In 1902, Thomas Cullinan, master builder and prospector, discovered and founded the Premier Diamond Mine near Pretoria in South Africa. Less than two years later, on 26th January 1905 the largest gem diamond ever found, the regal Cullinan Diamond, was discovered at his mine. At its centenary, the mine was renamed the Cullinan Mine in his honour.
The mighty Cullinan Diamond weighed 3106 carats and was of exceptional purity, D in colour, flawless in cut form and a rare type Ha. The Cullinan is still to this day three times larger than any other gem diamond discovered, the next largest being the “Excelsior” diamond at 995 carats discovered at Jagersfontein in 1893.
The Premier Mine near Pretoria covered a surface area of 28 hectares, three times the size of hte “Big Hole” in Kimberley which was consolidated by Cecil John Rhodes in the late 1800’s. Consequently the Premier Mine had a dramatic impact on the diamond production and the diamond market at the time. A marvel of naturethe Premier diamond “pipe” was created by a volcanic eruption dated at 1.2 billion years ago, whereas by comparison, the Kimberley mines are dates at a ‘mere’ 90 million years.
Sir Thomas Cullinan was knighted for his services to industry, not only for the discovery of the mine, but as one of the co-founders and chairman of what became the Transvaal Chamber of Industries, and a member of the Transvaal Legislative Assembly and the first Union Parliament of 1910.
The Royal Destination
The Cullinan is a wonder of nature, of exceptional colour (D Blue-white) and of flawless clarity. The large diamond was cut and four of the largest pieces can be seen in the magnificent royal collection:
- CULLINAN I and CULLINAN II are in the British Crown Jewels and were used for the coronation of King George V on 22 June 1911. They are used by the Sovereign in the annual opening of the British parliament.
- CULLINAN I weighs 530.2 carats, known as the Great Star of Africa, is set in the Imperial Sceptre, and is on permanent display in the Tower of London.
- CULLINAN II weighs 317.4 carats, known as the Lesser Star of Africa, is in the Imperial state Crown and on permanent display in the Tower of London.
- CULLINAN III and CULLINAN IV at 94.4 carats and 63.6 carats, respectively, are occasionally worn together in a single brooch by Queen Elizabeth II and are affectionately known as “Granny’s Chips”