Diamonds have been studied for centuries, and for as long as we’ve existed, humans have always appreciated their value. And one main aspect that catches people’s attention is when a stone is large. Of course, you’ve turned at the sight of a humongous gem sitting on an engagement ring and probably felt jealous. But such a size is nothing compared to some of the gems that have been made history.
Here we’ll talk about the largest diamond ever discovered and why it was so important. We’ll also explore how size matters when valuing diamonds by expressing the unit of measuring diamonds. And finally, we’ll mention some of the other popular contenders in the diamond industry when related to size.
Carat- The Standard for Measuring Diamonds
Diamonds are measured using the carat system, but this parameter has nothing to do with length or width. Rather, carat refers to the diamond’s weight, with one carat being the lowest balanced quantity for measuring a diamond. Of course, some people buy below one carat, but it’s the starting point for purchasing these precious stones in most cases. Also, note that one carat equals 200mg or 0.20 grams, depending on your preference.
While the carat is the standard measurement unit for diamonds, it doesn’t always determine a high value. Other factors contribute more significance to how much a stone will be worth. The color and clarity, for instance, are essential in determining a diamond’s price, and these are further enhanced after the stone is polished. But these features still only apply to cut diamonds, leaving you wondering how you check a diamond’s worth in its early state.
This stage is where gem quality comes in. When first found, a diamond can be considered a gem-quality or industrial-grade, depending on its properties. Gem-quality diamonds are the most valuable and scrutinized based on type, clarity, reflected color, natural color, and size. And finding a stone with high ratings of these qualities means a huge payout. But when the stone also occurs at an unusual size, it’s not only profitable but also historical.
This conclusion is because, on average, diamonds mined and discovered mostly weigh no more than 10 carats. As such, finding a high-quality stone of a larger size is a major payout for the company. Some of the most historical finds include gems of exceptional weight. But there is one among all that holds the record as the biggest diamond in the world.
The Cullinan- The Largest Diamond In The World
This massive stone is undisputedly the largest gem-quality rough diamond ever found. When discovered in the Premier Mine in South Africa, the raw stone weighed 3,106 carats! A gem-quality diamond of such size means more bucks for the mining company that found it, which explains why the stone eventually acquired a highly valued status in history.
The rough diamond was unearthed by the then superintendent of the Premier Mine, Frederick Wells, who initially didn’t think such a massive crystal was a diamond. Imagine his shock to be proven otherwise! After its discovery, the stone was transported to Europe and offered to King Edward VII of England as a pledge of loyalty from the Transvaal government (Transvaal is the former name for the region now called South Africa). Afterward, it was taken to Amsterdam, where the renowned diamond cutter Joseph Asscher cleaved nine stones of great importance from it. It also produced up to 96 minor brilliant gems and various unpolished fragments.
Gems From The Cullinan Diamond
Today, most of the largest stones from the Cullinan diamonds are found in the Crown Jewels of England. And each one has a significant place in history, making them worth mentioning. Below is an overview of each stone cut from this gigantic gem;
Cullinan I- As the Great Star of Africa, this stone is the largest gem cut from the rough Cullinan diamond. It weighs 530.2 carats and is shaped in brilliant pendeloques with 74 facets. After being redesigned to accommodate the gem, the stone sits atop the Sovereign’s Scepter with Cross. And though it’s no longer the largest cut diamond of any color, it remains the largest clear cut diamond globally.
Cullinan II- This stone is also called the Second Star of Africa and is the second-largest gem cut from the rough Cullinan giant. The stone weighs 317.4 carats and features 66 facets on a brilliant cushion cut, and is set on the Imperial State Crown, under the Black Prince’s Ruby. The stone is held on the crown by a yellow gold enclosure screwing- a similar fitting used for the Cullinan I on the Scepter.
Cullinan III- The Lesser Star of Africa, as it’s also called, weighs 94.4 carats and comes in a pear cut. And the stone has taken different settings since it was cut and polished. It was set in the top cross pattée of Queen Mary’s coronation crown in 1911 and featured along with Cullinan IV on her Delhi Durbar Tiara in 1912. It has also been occasionally worn as a pendant on the Coronation Necklace in place of the Lahore Diamond. A crystal replica permanently replaced it on the crown in 1914, and now, it’s mostly worn as a brooch along with Cullinan IV by Queen Elizabeth II.
Cullinan IV- This square-cut stone weighed 63.6 carats and was placed at the base of Queen Mary’s Crown until its removal in 1914. Then, on her visit to the Netherlands in 1958, Queen Elizabeth II revealed the diamond and its larger sibling, Cullinan III, were part of the royal brooches as ‘Granny’s Chips.’
Cullinan V- This 18.8-carat stone is a heart-shaped diamond that sits on a platinum brooch’s center. The brooch formed part of the stomacher produced for Queen Mary’s attire at the 1911’s Delhi Durbar. The brooch features a pave-set border of smaller diamonds with the intent to show off Cullinan V. It was also worn by Queen Mary suspended from the Cullinan VIII’s brooch and to suspend Cullinan VII’s pendant.
Cullinan VI- The Cullinan VI diamond features a marquise-cut that complements its impressive size of 11.5 carats. The stone is one of the two stones hanging from a brooch and part of the Delhi Durbar parure’s stomacher. The stone can also be fitted with Cullinan VIII to make another brooch bordered by 96 diamonds.
Cullinan VII-This birth of the rough Cullinan Diamond is an 8.8-carat marquise-cut stone originally offered to Queen Alexandra by her husband, Edward VII. But it passed to Queen Mary upon Alexandra’s death and, on her orders, was set as a hanging pendant on the Delhi Durbar necklace.
Cullinan VIII- This gem weighs 6.8 carats and features an oblong cut. It’s found as part of the stomacher of the Delhi Durbar parure, in a brooch’s center along with Cullinan VI.
Cullinan IX- Known as the smallest of the main diamonds cut from the rough Cullinan stone, this gem weighs 4.39 carats. It comes in a pendeloque shape (pear cut) and is the only Cullinan diamond set on a ring. The stone sits on a platinum ring called the Cullinan IX ring.
Only Cullinans I and II were initially taken back to England after cutting, with the rest left in Amsterdam as payment for Asscher’s service. However, the South African government purchased all but Cullinan VI and offered the stones to Queen Mary as a present in 1910. Edward VII also bought the Cullinan VI in 1907 as a gift to his wife, Queen Alexandra. And after the queen died, Queen Mary inherited the Cullinan VI, which she passed on along with the other Cullinan diamonds to her granddaughter, Elizabeth II, in 1853.
A Stone Of Exceptional Quality
The Cullinan isn’t only famous for its size as the stone is a type IIa diamond- a type known for its unique color and clarity. The stone itself is a D color diamond and virtually flawless, producing more than 1,063 carats of superior quality diamonds when cut. This makes it the most expensive diamond ever discovered, with estimates of the individual stone’s value of as much as $2 billion!
Other Notable Mentions
Though the Cullinan diamond is the world’s largest stone ever found, it’s not the only gigantic diamond to be discovered. And while others may not match its staggering rough weight, they still offer numerous features that make them worth mentioning. So, here’s a list of other large diamonds that earned a place in human history;
1. The Sergio
The black carbonado Sergio diamond may not match the Cullinan in quality, but it’s a close contender in terms of size. This massive opaque rough gem was mined in Brazil in 1893 and weighed a shocking 3,167 carats upon discovery! The Sergio diamond is considered the second-largest diamond ever found after the Cullinan but is barely mentioned among the categories of large stones. And the reason is though the diamond offered a massive weight, it carried no gemological quality whatsoever and was only useful for industrial applications.
2. The Lesedi La Rona
This gem made headlines when it was first found in the Karowe mine in Botswana in 2015 by Lucara Diamond. First to note was its impressive 1,109-carat weight, which was considered a record-breaking number as the largest gem-quality diamond from Botswana. Second, the stone was a type IIa diamond, meaning it was of the highest quality.
The stone was so large that the company had to manufacture a custom-built scanner that could take its size. And after months of studying, the rough gem was cleaved to give a 302.37-carat D-color, square diamond of emerald cut, named the Graff Lesedi La Rona.
The Graff Lesedi La Rona became the largest square emerald cut diamond in history, while the rough stone produced 66 smaller diamonds. Fragments cut from the rough Lesedi La Rona were donated to the Smithsonian Institute for research, and the diamond was rated a ‘superdeep’ diamond type by the GIA.
3. The Excelsior
This colorless stone is one of the numerous high-quality diamonds found in the regions of South Africa, having been discovered at the Jagersfontein Mine. And upon its discovery in 1893, it didn’t attract any interested buyers, causing the company to order its cutting. The rough 995.2-carat stone produced numerous smaller diamonds, with the most notable being a 70-carat gem named the Excelsior Diamond. This gem was placed in a bracelet by Mouawad Jewelers and is estimated to a worth above $10 million.
4. The Star of Sierra Leone
This diamond was found in Sierra Leone in 1972 and was bought by Harry Winston Inc. The 968.3-carat stone was moved to New York and cut into a 143.20-carat emerald diamond. However, the initial cut exhibited a flaw, resulting in the stone being re-cut. And the final result became a 42-carat diamond of pear shape, with an extra 17 diamonds from the rough. The Star of Sierra Leone holds the record as the largest alluvial diamond ever discovered and holds likely worth over $6 million.
5. The Lesotho Legend (910 carats)
This 910-carat stone was discovered in the Lestseng Mine- a South African mine renowned for the quality and size of diamonds it produces. Gem Diamonds found the Lesotho Legend, and the mine that birthed it is located at least 10,000 feet above sea level. And though no cut stones from it have been unveiled, the rough diamond was sold in 2018 for $40 million.
6. The Incomparable
This deep-yellow gemstone was discovered in the 1980s by a little girl in mining rubble near the MIBA Diamond Mine in DR Congo. And the rough’s weight was an estimated 890 carats before it was cut to produce a 407.48-carat diamond. The Incomparable Diamond was initially purchased by De Beers’ Sir Philip Oppenheimer, who sold it to Zale Corporation. And at the time, the Texas-based Zale Corporation was in partnership with Premier Gems Corporation, based in New York.
It took four years to cut and shape the Incomparable Diamond into the shield step-cut it has today. And afterward, the diamond was displayed at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC in 1984. However, it became the centerpiece of a necklace designed by the jeweler Mouawadwith 90 other white diamonds on a vine leaf-shaped rose gold chain. And the final jewelry became the beautiful L’Incomparable, a 637-carat diamond necklace estimated at $55 million. The price makes the necklace the second most expensive in the world.
7. The Constellation
The Lesedi La Rona wasn’t the only large diamond found in the Karowe Mine in 2015. Another stone, the Constellation Diamond, was discovered the same year, with a record 813 carats in rough weight. The Constellation Diamond was sold to de Grisogono for $63 million due to its exceptional clarity and color.
8. The Millennium Star
This 777-carat stone was discovered in DR Congo in 1990 and produced numerous diamonds, including a 203.04-carat gem. This gem is the largest diamond cut from the Millennium Star and features a pear shape with flawless D color grade. The De Beers unveiled the Millennium Star in 1999 as part of their Millennium Diamond Collection at London’s Millennium Dome. The diamond is estimated to a worth above $40 million and was even the subject of a failed heist in 2000.
9. The Woyie River
This diamond was discovered in 1945 in a river near Koidu in Sierra Leone and was named after it. And though the Sierra Leone Selection Trust Limited unearthed it, it found its way into the British Industries Fair in 1949. By 1953, the 770-carat rough stone was cut to produce 30 gems of type IIa quality. One of its products, the Victory Diamond, weighed 31.34 carats and was graded a D-color with VVS2 clarity. It was cut in honor of the WWII Allied victory and was sold at Christie’s for $4.3 million.
10. The Jonker
This D-color diamond was named after J.J. Jonker, who found the gemstone in 1934 at the Elandsfontein mine in South Africa. And the stone weighed 723 carats upon discovery but was cut into 13 smaller stones of 142.90 carats each. Each stone was further given an emerald shape, and the diamond is considered the 16th largest emerald cut of its color grade.
11. The Enigma
This diamond features a rare black or carbonado color and is believed to be a creation of an asteroid impact upon the earth’s surface over 2.6 billion years ago. And after its cutting, it held the record as the largest cut diamond at 555.55 carats. The Enigma sold in London for Rs 32 crore after the purchaser opted to pay with cryptocurrency.
12. The Golden Jubilee
The Golden Jubilee is one of the most celebrated diamonds found in the Premier mine of South Africa. The gemstone was discovered in 1985 and was first named the ‘Unnamed Brown’ before being titled Golden Jubilee by the former king of Thailand, King Bhumibol, in 2000. The Golden Jubilee diamond features a yellow-brown color, making it a fancy type that caught several eyes at different exhibitions worldwide. And it’s also considered one of the largest cut diamonds globally, with a whopping weight of 545.67 carats.
Size doesn’t always mean value when it comes to diamonds, but it can be a major factor in certain cases. And when the stone’s clarity, color, and cut quality come into play, you can have a major price contender. But some gemstones have broken records for exhibiting staggering weights and additional gem quality. So, it’s no wonder these giants of the diamond industry hold a place as the biggest diamonds in the world.