds this title is no other than the “Culliman Diamond”. When it was first discovered, it weighs a staggering amount of 3,106.75 carats or 621.35 grams. The person who discovered this record breaking size of diamond was “Thomas Cullinan”.
In South Africa (Cullinan, Gauteng) specifically at the “Premier No.2 Mine”, Mr. Thomas Cullinan was the mining chairman of the site. In January 26th of 1905, the Cullinan diamond was found by “Frederick Wells” who was the manager of the mine. He was able to uncover the largest precious gem stone in the world just below the surface of the mining site at a depth of 18 feet or 5.5 meters.
The approximate dimension of the discovered raw diamond consist of 10.1 centimeters or 4 inches long, 6.35 centimeters or 2.50 inches wide and 5.9 centimeters or 2.3 inches deep. This size is three times the size of another famous gemstone which is the “Excelsior Diamond”.
Despite the fact that Mr. Frederic Wells was the one who found it from the mine, Mr. Thomas Cullinan reaped the fame where the precious item was named after him as the Cullinan Diamond. According to some sources, the newspapers who released the reports were the ones responsible in naming the record breaking discovery and not the chief of the mine himself. They actually named it after him all due to the reason that he was the one who opened the mine back in 1902.
No one would surely believe that such large size of diamond exist just because it was written on an article from a newspaper. So the precious finding was put on public display at the “Standard Bank in Johannesburg”. As a result, it was viewed by an estimated number of 8,000 to 9,000 people.
Due to the size of the stone gem, anyone can easily tell or give their estimate price value which surely consists of a large number. Thus, it is an object that every professional thieves would likely attempt to steal. There was actually one controversial event that gained the attention of many conspiracists when it was transported to another place. According to the report, the steamboat carrying the valuable gem had several detectives assigned to protect it. And, it was safely locked inside the captain’s safe with many other guards to ensure that it will never get stolen.
Conspiracists claims that the large diamond carried by the steamboat was fake. It was all entirely a diversionary tactic to mislead any thieves from attempting to steal the precious item. The Cullinan gem made its way safely to the United Kingdom simply stored inside an ordinary delivery box from a registered post.
April 1905 when the Cullinan diamond finally made it to its final destination in London specifically at the “Buckingham Palace”. With its presence on a place filled with rich individuals, it attracted many potential buyers. However, no one really wants to seriously buy it for some unknown reason. Another conspiracy you think? Whatever, it remained unsold for two years until 1907. The “Transvaal Colony” government finally decided to purchase the gemstone just to give it as a special present on the 66th birthday of “king Edward VII”.
The decision about gifting the largest diamond in the world to king Edward VII was full of controversy that a parliamentary voting was held. At some point, a total of 42 votes were in favor of buying the item while only 19 votes were against it. Perhaps this was due to the convincing words of the “Transvaal Prime Minister, Louis Botha” stating that the Culliman diamond will symbolize the loyalty and attachment of their government to the king.
Despite the favored votes of purchasing the precious gemstone, the “British Prime Minister Henry Campbell-Bannerman” advised the king that he should decline the offer. There was no clear reason about why. Perhaps, upon seeing the king that he has some interest with the item, he later advised the king that it really doesn’t matter if he decided to accept or decline the gift.
Since the advice of the British Prime Minister didn’t helped at all, the “Colonial Under-Secretary Winston Churchill” was the one who gave encouragement to the king to accept the gift. Thus, Transvaal Colony government made their final decision and they bought the Cullinan diamond on October 17, 1907. The purchase price of the item at this period of time was 150,000 pounds. When converted to the US currency at the same period of time, it goes about 750,000 dollars.
The king’s birthday celebration was held at the “Sandringham House” on November 9, 1907. And, it was attended by a large crowd with some special guests such as the Queen of Norway, Queen of Spain, Duke of Westminster and lord Revelstoke. Although, the king was not the one who made the announcement that he truly accepted the gift but asked his “Colonial Secretary lord Elgin” to do it for him.
Cutting the Cullinan Diamond
The Cullinan diamond received by king Edward VII on his 66th birthday was still in its raw form. So he decided it to be cleave and polish in order to show its true brilliant nature. Maybe, if this was done in the first place before it got auction then somebody else might have bought it.
“Asscher Brothers of Amsterdam” were assigned by the king in performing the cut to the precious gemstone. However, it needs to be transported to Amsterdam’s diamond-cutting factory. So just like the way how it arrived in London, the item was let known to the public that it was carried by the Royal Navy ship across the North Sea. Even the captain of the ship was not informed or aware that they were carrying an empty box. While, the real item was carried by “Abraham Asscher” where he traveled with it by train and ferry simply secured inside his coat.
“Joseph Asscher” was the owner of the diamond-cutting factory in Amsterdam. He would probably never thought that cutting the largest diamond was a real challenge to them. We really have to consider that, during this old period of time, they don’t have the modern technology to cut the item and achieve the perfect quality standards. So every step they took were all carefully planned ahead. The incision alone took them 4 days. Cutting and splitting took them 8 months. There were three of them who really put a lot of dedication on their work by spending 14 hours per day throughout the entire 8 months period.
The 9 Major Pieces of the Cullinan Diamond
The Cullinan diamond was cut into 9 major pieces. Hence, they were named as Cullinan I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII and IX. So what happened to them next?
Cullinan I – The Great Star of Africa
The Cullinan I is the largest cut diamond among all the other 8 pieces. It weighs 530.2 carats or 106.04 grams. This gemstone was priced in 1908 as worth 2,500,000 dollars which was more than two times the estimated value when it was not yet cut. Currently, it is embedded on the top of the “Sovereign’s Scepter with Cross” which is a part of the Crown Jewels of England.
Cullinan II – Second Star of Africa
The second largest piece is the Cullinan II that weighs 317.4 carats or 63.48 grams. Unfortunately, this diamond suffered some minor flaws which is a scratch on its table facet and a small chip on its girdle. Today, Cullinan II found its perfect place at the Imperial State Crown sitting at the front just below the Black Prince’s Ruby.
Cullinan III – Lesser Star of Africa
Cullinan III was cut in a pear-shape form and it weighs 94.4 carats or 18.88 grams. It was first used as a crown decoration used by the monarchs in their coronation. But today, it is frequently worn by Elizabeth II along with the Cullinan IV as a brooch.
Cullinan IV – Lesser Star of Africa
If the Cullinan III has a pear-cut shape then the Cullinan IV was simply given a square-cut. It weighs 63.6 carats or 12.72 grams. As mentioned above, Queen Elizabeth like to wear the Cullinan III and IV due to the reason that her family consider them as “Granny’s Chips”.
Of course, there is a heart-shape among the pieces of the Cullinan diamonds which is the number V. It weighs 18.8 carat or 3.76 grams. This piece of the gemstone was embedded at the center of a platinum brooch which is a part of the “Stomacher” design for Queen Mary in 1911.
This 6th Cullinan piece of the diamond has a marquise-cut and it weighs 11.5 carats or 2.30 grams. Unlike Cullinan IV, this one is simply used as an enhancement such as hanging it from the brooch that contain the Cullinan VIII. And interestingly, Cullinan VI and VIII can be combined into one.
Just like above, this 7th piece also has a marquise-cut and weighs 8.8 carats or 1.76 grams. “Queen Alexandria” was the first female monarch to own the Culliman VII given by her husband king Edward VII. When the king died, the jewel was passed down to “Queen Mary” who wore it as a pendant which is a part of the “Delhi Durbar necklace”.
The 8th piece of the Culliman diamonds consist of an oblong shape and it weighs 6.8 carats or 1.36 grams. We already mentioned above that both the Culliman 6th and 8th can be fitted together to form or make another brooch. And just like the 7th piece above, this one is also a part of the Delhi Durbar parure which sits at the center spot of the stomacher.
Finally, the 9th piece of the Cullinan diamond has the smallest size among them where it weighs 4.39 carats or 0.878 grams. The shape is described by many as either pear or pendeloque. Currently, this 9th piece of the jewel was embedded on a platinum ring which gives all the reason to name it as the “Cullinan IX Ring”.
How much would the Cullinan diamond be worth today?
In the past, specifically back in 1908, the estimated worth value of the Cullinan I or Great Star of Africa alone was worth 2.5 Million Dollars. Today, most experts claim that the price value falls within the range of 400 Million US dollar currency. Thus, all 9 components are worth billions of dollars.
You might be looking for a specific amount of the total value of all the Cullinan diamonds. The answer is that, no one can actually give you the true price value of these jewels because they are considered “priceless” and they are not for sale. Anyway, some expert claims that they are probably worth more than 2 Billion Pounds today.
Moreover, all Cullinan Diamonds are available for public viewing where you can visit them at the “Buckingham Palace exhibition” or the “Tower of London”.