Celebrating the Cullinan: Anniversary of the largest gem diamond find in history

front view Cushion shape old mine Golconda Type IIa diamond ring, circa 1905.
Cushion shape old mine Golconda Type IIa diamond ring, circa 1905.
Ref: 17160

Thursday 25th January 2018

During a routine check of the Premier Mine located in South Africa, on the 25th January 1905, a glimmer in the mine wall caught the attention of Frederick Wells. Little did Mr. Wells know that this flash of light would soon become one of the most incredible discoveries ever unearthed. After removing the sizable gemstone from the debris Mr. Wells and the Premier Mine owner Sir Thomas Cullinan inspected the enormous find.

Measuring in at approximately 10.1cm long, 6.35cm in width and weighing a staggering 3,106.75 carats, the rough diamond blazed its way into the record books as the largest gem quality diamond ever found. Like all impressive diamonds of superior size and colour the rough was named, and in this case, it was named the ‘Cullinan diamond’ after the owner of the Premier Mine.

The following two years after the discovery, the ‘Cullinan diamond’ was admired and viewed by many when it was displayed in a number of locations. Even with the supreme size and excellent quality the gemstone did not find an owner until 1907 when the then Transvaal Provincial Government purchased the stone to present to King Edward VII on his sixty sixth birthday. Hoping to strengthen ties between Britain and the Transvaal Provincial Government the generous gift was well received when it was presented to His Majesty at Sandringham House amongst esteemed guests and European royalty.

Once in the possession of the British Monarch the rough now required an expert cutter to complete the hazardous task of fashioning the stone. The esteemed diamond cutters the Asscher Brothers were known for their precision and excellent skill. The King entrusted the brothers with the massive undertaking and was not disappointed when after eight months of labour the fashioned diamonds were complete.

The Cullinan rough yielded nine large stones, ninety-six smaller diamonds each under 1 carat in weight and approximately 9.5 carats of unpolished fragments. Most of the largest diamonds from the rough now reside in the collection of Britain’s reigning monarch Queen Elizabeth II. The largest named Cullinan I, is a drop shape old cut diamond with a weight of 530.20 carats, it is set in the Sovereign’s Sceptre with cross and is a part of the Crown Jewels. The Cullinan II, the second largest diamond can be found set to the front centre of the Imperial State Crown. Cullinan III, Cullinan IV, Cullinan VI, Cullinan VII and Cullinan VIII all belong to the private collection of the Queen and can be seen in various jewellery items worn by her Majesty.

Beguiled by the mesmerising scintillation and beauty of large diamonds? Peruse our collection of extremely rare large diamonds at Berganza today.     

front view Cartier solitaire diamond engagement ring
Cartier solitaire diamond engagement ring, French, circa 1950.
Ref: 20453
front vintage emerld cut diamond ring berganza hatton garden
Vintage emerald-cut diamond solitaire ring, circa 1960.
Ref: 23724
front view Cushion shape solitaire old mine diamond ring, circa 1905.
Cushion shape solitaire old mine diamond ring, circa 1905.
Ref: 17589
front view Cushion shape old mine diamond ring
Cushion shape old mine diamond ring, circa 1915.
Ref: 17791
front view Solitaire old cut diamond ring, circa 1920.
Solitaire old cut diamond ring, circa 1920.
Ref: 19369
front view antique diamond stud earrings berganza hatton garden
Old mine cushion shape diamond stud earrings, circa 1920.
Ref: 18445
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