A Diamond in the rough

Many South African families, and international guests, have journeyed to Cullinan to explore Oak Avenue’s treasures. Eateries, souvenir shops and old-timey photo spots call the original town’s buildings home and the bustling main street makes for an exciting outing. Visitors to the region also likely visit the museums and enjoy a tour of the diamond mines. If you haven’t yet had this opportunity, which we highly recommend, allow us to share some insights into the famous Cullinan diamond.

During the year 1902 a pipe of kimberlite, a rock source known to contain diamond, was discovered. Within that same year the ‘Premier Mine’ was opened, and mining activities began; the discovery of the diamond source, and subsequent mine opening, meant that miners relocated to the area. The town of Cullinan was established in 1903 and two years later the Cullinan diamond was discovered.

Frederick Wells, the Surface Manager of the mine, stumbled across the world’s largest diamond, 5.5m underground, on the 26th of January, 1905. The diamond was classified as a rough, gem-quality diamond weighing 621.35g and was named after the mine owner, Sir Thomas Cullinan. The Cullinan diamond was purchased from the mine for £150 000 (pounds) by the Transvaal government, who later accepted Prime Minister Louis Botha’s proposal to gift the diamond to King Edward VII for his 66th birthday. The diamond was presented to the royal on the 9th of November 1907.

The Cullinan diamond was subsequently cut, by Joseph Asscher of Amsterdam, into the 530 carat ‘Star of Africa’, the Cullinan II, the Cullinan III, as well as approximately 100 other smaller stones, and placed centre-stage in England’s Royal Family Crown Jewels collection. The ‘Star of Africa’ was mounted in the Royal Scepter, while Cullinan II was placed in the Imperial State Crown. Today, the collection of Cullinan diamonds remains under protection at the Tower of London. It is estimated that the Cullinan Diamond is worth $400 million.

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