What Diamond Is in the Queen’s Crown?


Queen Elizabeth some of the most remarkable and stunning crowns ever exists and they have many diamonds and other precious stones of different shapes and kinds that I found myself wondering which of these were the most significant and what is the story behind them.

The most ornated crown that Queen Elizabeth II of England wears the most often is the Imperial State Crown which is worn in important events and banquets. The crown is embellished with about 2800 diamonds either big or small, many other precious gemstones with gold and silver mounts linking them. And which one of these diamonds is the most significant one out of 2800 of them? The most remarkable diamond in the crown being “Cullinan II”, which is cut from the Cullinan Diamond, also referred to as the Second Star of Africa. The Cullinan Diamond is said to be the biggest diamond to ever found. The diamond weighed 3,106.75 carats (621.35 g). This massive diamond is cut into 9 big pieces each weighing around 1,055.89 carats (211.178 g) and 96 smaller pieces weighing around 19.5 carats (3.90 g). The Cullinan II embellishing the Imperial State Crown weighs 317-carat (63 g) and is one of those 9 big pieces that are mentioned. The Cullinan II diamond is set in the front side of the crown where one of the other bigger gems, Stuart Sapphire used to be before being replaced by the Cullinan II and moved to the back of the crown.



The Cullinan Diamond is fascinating but there is more to add to its fascination with the history behind it as there are 8 more major pieces other than the Cullinan II which is decorating the Imperial Crown. Also, another thing to point out is that the Imperial State Crown is not the only crown that is worth considering as Queen Elizabeth II owns many other crowns and tiaras which are part of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom that are decorated with beautiful diamonds.

The History Behind the Largest Diamond on Earth

The history of the Cullinan Diamond goes all the way back to the beginning of the 20th century, exactly on the day of 26 January 1905 and named after Thomas Cullinan who was the chairman of the mine at the time. The 3,106-carat Cullinan diamond was found 18 feet (5.5 m) below the surface in the Premier No.2 mine in Cullinan, South Africa. It is thought that the diamond has formed in the mantle transition zone of earth and has reached the surface 1.18 billion years ago. The Cullinan diamond was such important that the boat that was carrying it to London had an immense amount of security and there even was another boat carrying a replica of the Cullinan as a measure of security. The diamond was put on sale after a few months of its discovery however it could not be sold for two years despite a large number of people interested in buying it. After those two years, a colony that is bound to the United Kingdom called the Transvaal Colony’s Prime Minister, Louis Botha, wanted to buy the diamond for King Edward VII as a gift showing the bond and loyalty between the people of Transvaal and the King. The parliament voted for the destiny of Cullinan and it was authorized for them to buy the diamond. The Transvaal Colony government bought the diamond on 17 October 1907 for about £150,000, which can be adjusted to an equivalent of £15 million in 2016, due to inflation.

The diamond was presented to King Edward at Sandringham House by Agent-General of the colony, Sir Richard Solomon, on 9 November 1907, on his 66th birthday. The king decided Joseph Asscher & Co. of Amsterdam cut the gemstone into brilliant pieces of different cuts and sizes. At the time, there was not enough technology to have a diamond cut to perfect pieces thus the process needed some planning. The procedure, not so surprisingly, took eight months since it needed weeks of planning and there were difficulties in incision and cutting. 



About the Bigger Pieces

The biggest diamond out of all 105 pieces, Cullinan I which is also known as Great Star of Africa, is still the biggest polished white diamond in the world, weighing 530.2 carats (106.04 g) and has 74 facets. The Cullinan I, as previously mentioned, is set on top of the Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross, and in order to put the diamond, the Sceptre was redesigned in 1910. Lastly, as of clarity, it has a few tiny cleavages and a small patch of graining. The measures of the Cullinan I are 5.89 cm × 4.54 cm × 2.77 cm (2.32 in × 1.79 in × 1.09 in) and is fitted with loops and can be taken out of its setting which means that it can be worn as a brooch as well. 

 Cullinan II which is also known as the Second Star of Africa, weighing 317.40 carats with a cushion-cut brilliant with 66 facets and located at the front of the Imperial State Crown, below the Black Prince’s Ruby. The measures of the Cullinan II are 4.54 cm × 4.08 cm × 2.42 cm (1.79 in × 1.61 in × 0.95 in) and has a few tiny scratches on the table facet, and a small chip at the girdle. Like Cullinan I, it is held in place by a yellow gold enclosure, which is screwed onto the crown. As those two major pieces of diamonds are parts of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom the rest of the major pieces which were unpolished, weighs 208.29 carats (41.66 g) and they are owned by the Queen as well since they were inherited from Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth II’s grandmother.



About the Rest of the Cullinan Diamonds

The major 9 gems were about 1,055.89 carats (211.178 g) in total, and 96 minor diamonds with some unpolished fragments weighed 19.5 carats (3.90 g). All the remaining 7 of the 9 Cullinan major gems (all but the two largest stones Cullinan I and II) stayed in Amsterdam by arrangement as a bill for the services of Asscher. This circumstance remained until the South African government bought 6 out of 7 of them. Since 1907, Cullinan VI was purchased by Edward VII as a gift to his wife Queen Alexandra. Then the 6 of the stones were bought by High Commissioner from South Africa gifted to Queen Mary in 1910. Queen Mary also derived the last piece of the major pieces of Cullinan that is Cullinan VI from Alexandra. After that Queen Mary, in 1953, left all her Cullinan diamonds to her granddaughter Queen Elizabeth II. As previously mentioned, the largest pieces out of 9 pieces, which were Cullinans I and II are parts of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom and thus belongs to the royal in the right of the Crown. 

The Asscher sold the remaining 96 minor stones to the South African government, which gave them to Queen Mary, Louis Botha, then prime minister of South Africa; the diamond merchants Arthur and Alexander Levy, who supervised the cutting of Cullinan; and Jacob Romijn, who co-founded the first trade union in the diamond industry. Some of those diamonds were set by Queen Mary and made into a necklace. In the 1960s, two of the minor Cullinan diamonds which were owned by Louis Botha’s heirs were studied they turn out to be completely free of nitrogen or any other impurities.



The Cullinan III is pear-cut and weighs 94.4 carats (18.88 g). In 1911, Queen Mary set at the top of a crown that she bought for her coronation. Cullinan IV is square-cut and weighs 63.6 carats (12.72 g). It was set in the Queen Mary’s Crown just like Cullinan III but was removed in 1914. Also, to mention Elizabeth II stated that Cullinan III and IV are known in her family as “Granny’s Chips”.

Cullinan V is an 18.8-carat (3.76 g) heart-shaped diamond located in the center of a platinum brooch that is made for Queen Mary as a part of a stomacher and the brooch was designed to show the Cullinan V and is set with a border of smaller diamonds. Cullinan VI is a marquise-cut and weighs 11.5 carats (2.30 g). Cullinan VI along with VIII can also be fitted together to make yet another brooch, surrounded by 96 smaller diamonds. The design has a similar style with Cullinan V heart-shaped brooch.

Cullinan VII is also a marquise-cut and weighs 8.8 carats (1.76 g). It was originally given by Edward VII to his wife Queen Alexandra. After the death of the King, Queen Alexandra gave it to Queen Mary. Cullinan VIII is an oblong-cut diamond weighing 6.8 carats (1.36 g). It is located in the center of a brooch forming the stomacher of Queen Mary that is previously mentioned. Together with Cullinan VI, forming a brooch. And lastly, Cullinan IX is the smallest of the major diamonds that are obtained from the original Cullinan. It is a pendeloque-cut stone which weighs 4.39 carats (0.878 g) and is located on a platinum ring known as the Cullinan IX Ring.



Related Questions

Are there any other significant diamonds as the Cullinan Diamond, in the Crown Jewels?

The Koh-i-Noor diamond which is also known as “Mountain of Light” is one of the biggest cut diamonds in the world, weighing 105.6 carats (21.12 g) and is a part of the Crown Jewels. The diamond was mined in Kollur Mine, India, in the era of Delhi Sultanate. The diamond was part of the Mughal Peacock Throne before the British obtained it and has changed many hands before, especially around Asia. Due to its history involving fights, the Koh-i-Noor has a reputation for bringing bad luck to any person who wears it. 

Queen Victoria wore the diamond as a brooch and as a circlet. After she passed away in 1901, it was in the Crown of Queen Alexandra. Then, it was set to the Crown of Queen Mary in 1911, and finally to the Crown of Queen Elizabeth in 1937 for her coronation. Today, the diamond is being publicly displayed in the Jewel House at the Tower of London, where each year millions visit it. The government of India claimed rightful ownership of the Koh-i-Noor and demanded that the diamond should return to India, where it was originated however, this demand was rejected.



What are the other important gemstones in the Imperial State Crown?

One of the most vital gemstones in the Imperial State Crown is St Edward’s Sapphire which is an octagonal, rose-cut sapphire that also is a part of the British Crown Jewels. The gem has the oldest history out of all the pieces in the Crown Jewels. The sapphire is used to be in the coronation ring of Edward the Confessor, who is also known as St Edward, as it is thought. An interesting thing about the gem is that it is a mystery how the gem survived the English Civil War in the 17th century. Later at times, Queen Victoria added the jewel to the Imperial State Crown, giving it a very vital role right in the center of the crown. St Edward’s Sapphire is publicly displayed at the Tower of London.

Another important gemstone in the crown is the Stuart Sapphire which weighs 104-carat (20.8 g). It is oval-shaped, about 3.8 cm (1.5 in) long and 2.5 cm (1.0 in) wide and as in clarity, it has one or two blemishes. The sapphire has a drill which was probably to wear it as a pendant. The history of the gem is not quite clear however it is thought that it belonged to Charles II. On the Imperial State Crown of Queen Victoria, the jewel took a place of front circlet which is below the Black Prince’s Ruby, another important gem in the crown.

Lastly, Black Prince’s Ruby is a big cabochon red spinel weighing 170 carats (34 g) set right above the Cullinan II diamond at the front of the crown. Similar to St Edward’s Sapphire, the spinel is one of the oldest parts of the Crown Jewels. The history of the sapphire starts in the middle of the 14th century. It is in the hands of British rulers since it was given to Edward of Woodstock who is also known as the Black Prince, where the gem received its name, in 1367.

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My wife has a huge interest in diamonds. After she asked me a lot of questions about it, I found myself in diamonds. I made a lot of research on it. I read books. I visited manufacturers. I visited the stores. I have made good friends in that field. I want to share my experiences with you.

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