Happy Third Birthday to Us (and 117th to the Cullinan!)

Baguette geogirl informed us that this blog shares a birthday with none other than the Cullinan Diamond. What a serendipitous convergence and what a chance to party, right?

The Uncut Gem

The massive 3,106-carat diamond was discovered in the Premier Mine on January 26, 1905. The story is that the mine superintendent, Sir Frederik Wells, happened upon it embedded in a wall during a routine walkabout. He pried the 1.33-pound rock out of the wall with his pocket knife and sent it off for inspection. Later, he was astonished to learn he had an extremely large rough diamond on his hands.

Cullinan Rough Wikimedia Commons

Dubbed the Cullinan after Sir Thomas Cullinan, who owned the mine, the diamond was first sold to the Transvaal provincial government, and then given to Britain’s King Edward VII as a birthday gift. After some cloak and dagger shipping to England, the diamond was handed over to Joseph Asscher, head of the Asscher Diamond Company of Amsterdam. Asscher studied the stone for six months before bringing out his steel blade and attempting the cut. The blade broke on his first attempt, but the stone remained intact. On his second attempt, the diamond broke as planned and poor Asscher (it is said!) fell into an exhausted faint.

The Cullinan was further cut into nine large stones, with enough left for about 100 smaller ones, too. The nine large cut gems were owned by various countries and companies before coming back together in the collection of the British royal family.

Nine largest pieces Wikimedia Commons

Cullinan I: The Great Star Of Africa

This 530.2 carat, pear-cut stone is set in the head of the British Sceptre. It can also be hung as a pendant as a standalone brooch or with the Cullinan II, although no one since Queen Mary has had the fortitude to do so!

Cullinan II: Second Star Of Africa

This 317.4-carat gem is a rectangular cushion-cut diamond, and surprisingly, isn’t the focus-puller in the British Imperial State Crown.

British State Crown

Cullinan III And Cullinan IV: “Granny’s Chips”

These are known as the Lesser Stars of Africa or “Granny’s Chips” and are well known to royal-watchers. The Cullinan III diamond is a 94.4-carat pear-cut stone, and you have seen it most recently as a brooch (worn as the “dangler” from the Cullinan IV). The Cullinan IV is a 63.6-carat square cushion-cut diamond, which makes the combined carats of this “little pin” a whopping 158 carats.

Cullinan V: The Queen’s Favorite

One of the smaller Cullinans, this gem is 18.8 carats. It is heart-shaped and is the centerpiece of a brooch with smaller stones surrounding it.

Cullinan VI and VIII: Versatility is Thy Name

These are the versatile workhorses in the Cullinan family. The Cullinan VI is a marquise cut diamond that dangles 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

The Cullinan VII is the outlier Cullinan simply because of its unusual setting. It is an 11.5-carat marquise cut diamond. Originally Queen Alexandra received this piece as a gift from King Edward VII. Queen Mary inherited the diamond and did what she did best – had it set in another piece of jewelry. This Cullinan is most often seen hanging from the famous diamond and emerald Delhi Durbar Necklace, however it can be configured into a dangler for the above brooches.

Cullinan XI: Diamond Cut Pear Stone

The ninth Cullinan diamond, a 4.4 carat pear-cut stone, is set in a platinum ring, which we don’t see often enough. 

Tell us your favorite use of the Cullinan stones in the comments, and check your knowledge about the stones below!

Test Your Knowledge!

How did the royal family amass the final nine cut Cullinans into their collection?

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