The History of the World Famous Cullinan Diamond.

Beautiful loose diamonds and diamond engagement rings have captivated people for centuries! One of the most famous loose diamonds is the Cullinan Diamond.

Willem Prinsloo, owner of the Elandsfontein farm in South Africa, discouraged prospectors from exploring on his property. He was, in fact, famous for discouraging prospectors. After Prinsloo’s death, Thomas Cullinan, a Johannesburg building contractor, purchased the farm. He bought it for 52,000 British pounds and registered the Premier (Transvaal) Diamond Mining Company Limited on December 1, 1902; mining on the farm began immediately thereafter. The Premier Mine was one of South Africa’s most productive, employing more than 2,000 people by the end of 1904.

The Discovery
As the sun was beginning to set on Thursday afternoon, January 26, 1905, Superintendent Captain Frederick Wells was making his daily inspection. A crystal caught light on the shaft wall; it was only nine meters from the surface. Thinking the miners were playing a joke, Wells took it for a piece of broken glass and pried it out with a pocketknife. The crystal weighed 1.5 pounds, was 37/8 inches long, 21/4 inches wide and 25/8 inches high. Wells was sure it was worthless…well, almost sure. So he sent it to be analyzed. It turned out that the uncut stone was a perfectly clear and colorless diamond weighing 3,106 carats and was twice the size of any other diamond ever found. There is talk that the stone was originally much larger; experts surmise that since one side of the crystal was smooth the stone was cleaved by natural forces. Named for Cullinan, the diamond was sold to the Transvaal Government for 150,000 pounds and Wells received 3,500 pounds as a reward.

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The Cullinan In The Rough: 3106 carats.

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The Cullinan In Pieces.

The Prime Minister of Transvaal, Louis Botha, suggested that the diamond be presented as a gift to King Edward VII. Due to lingering rancor after the Boer War, the gift did not sit well with Parliament, which only voted 42 to 19 in favor of its acceptance. After much debate and at Winston Churchill’s urging, the king accepted The Cullinan. In gratitude, Churchill was presented with a replica of the diamond; he enthusiastically displayed it to friends, sometimes exhibiting it on a silver platter. The Cullinan was presented to the king on November 9, 1907, for his 66th birthday.

Cutting
How The Cullinan was to be cut was of primary importance because the stone’s greatest value was in the number of stones that could be produced. The firm I.J. Asscher and Company of Amsterdam was chosen for the task. For three months, Joseph Asscher February 10, 1908, at 2:45 pm, Asscher prepared himself for the greatest responsibility of his professional career — cleaving The Cullinan. Placing the cleaving blade at the prearranged point, he gave it a blow with his hammer. Snap…the blade broke. The stone was unharmed; it had not even moved. Another blade was quickly procured and Asscher struck the stone again. This time it split perfectly, just as he had hoped. Amidst cheers, shouts and pats on the back for a job well done, Asscher fainted.

Now there were two stones, weighing 1,977.50 and 1,040 carats, respectively. Additional cleaving produced nine major stones, 96 brilliants and 9.50 carats of unpolished pieces. The total weight was 1,063 carats; there was a 65 percent cutting loss. King Edward VII was given the two principal stones and he purchased an additional stone, the sixth Cullinan “chip” for Queen Alexandra, which weighed 11.50 carats. The rest of the diamonds were retained by the Asschers as compensation.

The pear shape, a 530.20-carat diamond commonly known as Cullinan I, but also known as the Star of Africa, now resides in the Tower of London and is set in the British royal scepter. Cullinan II is a massive 317.40-carat cushion-shaped diamond that sits in the center front in the band of the Imperial State Crown of Great Britain. These jewels were specifically used for the coronation of King George V on June 22, 1911.

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Cullinan “Star Of Africa” 530.20 Carats!

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The stones that were in the possession of the Asschers were eventually purchased from them and presented to Queen Mary on June 28, 1910. In 1910 Queen Mary set Cullinan III and Cullinan IV, known as the Lesser Stars of Africa, into a brooch. Cullinan III, a 94.40-carat pear drop, hangs from Cullinan IV, a cushion-cut diamond weighing 63.60 carats. Always impressively arrayed, Queen Mary would also hang the Cullinan I as a pendant from the Koh-i-Noor brooch.

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Cullinan III and IV.

As for some of the other Cullinan diamonds, Queen Mary had the Cullinan V, an 18.80-carat triangular-pear shape mounted in a platinum brooch with the silhouette of the design echoing the shape of the stone. The brooch was part of a very large stomacher that includes the legendary Cambridge emeralds, which the Queen received in 1910; each element of the stomacher can come apart and be worn as a separate brooch. Queen Elizabeth II frequently wears the Cullinan V brooch.

The Cullinan VII is an 8.80-carat marquise diamond, which Queen Mary added as a pendant to the 6.80-carat oval cushion Cullinan VIII brooch; this brooch was created at the same time as the Cullinan V. A photograph from 1919 shows Queen Mary wearing a platinum diamond pendant and chain that incorporates some of the 96 smaller Cullinan stones. Although she inherited the necklace in 1953, Queen Elizabeth II has never been known to wear it in public; the queen says, “It gets in the soup.” The Cullinan IX is a 4.39-carat pear, which was placed in an engraved ring presented to Queen Mary. It now belongs to Queen Elizabeth II.

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Cullinan VII and VIII.

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The Cullinan II Diamond. The two tiny platinum loops on the edges allow the stone to be worn as a brooch, alone or with the Cullinan I
attached. However, it usually resides in the front of the Imperial State Crown.

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