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World's Largest Diamond Discovered

The Cullinan Diamond, discovered in South Africa on January 26, 1905
The Cullinan Diamond, discovered in South Africa on January 26, 1905

Historical Context

The largest ever diamond was discovered at a mine in Pretoria on January 26, 1905, by Frederick Wells, a surface manager at the Premier No. 2 mine in Cullinan, Transvaal Colony (now South Africa). Just over ten years before, the Excelsior Diamond had been discovered at the Jagersfontein Mine in South Africa; it was the largest, but the Cullinan was three times the size.

Cullinan was 10.1 centimetres (4.0 in) long, 6.35 centimetres (2.50 in) wide, 5.9 centimetres (2.3 in) deep, and weighed 3,106 carats (621.2 grams). After its discovery, it went on display at the Standard Bank in Johannesburg before being sent to London.

To avoid attempted robberies, detectives were put on board a steamboat believed to be carrying the diamond to London, and was ceremoniously locked in the captain's safe. This was a diversion; the diamond on board was a fake, and Cullinan was sent to England on regular standard post in a box.

The diamond, however, went unsold for two years. The Transvaal Colony ended up buying the diamond on behalf of King Edward VII, for a price of £150,000 (£15 million in 2016). It was then presented to the king, who chose the Asscher Brothers in Amsterdam to cut the diamond for him. Nine diamonds were cut; two are part of the Crown Jewels, and the remainder are owned privately by the UK sovereign.

Photo Info

Photographer: Unknown
Location taken: Cullinan, Transvaal Colony, present-day South Africa

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Related Events

  • 1905-01-26 World's largest diamond, the 3,106-carat Cullinan, is found in South Africa
  • 1907-11-09 The Cullinan Diamond, the largest ever discovered, is presented to King Edward VII on his birthday

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