One of the world’s largest diamonds was in plain view. Not many people were aware when they saw images of Queen Elizabeth’s coffin they were viewing the world’s largest diamond or the immense wealth lying in plain sight. It would have been easy to mistake the jewel in the Royal Sceptre as a piece of colourless glass.
Was The World’s Largest Diamond Real?
During the Queen’s funeral the Imperial State Crown, the Royal Sceptre and the Orb were placed on top of the Queen’s coffin, being symbols of her authority. For just under two weeks these two items were on public display.
It’s hard to imagine that items so valuable would be left in such a vulnerable position. Even Elizabeth Taylor had copies made of her most expensive stones and only wore those in public, while the originals remained safely stored away in a bank vault.
Original Cullinan Diamond
The original Cullinan diamond was one of the world’s largest diamonds, at an incredible 3,106.75 carats, around the size of a human heart. Cullinan I is still the largest clear-cut and the most expensive diamond in the world.
When it was found in a South African mine in 1905, it was valued at £150,000. In 1908 the stone was valued at around US$2 billion dollars. Nine of the larger diamonds, cut from the Cullinan, are among the Crown Jewels of Great Britain. The Great African Star weighs a hefty 530.2 carats and has 75 facets.
In 1985, an even larger diamond was found in the same mine, and was named the Golden Jubilee Diamond, valued at $100 million.
One of the World’s Largest Diamonds Arrives in London
The prime minister of the Transvaal Colony, Louis Botha, offered to present the Cullinan diamond to King Edward VII, as “A token of the loyalty and attachment of the people of Transvaal to the British throne and its king.” The cabinet of Transvaal, which was under British rule, voted against the gift, but the British Prime Minister, Sir Henry-Bannerman decided to offer the diamond to the King.
Winston Churchill, who later became Prime Minister, persuaded the king to accept the gem. Churchill was later given a replica of the diamond, which he showed off to his friends. A fake diamond was shipped to London locked in the ship’s safe, while the real stone was sent registered post in a plain box.
One of the World’s Largest Diamonds Cut
The original Cullinan diamond was cut into nine large diamonds and 96 lesser ones. The Second Cullinan Star, cut from the original, is the fourth largest of all polished diamonds in the world.
Cullinan II is 317,4 carats; Cullinan III is 94.4 carats; Cullinan IV 63.6 carats; Cullinan V 18.8 carats; Cullinan VI 11.5 carats; Cullinan VI 11.5 carats; Cullinan VII 8.08 carats; Cullinan VIII 6.8 carats; Cullinan IX 4.39 carats. Compare these figures: in the United States the average engagement ring I one carat, in the United Kingdom .06 carats and in Europe is it .05 carats. The Taylor-Burton Diamond was 33.19 carats. It was sold to a Korean retail company for over $8.8 million.
The Cullinan diamond was set into the British royal sceptre, while the Second Star of Africa was mounted in the Imperial Crown. Both the Great Star of Africa and the Second Star of Africa have been fitted with tiny platinum hoops on their edges, to allow them to be worn as a pendant or a brooch.
Ownership of the World’s Largest Diamond
Many South African’s now view the Britain’s acquisition of the jewel as illegitimate and are calling for its return. University of South Africa professor of African politics says that “Colonial transactions are illegitimate and immoral. Receiving a stolen diamond does not exonerate the receiver.”
Following the death of Britain’s longest reigning monarch, members of the South African parliament Vuyolwethu Zungula are demanding Britain return of all stolen gold and diamonds. They want the Great African Star to be placed in the South African museum, instead of being on display in the English Tower of London with the other Crown jewels.
Another highly valuable, legendary stone is the Koh-I-Noor (mountain of light) diamond. It is smaller than the Cullinan diamond, at 105 carats and valued at $591 million. Uncut, the Koh-I-Nor was 186 carats. Diamonds were first mined in India in the 4th century. It is believed the Koh-I-Noor was discovered in the 14th century. It went from Persia, to Afghanistan and back to India.
The first written record of the Koh-I-Noor diamond is in 1628, when it was placed on the very top of the Peacock Throne, which had taken seven years to construct. The stone passed through one set of blood-soaked hands after another. It was a symbol of potency rather than an object of beauty.
In the late 1840s the British annexed the Punjab, following the vacuum created by the fighting in Central Asia. As part of the Last Treaty of Lahore the Koh-I-Nor was ceded to Queen Victoria, along with all the 10-year-old Maharaja’s other assets. India was Britain’s jewel in the Crown, literally and figuratively.
Prince Albert had the stone cut from 186 carat to 105.6 carat. Prior to that, the stone did look just like a piece of glass, with no sparkle or brilliance.
The stone was handed down until, in 1938, when it was set in the Crown of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. It was last seen publicly when it rested atop the Queen Mother’s coffin.
When Camilla is crowned as Queen Consort, she will wear the Queen Mother’s crown, where the Koh-I-Nor reigns supreme, in the centre of the crown.
India demands the return of the Koh-I-Nor, but the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan all claim ownership of the gem. The Koh-I-Nor has a bloodied history, having been fought over for two centuries. It is said the stone is lucky for women, but a curse for men.
Like the monarchy, will these large diamonds survive the deadly game of chess?
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