Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 26, 2012

Some of the cuts of the Cullinan Diamond

January 26, 1905: The Cullinan Diamond is found. The largest rough gem quality diamond was found at the Premier Diamond Mining Company in Cullinan – today called Gauteng – South Africa. The mine was owned by Sir Thomas Cullinan and Frederick Wells, the surface manager, found the diamond while on a routine inspection. The uncut gem weighed in at 3,106.75 carats (1.3698 pounds or 621.35 grams). Sir William Crookes analyzed the uncut gem noting its clarity but also stating there was a black spot in the center, probably due to internal strain.

The diamond was sent to England. Security was an issue. The diamond was to be sent by steamer ship from Africa to London, surrounded by Detectives. This was a ruse and the diamond was actually sent in a plain box via parcel post – registered mail. There is no record of any attempt made against the diversionary fake sent by ship. The gem was purchased by the Transvaal government, an area in northern South Africa, and presented to King Edward VII for his birthday, November 8.

The stone was cut by Asscher Brothers of Amsterdam. The company was founded in 1854 and is still in operation (although nearly destroyed by Nazi atrocities) and is run under the name of Royal Asscher Diamond Company. Abraham and Joseph Asscher developed a signature method for cutting diamonds in 1902. Called the Asscher cut, the gem is shaped in a square emerald cut with cropped corners. Joseph, grandson of the founder, tried to cut the remarkable diamond in February 1908. The cleaving blade broke. He tried again one week later and was successful. Rumor says he fainted after the first cut – erroneously.

The Cullinan diamond was cut into nine major stones, 96 smaller brilliants, and 9.5 carats of unpolished pieces. The largest gem, Cullinan I or the Great Star of Africa, was the largest polished diamond in the world until 1985. It weighs 530.2 carats (3.74 ounces or 106.04 grams) and was surpassed by the Golden Jubilee Diamond weighing in at 545.67 carats (3.84 ounces or 109.13 grams). The Jubilee also came from the Premier Mine. Cullinan II or the Lesser Star of Africa is the fourth largest diamond weighing 317.4 carats (2.23 ounces or 63.48 grams).

A diamond with a flaw is worth more than a pebble without imperfections. – Chinese Proverb

Let us not be too particular; it is better to have old secondhand diamonds than none at all. – Mark Twain

I have always felt a gift diamond shines so much better than one you buy for yourself. – Mae West

I prefer liberty to chains of diamonds. – Mary Worley Montagu

Also on this day:

The Hills Are Alive – In 1905, Maria von Trapp was born.
Phantom – In 1988, The Phantom of the Opera opened in New York City.
Bald Eagle or Wild Turkey? – In 178,: Benjamin Franklin debates using the eagle as engraved on the national seal.

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