|The Cullinan in its rough state|
The Cullinan Diamond – named for the owner of the mine, Thomas Cullinan – was a massive 3,106 carats in its uncut state. It weighed about 1 1/3 pounds and measured just under 4 inches long, over 2 inches wide, and more than 2.5 inches high. And if that’s not enough, many experts believe that it’s actually only a portion of a larger diamond which has never been found, indicated by the stone having one flat side.
A diamond this large was destined for an important home, and the government had an idea where it ought to go. The Transvaal government was fairly new and keen to make a good impression on their sovereign, so they bought the stone for £150,000. They intended to give it as a gift to King Edward VII as a “token of the loyalty of the people of Transvaal to his throne and person”. (Mr. Wells, in case you’re wondering, was given £3,500 for finding the gem, while Thomas Cullinan was knighted in 1910 for his contributions to South African industrial development.)
|Frederick Wells (right) hands the diamond to Thomas McHardy, the mine's manager (center), who hands it to Thomas Cullinan (left)|
|Replicas: the rough stone, and the nine numbered polished gems|
Joseph Asscher cuts the CullinanTo cut the stone, the king turned to Asscher's of Amsterdam. It was an honor and a burden, with such a high probability that the stone could be ruined, and the firm studied the stone in depth before doing anything. On February 10, 1908, Joseph Asscher finally started cutting. The first cut, according to many accounts, broke the blade instead of the diamond; the second cut cleaved the diamond in two, and Asscher promptly fainted.
A diamond expert talks about the process and difficulty of cutting and polishing the CullinanIt was cut first into three large sections and then further into nine large stones, numbered I through IX, plus 96 smaller brilliants and around 10 carats of unpolished bits and pieces. The nine gem stones have a combined weight of a little more than 1,050 carats.
|The 9 Cullinan stones, in rough form|
|The nine numbered stones|
Click below for a detailed look at each of the nine numbered Cullinan pieces:
Photos: The Royal Collection/Queen Elizabeth II