The Cullinan Diamond was the largest gem-quality rough diamond found, weighing 3,106.75 carats, discovered at the Premier No.2 mine in Cullinan, South Africa, on 26 January 1905. It was named after the mine's chairman. In April 1905, it was put on sale in London, but despite considerable interest, it was still unsold after two years. In 1907, the Transvaal Colony government bought the Cullinan and presented it to Edward VII, King of the United Kingdom, who had it cut by Asscher Brothers in Amsterdam. Cullinan produced stones of various cuts and sizes, the largest of, named Cullinan I or the Great Star of Africa, at 530.4 carats it is the largest clear cut diamond in the world. The stone is mounted in the head of the Sovereign's Sceptre with Cross; the second-largest is Cullinan II or the Second Star of Africa, weighing 317.4 carats, mounted in the Imperial State Crown. Both are part of the Crown Jewels. Seven other major diamonds, weighing a total of 208.29 carats, are owned by Elizabeth II, who inherited them from her grandmother, Queen Mary, in 1953.
The Queen owns minor brilliants and a set of unpolished fragments. The Cullinan is estimated to have formed in Earth's mantle transition zone at a depth of 410–660 km and reached the surface 1.18 billion years ago. It was found 18 feet below the surface at Premier Mine in Cullinan, Transvaal Colony, by Frederick Wells, surface manager at the mine, on 26 January 1905, it was 10.1 centimetres long, 6.35 centimetres wide, 5.9 centimetres deep, weighed 3,106 carats. Newspapers called it the "Cullinan Diamond", a reference to Sir Thomas Cullinan, who opened the mine in 1902, it was three times the size of the Excelsior Diamond, found in 1893 at Jagersfontein Mine, weighing 972 carats. Four of its eight surfaces were smooth, indicating that it once had been part of a much larger stone broken up by natural forces, it had a blue-white hue and contained a small pocket of air, which at certain angles produced a rainbow, or Newton's rings. Shortly after its discovery, Cullinan went on public display at the Standard Bank in Johannesburg, where it was seen by an estimated 8,000–9,000 visitors.
In April 1905, the rough gem was deposited with Premier Mining Co.'s London sales agent, S. Neumann & Co. Due to its immense value, detectives were assigned to a steamboat, rumoured to be carrying the stone, a parcel was ceremoniously locked in the captain's safe and guarded on the entire journey, it was a diversionary tactic – the stone on that ship was fake, meant to attract those who would be interested in stealing it. Cullinan was sent to the United Kingdom in a plain box via registered post. On arriving in London, it was conveyed to Buckingham Palace for inspection by King Edward VII. Although it drew considerable interest from potential buyers, Cullinan went unsold for two years. Transvaal Prime Minister, Louis Botha, suggested buying the diamond for Edward VII as "a token of the loyalty and attachment of the people of the Transvaal to His Majesty's throne and person". In August 1907, a vote was held in Parliament on the Cullinan's fate, a motion authorising the purchase was carried by 42 votes in favour to 19 against.
Henry Campbell-Bannerman British Prime Minister, advised the king to decline the offer, but he decided to let Edward VII choose whether or not to accept the gift. He was persuaded by Winston Churchill Colonial Under-Secretary. For his trouble, Churchill was sent a replica, which he enjoyed showing off to guests on a silver plate; the Transvaal Colony government bought the diamond on 17 October 1907 for £150,000 at the time, which adjusted for pound-sterling inflation is equivalent to £15 million in 2016. Due to a 60% tax on mining profits, the Treasury received some of its money back from the Premier Diamond Mining Company; the diamond was presented to the king at Sandringham House on 9 November 1907 – his sixty-sixth birthday – in the presence of a large party of guests, including the Queen of Norway, the Queen of Spain, the Duke of Westminster and Lord Revelstoke. The king asked his colonial secretary, Lord Elgin, to announce that he accepted the gift "for myself and my successors" and that he would ensure "this great and unique diamond be kept and preserved among the historic jewels which form the heirlooms of the Crown".
The king chose Asscher Brothers of Amsterdam to cleave and polish the rough stone into brilliant gems of various cuts and sizes. Abraham Asscher collected it from the Colonial Office in London on 23 January 1908, he returned to the Netherlands by ferry with the diamond in his coat pocket. Meanwhile, to much fanfare, a Royal Navy ship carried an empty box across the North Sea, again throwing off potential thieves; the captain had no idea that his "precious" cargo was a decoy. On 10 February 1908, the rough stone was split in half by Joseph Asscher at his diamond-cutting factory in Amsterdam. At the time, technology had not yet evolved to guarantee the quality of modern standards, cutting the diamond was difficult and risky. After weeks of planning, an incision 0.5 inches deep was made to enable Asscher to cleave the diamond in one blow. Making the incision alone took four days, a steel knife broke on the first attempt, but a second knife was fitted into the groove and split it clean in two along one of four possible cleavage planes.
In all and cutting the diamond took eight months, with three people working 14 hours per day to complete the task."The tale is told of Joseph Asscher, the greatest cleaver of the day," wrote Matthew Hart in his book Diamond: A Journey to the Heart of an Obsession, "that when he prepared to cleave the large
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