January 26, 1909: The Cullinan Diamond, a 3106-Carat Diamond Found in South Africa

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A Brief History

On January 26, 1909, the South African earth gave up the largest gem-quality diamond in history!

Digging Deeper

Digging deeper (no, really, digging deeper!), we find the Premier Number 2 mine producing an enormous diamond of over 3106 carats!

Named the Cullinan Diamond, this gemstone was over 4 inches long before it was cut and polished into gems.  The largest of those cut gems is the 530.4-carat “Great Star of Africa” which currently has a home on the royal sceptre of England.  The Star remained the largest cut and polished diamond in the world until 1985 when the Golden Jubilee Diamond (545 carats) was found, ironically in the same mine!

To put these enormous gems in perspective, the famous Hope Diamond (a dark blue diamond) is “only” 45.5 carats!  Most men are shocked at the price of a one-carat diamond, and “rocks” of several carats make news when celebrities give or receive them.

The second biggest gem cut from the Cullinan Diamond is called “The Second Star of Africa” and weighs in at a hefty 317.4 carats.  It also has a home among Britain’s crown jewels and is mounted on the imperial crown.  In total, 9 large diamonds were cut from the Cullinan Diamond, the “smallest” of those being 4.4 carats.

The third and fourth largest gems cut and polished from the Cullinan Diamond are called “The Lesser Stars of Africa,” although at 94.4 and 63.6 carats, both are substantially larger than the Hope Diamond!  Hardly lesser diamonds!  These two giant diamonds also reside among the British crown jewels.

Since the British royal family apparently did not have enough crown jewels, the High Commissioner of South Africa presented the remaining 96 smaller cut and polished gems from the Cullinan Diamond to Queen Mary in 1910!

If diamonds are a girl’s best friend, the current Queen of England has some good friends indeed!

Question for students (and subscribers): Are diamonds really a girl’s best friend?  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Hart, Matthew.  Diamond: A Journey to the Heart of an Obsession.  Walker Books, 2001.

Hazen, Robert M.  The Diamond Makers.  Cambridge University Press, 1999.

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About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.