The Star of Africa

September 2009


I admit it. I am, at heart, a total diamond geek. When it comes to diamonds, my technical background combined with my jewel-lust make me equivalent to that guy who goes to Star Trek conferences and will only speak in total, uninterrupted Klingon.

My hubby recently whisked me away to London for a short trip where I was fortunate enough to see the Crown Jewels. I can think of nothing else but the Star of Africa right now. I am officially smitten.

First, the specs and a little history.

In 1905 Mr. Frederic Wells, the superintendant of the Premier Mine in South Africa, is walking around at sunset. Something glints in the sun and catches his eye. It is so large, clear and colorless, he thinks it’s a piece of glass. It’s not. It’s the Cullinan diamond, the largest gem quality diamond ever found.

The entire Cullinan diamond rough weighed approximately 1.33 pounds. The rough was cut into 9 substantial stones, and several smaller ones. All 9 large stones are either in the British Crown jewels or in the personal possession of the Royal family.

The Star of Africa is the largest of all 9 stones cut from the original rough. It’s also called the Cullinan I, and weighs 530.20 carats. It’s home is in the Royal Scepter.

It was presented to King Edward VII on his 66th birthday in 1907. Wanting to be conscientious, its presenters (The Transvaal government) insured it for $1,250.00 while en route to the King. Wikipedia currently estimates its value at $400 million. It is considered colorless and flawless.

The king sent it to be cut by Asscher’s Diamond Company in Amsterdam. Apparently the first time the diamond was cleaved (a portion was cut off in order to create the facets of the stone), Mr. Asscher fainted.

The Tower of London plays a loop of the coronation ceremony where the scepter was presented to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Not to be disrespectful, but when she looks up at the scepter, the Star catches the light and for a moment, you see an expression pass over her face that says nothing but “crikey”.  And she’s the Queen of England.  (Well, technically Queen of the U.K. and Northern Ireland.) But you figure she’s seen some seriously beautiful things in her lifetime.

If you have questions and want to geek out with me, or if you’re looking for your own Star of whatever state you live in, I’m as always, happy to be of service. Enjoy the last few dog days of summer!

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