The world holds endless incredible things within itself, of all shapes, sizes, colors, and textures. Among this accumulation of materials that the earth guards, you can find rocks and minerals, each one with a different value that makes it special. In the field of minerals, there are all kinds of minerals, but what cannot be denied is that there are some that are much more desired and sought after than others, either because of their rarity or their great monetary value, such as diamonds, considered the precious stone of greater economic value and maximum hardness.
The writer Julio Verne He had an extraordinary visionary capacity. Among other of his literary prophecies, in The Star of the South (L’Étoile du sud) he incredibly narrated a story that came true shortly before his death: in his novel he described a huge diamond that mysteriously disappeared and it turned out that in January 1905 The largest diamond ever found in all of history was discovered: the Cullinan.
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The brightest find in the world
The word diamond comes from the Greek terms “adamas” or “adamantem” which means invincible, indomitable, tough. Diamond is the crystalline form of carbon that originates from extreme heat and pressure crystallizing it. Its crystals have the shape of compact or rounded granular masses; they frequently have octahedral and dodecahedral shapes which are very rare in cubes. They impress with their extraordinary hardness, their brilliance and luminosity.
The diamonds known to the Romans must have come from India, which was the only known source of these until the 18th century. precious stones.
The Cullinan, also known as the Star of the South after Jules Verne, is The largest diamond found in the entire history of mankind. The gem was formed billions of years ago in the earth’s mantle, taking all that time to travel the hundreds of kilometers that separated it from the surface dragged by the rock that contained it by the magma. And it was on January 25, 1905 that Frederick Wells, the surface manager of the Premier Diamond Mining Company, found it on January 25, 1905, a mining excavation in the Transvaal near Pretoria, South Africa, a colony that the British seized from the Boers after World War II.
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Late in the afternoon Wells, on his evening inspection, spotted a reflection of the sun just a few meters from the surface of the mine’s open pit. In some stories it is said that the Cullinan was first noticed by a black worker, who pointed out to the manager his own find. What is certain is that it was Wells who climbed down the side wall of the open pit and extracted the object with his knife; it was a huge piece.
The manager took the newly found gem to the mine offices where, legend has it, it was initially discarded as a diamond, thrown out of a window. Wells soon recovered it and on further examination found it to be a diamond of the purest quality with properties never seen before.
The news caused a sensation and journalists started talking about the “Cullinan diamond” -in reference to Sir Thomas Cullinan, president of the mining company-, so the name stuck. The expectation was such that when he took Johannesburg he had to exhibit it to the public at the Standard Bank and thousands of curious people visited it.
The Koh-i-Noor, with its 108 carats, it had long been the largest diamond on the planet then the Excelsior, found in 1893 in the South African mine of Jagesfontein, far surpassed it at 972 carats. But the Cullinan discovery shattered all records, since it was three times larger, with no less than 3,106.75 carats -more than half a kilo-, measuring 10.1 centimeters long by 6.35 wide and 5.9 deep. thickness. It was impossible for anyone to close their hand around the stone; added to that, it had half of its faces smooth, which indicated that it was only a broken part of a larger gem.
an imperial destiny
No private individual could afford to buy the Cullinan. Thus, two years later, in 1907, General Louis Botha asked the Chamber of the Transvaal to authorize the Government of Pretoria to purchase the diamond for 150,000 pounds, in order to offer it to British King Edward VII as a gift for his sixtieth birthday and a show of loyalty from the Boer people.
At first, and out of prudence, the English Crown rejected the gift. But, Winston Churchillvice minister for the colonies at the time, considered that, faced with such a gift, it was better to put feelings aside and accept the donation.
The diamond soon found its way to London. It was flown to England by Parcel Post amid unusual security measures that included depositing it in a steamship safe guarded 24 hours a day by detectives. Or so it was believed at the time, since everything turned out to be a lure with a fake stone as a diversionary maneuver, while the real diamond was sent in a simple box by certified mail.
The renowned firm Royal Ascher Diamond Company from the Netherlands was commissioned to carve it. In February 1908, a remarkable audience gathered to watch Joseph Asscher carve the massive stone. To produce big, beautiful diamonds, he needed to hit the Cullinan in exactly the right place. The diamond turned out to be of such exceptional quality that, at the first blow from it, its steel blade broke, while the stone remained intact, leaving no scratch on its surface. He dismissed everyone present and went to work creating bigger and stronger tools.
The following week, armed with new instruments, Joseph resumed his work, allowing no one but the notary public into the courtroom. Asscher passed out after hitting the Cullinan diamond with a tremendous blow. He later commented that the adrenaline that hit him the moment the stone split was so strong that all he could think to do was examine it and check its workmanship over and over again before running into the next room to share. the good news.
The result was nine diamonds of just over one hundred carats each and 96 small diamonds of less than one carat. Except for the two largest, baptized with the names of Cullinan I (530.20 carats) and Cullinan II, which were used for the Royal Scepter, used by the British sovereign on occasions as the coronation of a new monarch, the same scepter that Carlos III will hold in his left hand on May 6 in Westminster Abbey, at the time of his coronation and that has belonged to British monarchs since the 17th century. The diamond can also be taken apart and made into a pendant.
In turn, the so-called Cullinan VI was bought by Edward VII as a gift to his wife, and all the others remained in the Dutch capital as payment to the Asschers for their work. Or so it was until 1910, when the South African government acquired them and donated them to Queen Mary, wife of George V (who succeeded her father to the throne that year), who set part of them in a chain of platinum. Since Maria also inherited the aforementioned Cullinan VI, All the diamonds later belonged to Elizabeth II who, once she died, are part of the Crown Jewels.
Connoisseurs explain that if it had been decided not to cut the Cullinan, it is estimated that it would be worth more than two billion dollars.
The controversy diamond
Public opinion in South Africa was caught up in a debate that exploded last year, following the death of Queen Elizabeth II: Demand from the United Kingdom the return of the largest cut diamond in the world.
Claims for the Cullinan, along with calls for repatriation, have intensified since the queen’s death. Several sectors of South Africa consider the acquisition of the jewels illegitimate. Indeed, more than 6,000 people have signed a petition for the South Star to be returned and exhibited in a South African museum.
“The Cullinan diamond must be returned to South Africa with immediate effect”affirmed the activist Thanduxolo Sabelo to the media and clarified that, “the minerals of our country and of other countries continue to benefit Great Britain at the expense of our people.”
“Our call is for the repatriation of all colonial theft, of which the theft of the Great Star of Africa is a part,” as the controversial diamond is also called, Leigh-Ann Mathys, a national spokesperson for the Fighters for Economic Freedom, a South African opposition political party.
In addition, Sabelo criticized the appropriation of the jewel by the English Crown: “We continue in deep and shameful poverty, we continue with massive unemployment and increasing levels of crime due to the oppression and devastation caused by her (Elizabeth II) and her ancestors”.
South African activists have recently urged Queen Camilla not to wear the ‘colonial’ Cullinan diamond during the state visit of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Unionists warned that if Camilla or the Princess of Wales wore the diamond, which was previously worn by the late Queen Elizabeth II, it would be a “very unfortunate” reminder of colonial-era mining; would “Like spitting in the face of South Africans.”
Zwelinzima Vavi, one of South Africa’s best-known trade unionists, warned that it would not be welcomed if the royals decided to wear the Cullinan diamond during Ramaphosa’s visit as “it would be flaunting the Cecil John Rhodes story to our faces”. Referring to the colonial-era mining industry, it took away minerals and land “for which we later had to fight.”
So since the death of Queen Elizabeth II, an online petition from South Africa calls for the Cullinan diamond to be returned to the nation and placed in a museum.