The Cullinan Diamond

the cullinan diamond
Worthy Staff

By Worthy Staff | Jun 24th, 2019

Name: The Cullinan Diamond
Also Known As: The Star of Africa
Price Estimation: Over $2 billion USD
Size: 621.35 grams uncut
Color: White
Cut: Various; cushions, pears, marquises
Carat: 3,106.75 carats uncut
Originally Belonged To: Premier Diamond Mining Co.

What is the Cullinan Diamond?

Also known as the Star of Africa, the Cullinan Diamond started out as a 3,106.75-carat stone. The Cullinan diamond price is estimated at more than two billion US dollars. This famous diamond is white in color and before it was cut, the original Cullinan diamond size was 621.35 grams, which translates to 1.369 pounds.

How Much is the Cullinan Diamond Worth? And Other Facts

One of the most fascinating things about the Cullinan diamond price is this: because the original stone has been split into nine large diamonds and several smaller ones, no single value can be applied. Altogether, the polished gems that once made up the Cullinan diamond are worth billions of dollars.

This article focuses partly on the most famous gem taken from the Cullinan diamond, Cullinan I, and facts about eight other main gems cut from the original stone will be discussed as well.

An Incredible Discovery

January 26, 1905, was a lucky day indeed for Captain Frederick Wells, superintendent of Premier Mine in South Africa. He found the Cullinan diamond during his daily rounds, originally believing it to be a shard of glass embedded in the mine wall as a practical joke. After working to release the crystal from the mine wall with his pocket knife, he was astonished to discover that it was indeed a diamond. On closer inspection, the following facts were revealed:

At the time it was found, the Cullinan diamond was two times the size of any diamond previously discovered. Its original weight was ascertained at 3,106.75 carats. The 530.4 carat Cullinan I would remain the largest polished diamond of any color until the 1985 discovery of the 545.67 carat Golden Jubilee Diamond, which came from the same mine. 

To help you understand the scale of the uncut Cullinan, consider this: a second diamond from the original Cullinan find is Cullinan II, or the Second Star of Africa. At 317.4 carats, it is the fourth largest of all the polished diamonds in the world.

The Cullinan Diamond Story

After its discovery, the massive diamond was named after Sir Thomas Cullinan, owner of the mine where it was found. It became a global sensation, and was purchased by the Transvaal Colony government. The original Cullinan diamond price was £150,000. Because the diamond was irreplaceable, the government decided to insure it for ten times the amount of its purchase. 

Prime Minister Louis Botha suggested that the Transvaal Colony take the step of presenting the Cullinan diamond to King Edward VII as “a token of the loyalty and attachment of the people of Transvaal to his throne and person.” A vote was taken, with 42 cabinet members against the gift and 19 for. Oddly, the Boers were primarily in favor of the gift and the English settlers were against it. Despite the vote’s outcome, British Prime Minister, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman decided to offer the Cullinan diamond to the King and leave the decision as to whether to accept it to the crown. 

Winston Churchill, who would later become Prime Minister, persuaded the king to accept. He was later given a replica of the diamond, which he displayed on a silver plate and showed off to friends.

The Cullinan Diamond Travels to London

Because of the Cullinan diamond’s worth, detectives from London were placed on a steamboat that was rumored to carry it, and a parcel was ceremoniously secured in the Captain’s safe. This, however was a diversionary tactic and the stone on the steamboat was a fake one. The actual Cullinan diamond was entrusted to the postal service and shipped to London in a plain box. While the package was registered, it went via plain parcel post. 

The Cullinan diamond was presented to King Edward VII on his birthday, in the presence of a number of guests including the Queen of Spain and the Queen of Norway. Lord Elgin, secretary of state at the time, announced that the king accepted the priceless gift “for myself and my successors”. The king promised that “this great and unique diamond will be kept and preserved among the historic jewels which form the heirlooms of the crown.” 

Soon thereafter, the Cullinan Diamond size changed forever. It was cut into three segments by Asscher Brothers of Amsterdam, and eventually it was further divided into nine large stones and 96 smaller fragments.

Cullinan I: The Great Star of Africa

The largest, most prestigious segment of the original stone is the Cullinan I diamond. The 530.2 carat, pear-cut stone is also known as the Great Star of Africa. It was set in the head of the British Sceptre with the Cross, but it is configured so that it may be removed and hung as a pendant, either on its own or from the Cullinan II diamond in a brooch. Both of the diamonds have been fitted with tiny platinum loops on their edges to allow British heads of state to wear them.

Cullinan II: Second Star of Africa

The second-largest segment of the original stone is Cullinan II, also known as the Second Star of Africa. This rectangular cushion-cut gem weighs 317.4 carats and is set in the front of the circlet portion of the British Imperial State Crown.

Cullinan II and Cullinan IV: “Granny’s Chips”

Cullinan III and Cullinan IV are together known as the Lesser Stars of Africa. The Cullinan III diamond is a 94.4-carat pear-cut stone that was originally set in the coronation crown made for Queen Mary, consort of King George V. At present, Cullinan III is usually worn as a brooch, in a configuration that includes Cullinan IV.

Cullinan VI: Worthy of A Celebrity

Cullinan IV is a square cushion-cut diamond that weighs in at a still astonishing 63.6 carats. It was originally part of Queen Mary’s coronation crown as well. Queen Elizabeth II lovingly refers to the brooch with Cullinan III and IV as “Granny’s Chips”; she has worn the priceless piece just six or seven times during her reign.

Cullinan V: A Favorite With Queen Elizabeth II

Much smaller than its sister diamonds, the Cullinan V is still astounding at 18.8 carats. Heart-shaped, and set at the center of a brooch with smaller stones surrounding it, it was often worn by Queen Mary in combination with Cullinan diamonds VI and VII. This brooch has been worn by Queen Elizabeth II countless times and is among her favorite pieces of jewelry.

Coming in at 8.8 carats, the Cullinan VI diamond is one you might find in a celebrity engagement ring – that is, if it weren’t an important part of the British Crown Jewels! This marquise cut diamond hangs from the brooch that contains Cullinan VIII. The two diamonds can also be configured into a completely different brooch that complements the one containing the heart-shaped Cullinan V.

Cullinan VII: A Famous Necklace

Cullinan VII is marquise cut, but a bit larger at 11.5 carats. King Edward VII originally gave this stone to Queen Alexandra. She gave it to Queen Mary after his death. Queen Mary had it set as a pendant that hangs from the famous diamond and emerald Delhi Durbar Necklace.

Cullinan VIII: “It gets in the soup!”

Coming in at 6.8 carats, Cullinan VIII is a gorgeous cushion-cut diamond that sits at the center of a brooch that Queen Elizabeth II inherited in 1953. She has never been seen wearing it in public, and has complained that the reason for this is that it “gets in the soup.”

Cullinan IX: A Splendid Royal Ring

The ninth Cullinan diamond is a pear-cut stone weighing 4.4 carats. It is set in a platinum ring that is fondly known as the Cullinan IX ring. 

All nine Cullinan diamonds are priceless, and all nine are often available for public viewing at the Buckingham Palace exhibition or at the Tower of London.

Back to world’s most famous diamonds

Worthy Staff

Worthy Staff

The Worthy Blog is a place for inspiration, insight, and advice for all things surrounding life's greatest transitions - divorce, losing a loved one, retirement, and so much more. You can find us on our blog, Instagram, and Facebook.


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