The Cullinan Diamond

Happy Birthday to Queen Elizabeth II, who turns 95 today! Since we have covered so many of the British Royal Jewels, it was quite an effort to decide what to feature today, but we eventually settled on one of the most important pieces in the Queen’s massive collection: The Cullinan Diamond!

The British Royal Tiaras | British Royal Orders | British Royal Jewels95 facts about Queen Elizabeth II

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The largest gem-quality rough diamond ever found, weighing 3,106.75 carats (621.35 g), the Cullinan Diamond was discovered at the Premier No.2 mine in Cullinan, South Africa, on 26 January 1905, named after Thomas Cullinan, 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, when by 1907, the Transvaal Colony government bought the Cullinan Diamond and presented it to King Edward VII, who had it cut into three large parts by Asscher Brothers of Amsterdam, and several smaller fragments by Joseph Asscher; nine major stones and ninety-six smaller ones. Initially only Cullinans I and II were returned to the King, while the others remained in Amsterdam by arrangement as the fee for Asscher’s services, until the South African government bought them, except Cullinan VI, which Edward VII purchased for Queen Alexandra in 1907, and the High Commissioner for Southern Africa presented them to Queen Mary in 1910. 

Cullinan I and Cullinan II

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The pear-shaped Cullinan I, also known is the Star of Africa, is the largest stone cut from the Cullinan, weighing 530.2 carats, is set in the head of the Sovereign’s Scepter with Cross. Used only at Coronations, it is the largest clear cut diamond in the world. The cushion-shaped Cullinan II, known as the Second Star of Africa, weighing 317.4 carats, is set in the front cross of the Imperial State Crown, just below the Black Prince’s Ruby, and after being worn at Coronations, the Crown is worn annually by the Queen at the State Opening of Parliament, though the Crown is now carried on a cushion rather than being worn, due to the Queen’s age. Queen Alexandra and Queen Mary sometimes used Cullinan I and II as a massive brooch. Only Cullinan I and II are a part of the Crown Jewels, while the other cuts are the Queen’s personal property.

Cullinan III and Cullinan IV

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Known as the Lesser Stars of Africa, the 94.4 carat pear-shaped Cullinan III and the 63.6 carat cushion cut Cullinan IV were mounted as a brooch by Queen Mary in 1911, though she also used them on her Crown and as pendants from the Coronation Necklace. Queen Mary wore the Brooch at the weddings of most of her children, the Coronation of King George VI in 1937, and also the Queen’s Wedding in 1947. The Queen inherited the Cullinan III and IV in 1953, and on a State Visit to The Netherlands in 1958, when she wore the brooch to visit Asscher’s, she revealed that she calls them ‘Granny’s Chips’. Reserved for the most important occasions, in recent years, the Queen has worn the Cullinan III and IV for her Diamond Jubilee Service in 2012, the Coronation Documentary, and the Dutch State Banquet in 2018.

Cullinan V

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The 18.8 carat heart-shaped Cullinan V was set in the center of a brooch that formed a part of a stomacher made for Queen Mary to wear at the Delhi Durbar in 1911, and she later wore the Brooch on her Crown at the Coronation of her son, King George VI, in 1937, and it could also be worn as the centrepiece of the Gloucester Honeysuckle Tiara. The Cullinan V was inherited by the Queen and has been among the Queen’s most favourite jewels throughout her reign, being worn for personal and important occasions multiple times every year, most recently the 99th Birthday Photograph of the Duke of Edinburgh.

Cullinan VI

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The marquise cut 8.8 carat Cullinan VII was given by King Edward VII to Queen Alexandra, and after his death, she gave the jewel to Queen Mary, who had it set as a pendant with her Cambridge Emeralds in the necklace of a new Parure she had commissioned for the 1911 Delhi Durbar. The Necklace, and Cambridge Emerald Parure, was inherited by the Queen upon Queen Mary’s death in 1953, and along with the Vladimir Tiara, has been among the Queen’s most worn jewels throughout her reign.

Cullinan VI and Cullinan VIII

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The 11.5 carat Cullinan VI is a marquise cut diamond and hands from the 6.8 carat Cullinan VIII, set in the same heart-shaped design as the Cullinan V. The Cullinan VI and VIII could originally be worn as part of the Delhi Durbar Stomacher and could be suspended from the Cullinan V Brooch. The Cullinan VI was purchased by King Edward VII from Asscher in 1908 as a gift for Queen Alexandra, who set it into her Diamond Circlet, and was inherited by Queen Mary in 1925. The Cullinan VIII was gift to Queen Mary in 1910 and she used the Cullinan VII as a pendant for it originally. The Brooch was inherited by the Queen after Queen Mary’s death in 1953, and though not a favourite like the Cullinan V, she wears it a few times a year.

Cullinan IX

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The Cullinan IX is a 4.4 carat pear shape diamond, known as pendeloque, which is mounted in a ring, in a platinum openwork, 12 claw setting, and was inherited by the Queen from Queen Mary in 1953. It has not been publicly worn too often. The remaining chips were set by Queen Mary into a long platinum chain, which the Queen has never worn in public, saying that ‘it gets in the soup’.

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