The Cullinan diamond discovered accidentally in the Premier diamond mines of Transvaal, South Africa, on January 26th, 1905, had an enormous weight of 3,106 carats, making it the largest ever gem-quality rough diamond to be discovered in the world. The diamond was named after Sir Thomas Cullinan, the discoverer and owner of the Premier diamond mines, where mining activity began just three years before the record-breaking discovery.
The cutters of the Cullinan diamond, I. J. Asscher & Co. of Amsterdam, cleaved the enormous rough diamond into 9 large pieces and around 100 other smaller pieces, all of which were eventually cut and polished into different shapes and sizes of diamonds. The Characteristics of the 9 large diamonds are summarized in the table below.
|Carat Weight||Shape/Cut||Present mountings of the diamond|
|1||Cullinan I||530.20||pear||Mounted on the head of the Royal Scepter.|
|2||Cullinan II||317.40||cushion||Mounted on the brow or band of the Imperial State Crown.|
|3||Cullinan III||94.40||pear||Mounted on the finial of Queen Mary's Coronation Crown. Later combined with IV as a pendant brooch|
|4||Cullinan IV||63.60||cushion||Originally set in the band of Queen Mary's Coronation Crown. Later combined with III as a pendant brooch|
|5||Cullinan V||18.80||pear||Originally mounted in a brooch for Queen Mary, used singly or mounted as the centerpiece of the Delhi Durbar Stomacher. Later mounted on the circlet of her crown as replacement for the Koh-i-Noor.|
|6||Cullinan VI||11.50||marquise||Originally mounted in the front cross-patee of Queen Alexandra's regal circlet. Later combined with the Cullinan VIII brooch by Queen Mary to form the Cullinan VI & VIII brooch. Sometimes the Cullinan VI & VIII brooch was linked to the Cullinan V brooch.|
|7||Cullinan VII||8.80||marquise||Set as a negligee pendant to the Delhi Durbar emerald and diamond necklace. The shorter pendant incorporated Cullinan VII and the longer pendant a large pear-shaped emerald. Occasionally used as a pendant to the Cullinan VIII brooch, as an alternative to Cullinan VI|
|8||Cullinan VIII||6.80||cushion||Mounted as the centerpiece of a radiating platinum mount, with smaller diamonds to form the Cullinan VIII brooch. Later combined with Cullinan VI to form the Cullinan VI & VIII brooch.Sometimes dismantled from the brooch and mounted as part of the Delhi Durbar Stomacher|
|9||Cullinan IX||4.39||pear||Mounted in a platinum ring for Queen Mary and later inherited by Queen Elizabeth II. Worn only on a few occasions by both queens.|
When the cutting of the Cullinan diamond was completed in 1908, the Cullinan I, also known as the Greater Star of Africa, with a weight of 530.20 carats, became the largest faceted diamond in the world. The Cullinan I held this rare distinction for a period of about 80 years, until the discovery of the 755-carat Golden Jubilee rough diamond in 1985, which was subsequently transformed into the 545.67-carat, cushion-shaped, fancy yellow brown diamond, the largest faceted diamond in the world.
Other notable distinctions held by the Cullinan I diamond are the largest pear-shape faceted diamond in the world; the largest D-color faceted diamond in the world; and the largest D-color, pear-shaped, faceted diamond in the world. See table below, and rank order of famous diamonds greater than 100 carats in weight, under the sub-title Cullinan I towards the end of this web page.
List of famous colorless (white) diamonds greater than 100 carats in weight
|12||Queen of Holland||135.92||cushion|
|13||Zale Light of Peace||130.27||Pear|
|23||Star of Egypt||105.51||emerald|
|25||Star of America||100.57||asscher|
|26||Star of Happiness||100.36||radiant|
|27||Star of the Season||100.10||pear|
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The Cullinan diamond was discovered accidentally on January 26th, 1905, by the surface manager of the Premier diamond mines in Transvaal, South Africa, Mr. Frederick Wells, when he was on a routine inspection of the mine, late afternoon, on that particular day. Mr. Wells was about 18ft below the surface of the earth, when his attention was drawn by a shining object reflecting the last inclined rays of the setting sun, on the steep wall of the mine, a few feet above his head. Mr. Wells lost no time in scaling the wall and retrieving the shining object, which at first glance appeared to be a large diamond crystal.
The object was immediately taken for testing, and eventually turned out to be the largest gem-quality rough diamond ever discovered, weighing 3,106 carats. This unique distinction was previously held by the 995-carat Excelsior diamond for a period of 12 years, from 1893 to 1905. The rough diamond was named the "Cullinan diamond" in honor of the chairman of the company, Sir Thomas Major Cullinan.The 3,106-carat Cullinan rough diamond turned out to be the undisputed king of all rough diamonds in the history of mankind, and had been holding this position for the last 102 years. It is highly unlikely that any rival could appear, that could challenge the exalted position held by the Cullinan, in the future, unless new deposits of diamond are discovered in the world. See table below.
List of largest gem-quality rough diamonds discovered in the world as at year 2011
|Country of discovery||Year of discovery||Carat Weight||Color||
|Excelsior||South Africa||1893||995||Colorless /White||2|
|Star of Sierra Leone||Sierra Leone||1972||969.80||Colorless/White||3|
|Woyie River||Sierra Leone||1945||770||Colorless/White||7|
|Golden Jubilee||South Africa||1985||755||Yellowish-brown||8|
|Kimberley Octahedral||South Africa||1964||616||Yellow||14|
|De Grisogono||Central Africa||Probably in the 1950s||587||Black||18|
|Unnamed Petra Diamond||South Africa||2009||507||Colorless/White||20|
|Light of Letseng||Lesotho||2008||478||Colorless/White||22|
|Zale light of peace||Sierra Leone||1969||435||Colorless/white||24|
|De Beers||South Africa||1888||428.50||Yellow||25|
The Premier diamond mine was discovered in the year 1898, by Sir Thomas Major Cullinan. After acquiring the Prinsloo family farm in which the kimberlite pipe was situated, in 1902, Sir Thomas Cullinan founded the Premier Diamond Mining Company Ltd. on December 1, 1902, and soon afterwards began exploratory mining activities, that revealed the existence of a huge funnel-shaped volcanic chimney, which outcropped on the surface, over a roughly pear-shaped area, about 80 acres in extent. Actual production at the Premier mine, by open-pit mining, began on April 24, 1903, and during the first two years of its operation, four large rough diamonds over 300 carats each, two rough diamonds between 200-300 carats each and sixteen rough diamonds between 100-200 carats each, were discovered. The massive Cullinan diamond was discovered two years after the mine began operations.This accidental and record-breaking discovery attracted international attention to the mines, providing a much-needed boost for further mining activity. In fact many diamond experts believed that the Cullinan was only a fragment of perhaps a larger diamond, and the remaining larger piece still awaited discovery. The prospect of finding the larger portion of the Cullinan stimulated the activities of miners and prospectors.
King Edward commissioned the renowned diamond cutters of Amsterdam I. J. Asscher & Co. - who introduced a new diamond cut in 1902 called the Asscher-cut, also known as the square emerald-cut - to undertake the difficult task of cutting the Cullinan. The company had achieved credibility by cutting the Excelsior diamond in 1904, the world's largest rough diamond, before the discovery of the Cullinan diamond in 1905.
The stone was subjected to careful examination before the actual cutting. One of those who examined the Cullinan was Sir. William Crookes, who was astounded by it's remarkable clarity, but at the same time reported of a black spot in the midddle, around which the colors were very vivid, and changed as the analyzer was turned. This phenomenon according to Sir Williams was caused by severe internal strain, which is not uncommon for diamonds. Instances have been reported when diamonds have exploded when reaching the surface or sometimes in the pockets of miners due to body warmth, all attributed to internal strain.
The cutting of the Cullinan began on February 10th, 1908. The diamond was first cleaved along a pre-planned axis, by Mr. Asscher himself, who initially made an incision about half an inch deep. to accommodate the blade of a specially designed knife, which was followed by a heavy blow on the knife. The diamond split into two sections as expected. this was followed by a second cleavage in the same direction, producing three principal sections. Each of the sections were subjected to further cleavage, producing altogether nine large pieces. Around a 100 other smaller pieces were also produced. Faceting and polishing of the pieces then began, the shape of the cut being decided according to the dimensions of each piece. When the whole process was finally completed, there were nine major gems, and 96 smaller brilliants.
Joseph Asscher dealing the first blow that split the Cullinan rough diamond into two
The Cullinan I, aka the Greater Star of Africa , is the largest of the Cullinan diamonds, with a pear-shaped cut and weighing 530.20 carats. This was the largest faceted diamond in the world, until the discovery of the Golden Jubilee diamond, also from the premier mine in 1985. However, it still remains the largest, D-color, faceted diamond in the world. The dimensions of the diamond are 58.9 x 45.4 x 27.7 mm. The stone has a total of 76 facets.
Presently, the Cullinan I diamond is the second largest faceted diamond in the world; The largest faceted, D-color diamond in the world; The largest pear-cut/pear-shaped diamond in the world; and the largest D-color, pear-shaped diamond in the world. See table below :-
List of Famous Diamonds Greater than 100 carats in weight arranged in descending order of weights
|1||Golden Jubilee||545.67||cushion||fancy yellow-brown|
|3||Unnamed Black Diamond||489.07||rectangular-cut||black|
|4||Incomparable||407.48||shield shaped||fancy brownish yellow|
|6||Spirit of de Grisogono||312.24||old moghul-cut||black|
|10||De Beers||234.65||cushion||light yellow|
|11||Red Cross||205.07||cushion||canary yellow|
|20||Star of Peace||170.49||pear||brownish-yellow|
|21||Table of Islam||160.18||emerald-cut||black|
|25||Florentine||137.27||double rose-cut||light yellow|
|28||Sarah||132.43||cushion||fancy vivid yellow|
|31||Star of the South||128.48||cushion||fancy light pinkish-brown|
|36||Delaire Sunrise||118.08||square emerald-cut||fancy vivid yellow|
|38||Vainer Briolette||116.60||briolette||fancy light yellow|
|39||Hope of Africa||115.91||cushion||fancy vivid yellow|
|46||Mouna||112.50||cushion||fancy intense yellow|
|49||Cross of Asia||109.26||radiant||light brown|
|56||Star of Egypt||105.51||emerald||colorless/white|
|58||Geat Chrysanthemum||104.61||pear||fancy brown|
|59||Graff Constellation||102.79||round brilliant||colorless/white|
|60||Ashberg||102.48||cushion||dark orange yellow/amber|
|62||The Alnatt||101.29||cushion||fancy vivid yellow|
|63||The Golden Star||101.28||cushion||fancy vivid yellow|
|64||Star of America||100.57||asscher||colorless/white|
|66||Star of Happiness||100.36||radiant||colorless/white|
|67||Star of the Season||100.10||pear||colorless/white|
|68||Graff Vivid Yellow||100.09||cushion||fancy vivid yellow|
The Cullinan II, aka the lesser Star of Africa is the second largest Cullinan diamond, with a cushion shape, weighing 317.4 carats. It is the fifth largest faceted diamond in the world; the second largest, D-color, faceted diamond in the world; the second largest cushion-cut diamond in the world; and the largest cushion-cut, D-color diamond in the world.
The Cullinan II has been mounted on the brow or band of the Imperial State Crown of Great Britain, which also features other notable precious stones such as St. Edwards Sapphire, the Stuart Sapphire and the Black Princess Ruby. It is also on display in the Tower of London, with the other Crown Jewels.
The Cushion-cut Cullinan II
mounted on the band of the Imperial State Crown of Great
The Cullinan III weighing 94.40 carats has a pear-shaped cut and is mounted in the finial of Queen Mary's (Queen consort of King George V) Crown, but when required Cullinan III could be combined with Cullinan IV to form a pendant-brooch, and most of Queen Mary's portraits show her wearing this combination. Queen Elizabeth II, the present British Monarch, also uses the two diamonds in the same way.
Queen Mary's Crown was commissioned by Queen Mary, consort of King George V, from the Crown Jewellers, Garrard & Co, for her coronation that was held on June 22, 1911. Apart from the Cullinan III and IV that was mounted on the finial and band of the crown respectively, another famous diamond the Koh-i-Noor was also incorporated in the crown as the centerpiece of the front cross-patee. After the coronation, the three large diamonds, the Koh-i-Noor, the Cullinan III and Cullinan IV were replaced with quartz crystal replicas, and the jewels used in alternative settings. Cullinan III & IV were combined together to form a pendan- brooch, that became a favorable piece of jewelry of the of Queen Mary, who became famous for superbly bejeweling herself for formal events.
The Cullinan IV, with a cushion-cut weighs 63.60 carats, and like the Cullinan III was originally mounted on Queen Mary's Crown, but as stated above, subsequently dismantled and combined with Cullinan III to form a pendant brooch.
The Cullinan V, with a triangular pear-cut or heart-shaped cut, weighs 18.80 carats, and also had a dual use, one as a piece of jewelry, mounted in a brooch or as the detachable center of the emerald and diamond stomacher of the Delhi Durbar Parure designed in 1911 for Queen Mary and the other to be worn in the circlet of her crown, as a replacement for the Koh-i-Noor.
This was after the Koh-i-Noor was removed to be mounted on a new crown for Elizabeth (Queen Mother), the Duchess of York after her husband George VI's accession to the throne, upon the abdication of Edward VIII, on December 11, 1936.
Cullinan V brooch
In the Cullinan V brooch, the heart-shaped, 18.80-carat Cullinan V diamond is mounted on a fine radiating platinum web, with a scrolling millegrain and pave-set border of brilliant diamonds.
Queen Mary wearing the Delhi Durbar Parure stomacher incorporating Cullinan V as the centerpiece
Delhi Durbar Parure Stomacher incorporating Cullinan V brooch as centerpiece
Queen Elizabeth wearing the Cullinan V brooch during a visit to Tuvalu (Ellice Islands) in Polynesia
The Cullinan VI is a marquise-cut stone, with a weight of 11.50 carats. King Edward VII purchased the diamond from Asschers and presented it to his Queen consort, Queen Alexandra, as a personal gift. Queen Alexandra got the Cullinan VI mounted in the front cross patee of her regal circlet.
Cullinan VI was inherited by Queen Mary after Queen Alexandra's death in 1925.The fashion-conscious Queen Mary decided that the ideal setting for the marquise-cut Cullinan VI diamond was as a pendant to the radiating platinum mount incorporating the 6.8-carat, emerald-cut Cullinan VIII diamond as its centerpiece, designed by the Crown Jewelers Garrards in 1911. The combination came to be christened as the Cullinan VI & VIII Brooch.
Cullinan VII is also a marquise-cut stone, weighing 8.80 carats. The permanent setting of the
Cullinan VII is as an asymmetrical pendant to the Delhi Durbar
Necklace, a negligee pendant necklace, in which the longer
pendant terminates in a pear-shaped emerald, larger in size
than the marquise-cut Cullinan VII. The Delhi Durbar Necklace
is one of the six components of the Cambridge and Delhi Durbar
Parure, designed and crafted by the crown jewelers Garrard's
in anticipation of the coronation of King George V and Queen
Mary on June 22, 1911, and their subsequent proclamation as
the Emperor and Empress of India, at a special Durbar
organized for this purpose in Delhi, on December 12, 1911.
Delhi Durbar Necklace
incorporating Cullinan VII and a pear-shaped emerald as
In the negligee pendant the marquise-cut Cullinan VII is suspended by a shorter detachable chain pave-set with ten graduated brilliant diamonds. The longer chain suspending the pear-shaped emerald is pave-set with 12 graduated brilliant diamonds. Apart from the large pear-shaped emerald in the longer pendant, the necklace also incorporates 8 other Cambridge emeralds, originally owned by Queen Mary's grandmother, the Duchess of Cambridge. The necklace consists of a double platinum chain pave-set with 94 smaller brilliant-cut diamonds. The eight cabochon-cut emeralds are set alternating with six large brilliant-cut diamonds.on the double platinum chain. The two emeralds on the median line of the chain, the centerpiece of the necklace and the clasp behind, are cushion-shaped, cabochon-cut emeralds. Emeralds of similar size and shape are placed on symmetrical positions on either side of the median line of the necklace. These emeralds are oval-shaped, cabochon-cut stones. Each of the emeralds on the necklace is surrounded by a single layer of small brilliant-cut diamonds.
The Delhi Durbar Necklace was a favorite piece of Queen Mary and she wore it usually with other components of the Delhi Durbar Parure.
1) The Queen's Diamonds - by Hugh Roberts
2) The Queen's Jewels. The Personal Collection of Elizabeth II - by Leslie Field
3) The Blue Empress Diamond - www.internetstones.com
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