Kestenbaum & Weisner Fine Jewelry

Famous Diamonds: The Cullinan I

Cullinan I and IIApril is Diamond month so we thought it would be fun to feature famous historic diamonds. Let’s start with the largest cut diamond in the world, the Cullinan I Diamond, aka the Great Star of Africa. It is 530.2 carats, Pear shaped, with 76 facets and is set in the British Royal Scepter. It was cut from the 3,106-carat Cullian, the largest diamond crystal ever found, weighing about 1 1/3 pounds and measuring just under 4 inches long, over 2 inches wide, and more than 2.5 inches high. It was cut into 105 diamonds including the Cullinan I and the Cullinan II (the Lesser Star of Africa) a 317.4 carat, cushion cut stone mounted in the band of the Imperial State Crown. Both are part of the British Crown Jewels that are kept in the Tower of London. Want to know more….

The Cullinan was discovered in Transvaal, South Africa in 1905 on an inspection tour of the Premier Mine and is named for the mine owner Thomas Cullinan. The Cullinan was sold to the Transvaal government, which presented it to King Edward VII on his 66th birthday on November 9th, 1907. (What did you get for your last birthday?) He announced that he had accepted the stone “for myself and [my] successors”, and that “this great and unique diamond would be kept and preserved among the historic jewels which form the heirlooms of the Crown”. He also gave them their nickname, the Stars of Africa.

The Cullinan was cut by Joseph Asscher and Company of Amsterdam, who examined the enormous crystal for around six months before determining how to divide it. It eventually yielded nine major, and 96 smaller brilliant cut stones.

Cullinan_BroochCullinan III, a pear-shaped 94.4 carat diamond is suspended from Cullinan IV, a square-cut 63.6 carat diamond, in the famous silver Cullinan Brooch setting. They were both given to Queen Mary in 1910 by the South African government, along with Cullinans V and VII through IX. Queen Mary loved her Cullinans and she really was one of the most creative royals when it came to jewels, and that is never more evident than when you look at what she did with these two large diamonds.

Can you find the Cullinan II and IV diamonds in the pictures below?


From the left, III and IV were temporarily set in the new crown Queen Mary had made for herself for her 1911 coronation alongside her husband, George V (the pear diamond was mounted upright on the top cross, while the square diamond was nestled front and center on the base of the crown). She also mounted both (2nd) or just one (3rd) in the Delhi Durbar Tiara made for her for the Indian celebration of her husband’s accession; she occasionally replaced the Lahore Diamond pendant on the Coronation Necklace with both (4th) or just one of the stones (5th) and at least once, she used III as a diamond pendant on her Ladies of India emerald necklace (far right).

All of the smaller Cullinans (everything except I and II) were kept by Queen Mary until her death in 1953, when they passed to the current queen, Elizabeth. She has kept them in their brooch setting, and has only used the jewel a handful of times including her 1958 visit to Netherlands where she visited Asscher’s, the site of the initial cutting.

Royal Visit to Netherlands 1958

Various shots of the royal party visiting Asscher’s diamond factory. MS worker giving demonstration of the cutting of diamonds; CU Princess Beatrix; CU engraved table with the initials of Queen Elizabeth II; CU Queen Elizabeth looking at the table; CU diamonds on table, consisting of 3,500 jewels; CU Queen Juliana looking at the diamonds; Queen Elizabeth and Queen Juliana looking at initial in diamonds “E II R”.

This entry was published on April 1, 2015 at 3:24 pm. It’s filed under Diamond Education, diamonds, Historical Diamonds & Jewels and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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