Monday Mystery- The Cullinan Diamond

Jul 13, 2015
Monday Mystery: The 3,106 carat Cullinan Diamond

This Monday, we’re focusing on a stone that’s more mysterious than sinister. The Cullinan Diamond, discovered in South Africa in 1905, was the largest uncut diamond ever found. The discoverers were so sure they’d been duped by a planted piece of glass that they reportedly threw the diamond out of a window to watch it shatter. Of course, it did not shatter, and they were stupefied to discover it was indeed a real diamond.

Weighing in at a whopping 3,106 carats, The Cullinan would certainly dwarf even the largest stone in our collection. The stone weighed nearly one and a half pounds; it may not sound like much, but a one pound diamond is a little too heavy to carry around on your left hand!

The Cullinan was named for Sir Thomas Cullinan, owner of the mine where the stone was discovered. News of the groundbreaking discovery traveled fast, and Cullinan had to get creative to keep the stone safe during it’s transport from South Africa to England. The Cullinan was transported in an unmarked postal box, while a decoy was sent via a heavily guarded ship.

Luckily, the diamond reached England safely and was put up for sale. When no one in England seemed keen on, or wealthy enough, to purchase The Cullinan, the Transvaal government purchased it for £150,000. The Transvaalians presented the uncut stone to King Edward VII as a gesture of good will for his birthday.

Joseph Asscher was entrusted with the task of cutting the large diamond down into smaller stones. This was a huge undertaking, and Asscher spent months studying the stone from all angles to decide how he would cut it. On the first attempt, Asscher’s blade broke. On the second, the diamond split in half and Asscher reportedly fainted. We can’t blame him, considering that the largest uncut diamond in the world could have shattered into pieces had he not cut it perfectly. You can watch an expert from Forevermark explain and recreate the grueling process below!

The Cullinan was cut into nine large stones (named Cullinan I, Cullinan II, Cullinan III, and so on) and 96 smaller brilliant stones. After cutting the stone, Asscher was given all but the two largest (Cullinan I and Cullinan II) as payment for his services. Eventually, all the stones found their way back into The Royal Family’s possession.

Cullinan I, also known as The Great Star of Africa, is the largest of the stones cut from The Cullinan. It is a gorgeous 530.20ct pear shaped stone which was set into The Royal Scepter. The diamond can also be removed from the scepter and worn as a pendant or pin.

Cullinan II, a 317.40ct cushion cut, was set in the front of The Imperial State Crown of Great Britain alongside The Black Prince’s Ruby. Cullinan II features platinum loops on each side so that it may be combined with Cullinan I as a truly impressive pin or pendant.

Mystery still surrounds The Cullinan Diamond; the uncut stone had one flat side, leading many to speculate that the 3,106ct rock was just a portion of an even larger diamond. To this day, the search for the rest of The Cullinan continues, but no trace of the fabled larger diamond has been discovered as of yet.

Today, you can see the larger pieces of The Cullinan on display with the rest of the Crown Jewels in The Tower of London. While there, you can also sneak a peek at The Black Prince’s Ruby and Koh-i-Noor! It may not be cursed, but The Cullinan is certainly magnificent! Learn about the other mysterious gemstones we’ve discussed here!


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