The Cullinan diamond is a name that has garnered much fame ever since its discovery. The reason behind the popularity of the diamond is as big and profound as the diamond itself. Declared the world’s largest non-carbonado and world’s largest gem-quality diamond this 3106.75 carat was named Cullinan after Sir Thomas Cullinan the owner of the diamond mine from which the diamond was discovered.
The diamond was discovered on 26 January 1905, during a routine check by Captain Frederick Wells, a superintendent of South Africa’s Premier Mine. What he thought to be a shard of glass, turned out to be a huge diamond that stood approximately at 2 ¼ inches wide, 3 7/8inches long, 11/3 pounds and 2 5/8 inches high. It was twice the size of the diamonds that were previously found.
This discovery was brought to the notice of Sir Thomas Cullinan, the owner of the mine. Cullinan was then sold to the Transvaal provincial government for £150,000. Louis Botha, the Prime Minister suggested that the diamond be gifted to King Edward VII. It was eventually on the insistence of the future prime minister Winston Churchill that Edward VII finally agreed to keep the diamond. Upon arrival in England amidst tight security, the diamond was presented to the king on his birthday.
King Edward entrusted the task of cutting the Cullinan to Joseph Asscher, the then head of the Asscher Diamond Company of Amsterdam. He had by then already garnered much fame for cutting the 971-carat Excelsior diamond. Joseph Asscher studied the diamond for six months before he ventured to cut it. On the very first attempt the steel blade broke though it made no impact on the diamond. It was on the second attempt that the cut was successfully executed with the diamond shattering exactly as was planned. Asscher was said to have fainted with nervous exhaustion post the cut.
The Cullinan was then cut into 9 major stones and into 96 smaller stones. The 9 major stones are named as Cullinan I, Cullinan II, Cullinan III, Cullinan IV, Cullinan V, Cullinan VI, Cullinan VII, Cullinan VIII and Cullinan IX. Of all the 9 major stones, the Cullinan I, is considered the largest-cut, fine-quality and colorless diamond standing at 530 carats. At 317 carats the Cullinan II is recognized as the second largest and is also known as “Star of Africa II”. The Cullinan I, II and III are on display at the Tower of London along with Britain’s other crown jewels.