On January 25, 1905, at the Premier Mine in Pretoria, South Africa, the largest diamond ever found was discovered. It was given the name, the “Cullinan,” after the mine owner Sir thomas Cullinan and it was 3,106-carats, weighed 1.33 pounds.
Frederick Wells, the mine’s superintendent was 18 feet below the earth’s surface when he spotted a flash of starlight embedded in the wall just above him. Afterwards, Cullinan sold the diamond to the Transvaal provincial government, which presented the stone to Britain’s King Edward VII as a birthday gift. With a fear of theft, King Edward arranged to send a phony diamond aboard a steamer ship loaded with detectives as a diversionary tactic. While the decoy slowly made its way from Africa on the ship, the Cullinan was sent to England in a plain box.
Joseph Asscher, head of the Asscher Diamond Company of Amsterdam was given the task of cutting the diamond. Famous for his cut of the famous Excelsior Diamond, a 971-carat diamond found in 1893, he studied this new stone for six months before attempting the cut. On his first attempt, the steel blade broke, with no effect on the diamond. On the second attempt, the diamond shattered exactly as planned. Overwhelmed, Asscher fainted from nervous exhaustion.
The Cullinan was later cut into nine large stones and about 100 smaller ones, valued at millions of dollars. Among these are:
- Star of Africa I, or Cullinan I, 530 carats, the largest-cut fine-quality colorless diamond in the world, mounted in the British Sovereign’s Royal Scepter.
- Star of Africa II or Cullinan II, 317 carats, the second largest stone, sits in the Imperial State Crown.
These, along with the Cullinan III are on display in the Tower of London among Great Britain’s other crown jewels.