The Cullinan Diamond is the largest gem-quality rough diamond ever found, weighing 3,106.75 carats (621.35 g), discovered in modern-day South Africa, on 26 January 1905. It was named after the chairman of the mine, Thomas Cullinan.
It was presented to King Edward VII of the United Kingdom for his 66th birthday and cut into several polished gems, the largest of which is named Cullinan I or the Great Star of Africa, and at 530.4 carats (106.08 g) it is the largest clear cut diamond in the world. It was the largest polished diamond of any colour until the discovery in 1985 of the Golden Jubilee Diamond.
The Cullinan diamond was found by a miner named Thomas Evan Powell, who brought it to the surface and gave it to Frederick Wells, surface manager of the Premier Diamond Mining Company in Cullinan, South Africa, on 26 January 1905. The stone was immediately named after Sir Thomas Cullinan, the owner of the diamond mine, who had discovered the mine after many years of unsuccessful searching.
Wells was awarded £3,500 for the find and the diamond was purchased by the Transvaal Colony government for £150,000 and insured for ten times the amount. Prime Minister Louis Botha suggested that the diamond be presented to King Edward VII as “a token of the loyalty and attachment of the people of Transvaal to his throne and person”. It was decided to leave the decision of whether to accept the gift up to the king himself. However, future prime minister Winston Churchill eventually managed to persuade the king to accept, to which Edward VII finally agreed.
Journey to England
In 1905, due to the immense value of the Cullinan, the authorities in charge of the transportation were posed with a huge potential security problem. Detectives from London were placed on a steamboat that was rumoured to carry the stone, where a parcel was ceremoniously placed in the Captain’s safe and guarded throughout the entire journey. However, this was a diversionary tactic. The stone on that ship was a fake, meant to attract those who would be interested in stealing it. The actual diamond was sent to England in a plain box via parcel post, albeit registered. Upon receiving the stone safely in England, two agents travelled from London to Sandringham, Norfolk by train, accompanied by just two experienced Scotland Yard policemen. They reached their destination safely, despite reports of a potential robbery looming.
The diamond was presented to the king on his 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.