Something I saw last month during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee caught my attention. During her Thanksgiving Service at St. Paul’s Cathedral, Queen Elizabeth wore a stunning diamond brooch containing two stones cut from the largest rough gem-quality diamond ever discovered: the legendary Cullinan Diamond.
Found in 1905 in the South African Premier Diamond Mine, the 3,106 carat — yes 3,106 carat — Cullinan Diamond is named after Sir Thomas Cullinan, the mine’s owner. It was purchased by the Transvaal government (a former Boer and British colony located in northern South Africa) and presented to King Edward VII (Queen Elizabeth’s great grandfather) on his birthday.
The largest polished gem cut from the stone is 530.4 carats and mounted on the Scepter of the Cross.
The 2nd largest stone cut from the Cullinan Diamond (317 carats) is in the Imperial State Crown.
So, if you are King Edward VII, how do you transport your 3,106 carat diamond from South Africa to London in an era before airplanes? You put a fake diamond on a steam ship with lots of decoy security, and you ship the real diamond via parcel post. (Yep, that’s how they did it.)
And how do you have your beyond-priceless diamond cut by hand decades before computer technology was even envisioned? You hire the world’s best diamond cutter, from Asscher Brothers of Amsterdam. (160 years old, The Royal Asscher Diamond Company is still cutting the world’s most valuable stones.) You listen to the experts who tell you your diamond will break in half through a defective spot, and you authorize an incision cut into the stone to allow it to be cleanly split with one heavy blow. And in a brilliant move, you order a doctor and nurse to stand by. And why do you do this? Because you will correctly anticipate that even though all will go exactly as planned, when the rock splits perfectly in half, your poor diamond cutter will faint stone dead.
The nine largest stones cut from the Cullinan Diamond.
I’m so glad this brooch belongs to the Queen. Seeing ostentatious bling on Kim Kardashian, Russian trophy wives and New York city society matrons makes me gag. But seeing it on the Queen makes me smile: all seems right with the world.