The Cullinan I

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From the Archives : Originally published April 17th, 2009
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Category : Gems and Treasures





The Cullinan is the largest diamond ever discovered in history, 3.106 carats or 621.2 grams.


The Cullinan is the largest diamond ever discovered in history. Found in the Premier mine in South Africa owned by Thomas Cullinan, the diamond was discovered by superintendent Captain Frederick Wells on January 26, 1905 while 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.


It turned out that the uncut stone was a perfectly clear and colorless diamond weighing 3,106 carats (621.2 grams or 1.37 pounds) and was was 37/8 inches long, 21/4 inches wide and 25/8 inches high (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.


The massive stone was purchased by the Government of the Transvaal for a mere £150,000 (of which 60% was returned as a tax on diamond mining) and presented to King Edward the VII as a gift to celebrate the granting of responsible government to South Africa on November 9, 1907, for his 66th birthday


The Cullinan is remarkably not only for its size but also because it is near flawless internally.


The diamond was fashioned into 9 large diamonds and 96 brilliants. The largest stone, also known as the 'Great Star of Africa', is the largest known colourless diamond gem and is a pear shaped stone mounted in the scepter of the British Crown Jewels, and now resides in the Tower of London.



The Cullinan II, the second largest colourless diamond is also known as the 'Lesser Star of Africa' and is set into the British Imperial State Crown.


The Cullinan III and IV are set into the crown of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.





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