On this day in history : 9th November 1907 – The Cullinan Diamond, the largest diamond ever to be found, is presented to King Edward VII on his birthday by the government of Transvaal….

The rough diamond – Public domain

The stone had been discovered on the 26th of January 1905, near to Pretoria in South Africa – and had been named after Thomas Cullinan, chairman of the mining company…. The diamond weighed 3,106 carats and measured approximately 10cm x 6.5cm x 6cm….

It was presented to Edward VII as a gift to help cement the new relationship between Britain and South Africa following the Boer War…. At first the King was reluctant to accept a gift so extravagant but it was finally presented to him on his 66th birthday in a formal ceremony held at Sandringham….

The gem was sent to Asschers of Amsterdam, the world’s leading diamond cutters – it took weeks to decide the best way to split it…. Eventually, on the 10th of February 1908 Joseph Asscher broke it in two – the first blow broke his cutting knife! It took a further eight months and three experts to cut and polish nine individual stones from the original diamond…. They were named I – IX and are still referred to in this way today…. 97 smaller diamonds were also created from the spoils….

Joseph Asscher splitting the diamond – Public domain

I is known as the Great Star of Africa, weighing 530 carats it has 74 facets…. II is the Second Star of Africa and has 66 facets…. After Edward’s death in 1910 he was succeeded by George V, who had the Great Star set into the top of the Sovereign’s Sceptre and the Second Star set into the Imperial State Crown (but can be removed and worn as a brooch)…. Asschers kept the remainder of the diamonds in payment for their work…. Edward VII had already purchased VI and VIII as a gift for his wife, Queen Alexandra and the South African government bought back the remainder and presented them to Queen Mary…. Queen Elizabeth II received them in 1953 as a bequeathment, stones III – XI are now part of Her Majesty’s personal jewellery…. The smallest diamond, IX, is 4.39 carats and is set into a platinum ring….

I – IX in order of size – Public domain
I – IX in their cut forms – Public domain

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