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.

Great Star of Africa

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 25, 2010

Copy of nine of the diamonds cut from the famous Cullinan diamond, from the "Reich der Kristalle" museum in Munich. The top left one is the Great Star of Africa (Chris 73)

June 25, 1905: The world’s largest gem-quality diamond is discovered by Frederick Wells, manager of the Premier Diamond Mining Company in Cullinan, Gauteng, South Africa. It weighed 3,106.75 carats [621.35 g or 21.9 oz]. A larger carbonado, non-gem quality diamond, was found in Brazil weighing 3,600 carats. This largest diamond is named for the owner of the mine, Sir Thomas Cullinan. Wells received $10,000 for the find.

The Cullinan Diamond was purchased for $800,000 and presented to King Edward VII of England. The Asscher Brothers of Amsterdam were given the job of cutting the stone as they had successfully cut the Excelsior, the previous world record diamond. Joseph Asscher studied the gem for three months, trying to determine the proper way to proceed. Finally, on February 10, 1908 at 2:45 PM he took the cleaving blade and placed it at the prearranged point and struck it with his hammer. The blade broke. The gem was unharmed and a second cleaving blade was found. The stone split perfectly.

The first cut produced two massive stones weighing 1,977.50 and 1,040 carats. They were eventually made into nine major stones, 96 brilliants, and 9.5 carats of unpolished pieces. The total weight for the cut stones was 1,063 carats with a 65%  cutting loss. The King kept the two largest stones and purchased a “chip” for Queen Alexandra – weighing 11.5 carats.

The largest gem was faceted into the pear shaped 530.2 carat diamond officially known as both The Cullinan Diamond and the Star of Africa. It is part of the Royal Scepter and remains in the Tower of London with the crown jewels. Queen Elizabeth II is the current owner. The Golden Jubilee, another Premier mine diamond, is a larger cut gem weighing 545.67 carats and is owned by King Rama IX, King of Thailand.

“He who finds diamonds must grapple in mud and mire because diamonds are not found in polished stones. They are made.” – unknown

“Next to sound judgment, diamonds and pearls are the rarest things in the world.” – Jean de la Bruyere

“I never hated a man enough to give him his diamonds back.” – Zsa Zsa Gabor

“Diamonds are nothing more than chunks of coal that stuck to their jobs.” – Malcolm S. Forbes

Also on this day, in Harry Thaw murders Sandford White.