Cullinan Diamond

Cullinan I (Great Star of Africa), II (Lesser Star of Africa), III through IX.
The nine largest pieces after the split
Weight Assorted (nine different stones) carats (Assorted g)
Color white (exact colour grade unknown; Gems & Gemology's examination results stated probably D or at least E)
Cut Assorted (cushions, pears, marquises)
Country of origin South Africa
Mine of origin Premier Mine
Cut by Asscher Brothers
Original owner Premier Diamond Mining Co.
Current owner British Crown
Estimated value over £200 million, $400 million

The Cullinan diamond is the largest rough gem-quality diamond ever found, at 3,106.75 carats (621.35 g).[1]

The largest polished gem from the stone is named Cullinan I or the Great Star of Africa, and at 530.4 carats (106.1 g)[2] was the largest polished diamond in the world until the 1985 discovery of the Golden Jubilee Diamond, 545.67 carats (109.13 g), also from the Premier Mine. Cullinan I is now mounted in the head of the Sceptre with the Cross. The second largest gem from the Cullinan stone, Cullinan II or the Lesser Star of Africa, at 317.4 carats (63.5 g), is the fourth largest polished diamond in the world. Both gems are in the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom.



The Cullinan diamond was found by Thomas Evan Powell, a miner who brought it to the surface and gave it to Frederick Wells, surface manager of the Premier Diamond Mining Company in Cullinan, on January 26, 1905. The stone was named after Sir Thomas Cullinan, the owner of the diamond mine.

Sir William Crookes performed an analysis of the Cullinan diamond before it was cut and mentioned its remarkable clarity, but also a black spot in the middle. The colours around the black spot were very vivid and changed as the analyzer was turned. According to Crookes, this pointed to internal strain.[3] Such strain is not uncommon in diamonds.

The stone was bought by the Transvaal government and presented to King Edward VII on his birthday.[4][5] It was cut into three large parts by Asscher Brothers of Amsterdam, and eventually into 9 large gem-quality stones and a number of smaller fragments. At the time, technology had not yet evolved to guarantee quality of the modern standard, and cutting the diamond was considered difficult and risky. In order to enable Asscher to cut the diamond in one blow, an incision was made, half an inch deep. Then, a specifically designed knife was placed in the incision and the diamond was split in one heavy blow. The diamond split through a defective spot, which was shared in both halves of the diamond.[6]


Glass copies of the nine diamonds cut from the Cullinan

In 1905, transport from South Africa to England posed a security problem. Detectives from London were placed on a steamboat that was rumoured to carry the stone, but this was a diversionary tactic. The stone on that ship was a fake, meant to attract those who would be interested in stealing it. The actual diamond was sent to England in a plain box via parcel post, albeit registered.[7]

The story goes that when the diamond was split, the knife broke during the first attempt. "The tale is told of Joseph Asscher, the greatest cleaver of the day," wrote Matthew Hart in his book Diamond: A Journey to the Heart of an Obsession, "that when he prepared to cleave the largest diamond ever known, the 3,106 carats (621 g) Cullinan, he had a doctor and nurse standing by and when he finally struck the diamond and it broke perfectly in two, he fainted dead away." It turns out the fainting story is a popular myth. Diamond historian Lord Ian Balfour wrote that Asscher was a very accomplished and competent cleaver, and that it was much more likely he opened a bottle of champagne, instead.

Rumours abound of a "second half" of the Cullinan diamond. According to Sir William Crookes the original, uncut diamond was itself "a fragment, probably less than half, of a distorted octahedral crystal; the other portions still await discovery by some fortunate miner."[5] Crookes thus indirectly indicates that the original, larger crystal broke in a natural way and not by a man-made cut. Others[who?] have speculated that before Frederick Wells sold the diamond to Sir Thomas Cullinan he broke off a piece which sized in at about 1,500 carats (300 g) to 2,000 carats (400 g).[citation needed]

See also

  • List of famous diamonds


  1. ^ A carbonado found in Brazil weighed more than 3,600 carats (720 g), but no gem-quality material could be extracted from it.
  2. ^ Overview of the different Cullinan diamonds
  3. ^ Crookes: Diamonds (1909) Page 78
  4. ^ Goodchild: Precious Stones (1908) Page 140
  5. ^ a b Crookes: Diamonds (1909) Page 77 (A photo of the rough Cullinan, marked as number 17, is facing page 80.)
  6. ^ Crookes: Diamonds (1909) Page 79
  7. ^ Dickinson, Joan Y. (1965). The Book of Diamonds. New York, New York: Crown Publishers, Inc.. pp. 110. ISBN 978-0486418162. 

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Cullinan diamond — the largest diamond ever found, weighing about 620 grams. It was named after Thomas Cullinan, the head of the Transvaal mine in which it was found in 1905. Two years later the Transvaal government bought it for $1 000 000 and presented it to King …   Universalium

  • Cullinan diamond — /ˈkʌlənən daɪmənd/ (say kuluhnuhn duymuhnd) noun a diamond mined in South Africa in 1905 and believed to be the largest uncut diamond in the world; cut into a number of stones which form part of the British crown jewels …   Australian English dictionary

  • (the) Cullinan diamond — the Cullinan diamond [the Cullinan diamond] the largest diamond ever found, weighing about 620 grams. It was named after Thomas Cullinan, the head of the Transvaal mine in which it was found in 1905. Two years later the Transvaal government… …   Useful english dictionary

  • Cullinan — may refer to: Surname Cormac Cullinan (fl. 1990s present), South African attorney and author Daryll Cullinan (born 1967), South African cricketer Edward Cullinan (born 1931), British architect Joseph S. Cullinan (1860–1937), US oil industrialist… …   Wikipedia

  • Cullinan (diamant) — Les neuf plus gros éclats débités à partir du cristal natif du Cullinan. Le Cullinan est le plus gros diamant brut jamais découvert, avec une masse de 3 106 carats, soit plus de 621,2 grammes[1 …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Cullinan, Gauteng — Coordinates: 25°40′22″S 28°31′15″E / 25.67278°S 28.52083°E / 25.67278; 28.52083 …   Wikipedia

  • Cullinan-Diamant — Die neun größten Teile nach der Spaltung …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • diamond — diamondlike, adj. /duy meuhnd, duy euh /, n. 1. a pure or nearly pure, extremely hard form of carbon, naturally crystallized in the isometric system. 2. a piece of this stone. 3. a transparent, flawless or almost flawless piece of this stone, esp …   Universalium

  • Diamond — /duy meuhnd, duy euh /, n. 1. Neil, born 1941, U.S. singer and songwriter. 2. Cape, a hill in Canada, in S Quebec, on the St. Lawrence River. * * * I Mineral composed of pure carbon, the hardest naturally occurring substance known and a valuable… …   Universalium

  • Cullinan — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Los nueve pedazos mayores tras la rotura …   Wikipedia Español

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.