It’s well known that Africa is the world’s largest diamond producer. The continent has produced the most significant amount of these precious stones over the years. It accounts for up to 50% of global diamond production!
Of course, such a high volume production also makes Africa a very lofty region for trading blood diamonds, as well.
Throughout history, these precious stones have been used as gifts and offerings worldwide – and not just as a way to show love and affection, either. Diamonds were used as gifts for kings, queens, diplomats, government officials, and celebrities.
As we’re about to see, most well-known diamonds come from just a few key places. That said, read on to find out just which diamonds are famous in Africa!
Africa’s Top Diamond Producing Countries
By looking at Statista’s 2016 diamond production survey, we can see that the most significant diamond producers in Africa are, in order: Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, and South Africa.
There are, of course, more countries we could list. The reason why these four have been singled out is that the numbers significantly drop after South Africa.
That, in no way, means that the country just after it, Zimbabwe, has humble numbers.
Botswana is, by far, the largest diamond producer in Africa, responsible for producing almost 21 million carats in 2016!
Coming in second is the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). DRC has produced about 15.5 million carats in the same year. After Congo, we have Angola with 9 million carats – and lastly, South Africa with 8.5 million.
Interestingly enough, even though South Africa produces less than half of Botswana in volume, it ranks pretty high in terms of famous diamonds discovered there.
South Africa is quite the story when it comes to famous diamonds. In fact, the world’s largest rough and cut diamonds – The Cullinan and the Golden Jubilee – come from this very country.
Not only that, but most of the diamonds we’ll be talking about come from the same South African mine!
Let’s dive in to see some of the illustrious gems given to us by Africa.
Learn More: Why Does Africa Have So Many Diamonds?
Which Diamonds Are Famous In Africa?
This world-renowned gemstone was discovered in 1905 by Frederick Wells. Wells operated as a surface manager for Premier Mine at the time. The mine itself had opened just a few years prior, in 1902.
The diamond wasn’t named after Wells, though. It got its name from Sir Thomas Cullinan – Premier Mine’s second owner.
As for the diamond itself, it had weighed 3,106.75 carats when it was discovered. It was later cut into over a hundred smaller stones – some of which also carry its name.
The person tasked with cutting the rough stone was Joseph Asscher, a renowned diamond cutter. Edward the VII himself commissioned Asscher to work on the diamond to make what would later become the Crown Jewels.
Joseph Asscher was also known as “The Greatest Cleaver in the World.” He certainly left his mark on the history of diamond cutting.
Also called the “Great Star of Africa” – sometimes “The Star of South Africa” – Cullinan I remains one of the famous remnants of the initial stone. It’s the first of the two largest stones cut from the original Cullinan.
It was cut into a pendeloque – or pear shape – and weighs 530.2 carats. As of now, it remains the largest clear-cut diamond in the world!
It’s only fitting that the diamond had eventually found its place on the Sovereign’s Sceptre With Cross, which was remodeled in 1910 to accommodate Cullinan I.
Cullinan II bears the name of the “Second Star of Africa.” Cullinan II was cut into a cushion shape and weighed 317.4 carats, unlike its bigger cousin.
It currently resides as a part of the Imperial State Crown.
Along with other parts of the Cullinan diamond, these two stones – often called the “Lesser Stars of Africa” – are owned by the royal family and are also worn as jewelry.
These stones don’t just sit on crowns or scepters – they can be taken off and worn as pendants. Queen Mary, for example, has worn both Cullinan I and II as pendants.
Related Read: What Is The Highest Diamond Carat In The World?
The Golden Jubilee
The Golden Jubilee was initially known as the “Unnamed Brown.” It is the largest cut diamond in the world, weighing 545.67 carats, and the only diamond that surpasses the Cullinan I.
It was actually discovered in 1985 in the Premier Mine – the same one where the Cullinan was found!
The stone has been described as a “fire-rose cushion shape” by Sir Gabriel (Gabi) Tolkowsky, one of the most famous diamond cutters in history. Tolkowsky had worked on it for two years, making the Golden Jubilee the wonder we know today.
You could say the whole project was a turning point in diamond cutting technology since Tolkowsky was hired to test new tools and methods of cutting.
Tolkowsky, along with the De Beers Group who hired him, even built a particular underground room to work on the stone. That was done to reduce all outside vibrations that could hinder the stone’s progress.
The Golden Jubilee now resides in the Pimammek Golden Temple Throne Hall in Bangkok.
The De Beers Centenary
Also known as the “Centenary Diamond,” the diamond was discovered in 1986 in the Premier Mine – like the Cullinan and the Golden Jubilee.
There appears to be a pattern here, wouldn’t you agree?
The Centenary Diamond weighs 273.85 carats. It has been given the highest grade of colorless diamonds – grade D – and it’s completely flawless.
Now, remember those new tools and methods that Gabi Tolkowsky was testing on the Golden Jubilee?
They were actually being developed for this diamond!
Its discovery signaled to the De Beers that they required newer technology if they were to do this stone justice. Not only that, but they needed only the most skilled people working on it.
Gabi Tolkowsky was given a team of assistants, guards, and engineers to work on the diamond. The underground room that was made to reduce vibration during Tolkowsky’s work on the Golden Jubilee was also used for the Centenary.
The Excelsior was a record holder for the largest diamond in the world for about 12 years after its discovery in 1893. Of course, the diamond that had broken the record was the Cullinan.
But unlike the Cullinan, the original stone was found at the Jagersfontein Mine.
The original rough Excelsior initially weighed 995.2 carats. Due to its size, it was later broken into ten main pieces, eight pear-shaped, and the remaining two are marquise-cut. Nine of those pieces weigh between 9.82 and 47.03 carats.
The most significant piece, the Excelsior I, proudly stands at 69.68 carats.
The diamond was cut by Abraham Asscher, coming from the same family that Joseph Asscher is a part of – in case you were wondering.
That’s not a typo. This diamond’s name comes from Johannes Jacobus Jonker, who found it at the Elandsfontein mine in 1934.
Jonker had found the diamond, whose original volume was 726 carats. It was Lazare Kaplan who was chosen to cut it. The stone was cut into 13 gems; the largest among them is known as the Jonker I.
The Jonker I diamond is classified as a D-color flawless diamond and weighs 125.35 carats today… As far as we know, anyway.
The last known location of The Jonker I was Hong Kong, back in 1977, when it was sold to a private buyer.
A gorgeous display of elegance and subtlety; this light-yellow stone resides in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, near the Hope Diamond. It was gifted to the museum by the philanthropist Bruce Stuart.
As the name implies, the original 490-carat stone was found in the Kimberley region. The stone was recut several times until finally becoming the 55.90-carat gemstone we know today.
The Eureka is a cushion-shaped brilliant diamond. It is one of two diamonds cut from a larger 21.25-carat stone.
The original stone was discovered on the Orange River in 1867 by a boy named Erasmus Stephanus Jacobs.
That same year, Eureka made its way to Paris and was put on display at the 1867 International Exposition, or Exposition Universelle.
The gem has changed many hands during the past two centuries – including South African governors and the royal family. One hundred years after the diamond’s discovery, it was donated to the South African people by the De Beers Group.
The Tiffany Yellow Diamond
This golden-looking diamond is one of the most brilliant stones ever discovered. Literally.
The original 287.42-carat stone was found in the Kimberley mine in 1878 and was cut to the 128.54 carats we see today by George Fredrick Kunz one year after its discovery.
Kunz did an outstanding job – and at only 23 years of age, no less. He took the already fascinating brilliant cut and modified it so that the number of facets went up to 90!
No such craftsmanship was seen for almost a century!
That makes it even more alluring than a regular brilliant diamond – which already has 58 facets. And that’s saying something!
The diamond was even worn by Audrey Hepburn during a 1961 photoshoot for “Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961),” then by Lady Gaga in 2019 at the 91st Academy Awards. Lastly, Beyoncé wore the Yellow Tiffany Diamond during the Tiffany 2021 campaign.
Famous Diamonds From Other African Countries
The Star of Sierra Leone
This incredibly pure stone was discovered at the Diminco mine in Sierra Leone in 1972. It has been recut a few times during its career – and even broken up into smaller pieces.
The original 968.90 ct Star of Sierra Leone produced 17 different diamonds. Out of those 17, as many as 13 are deemed flawless!
The largest of these diamonds is a 32.52-carat, pear-cut stone.
The name suggests that this is a rather unusual gem. And you would be right to assume such a thing!
As far as we know, the diamond was found by a little girl in the Democratic Republic of Congo, then known as Zaire. The rubble of dirt in which the girl had found the stone was discarded due to the miners believing it couldn’t contain any diamonds.
The Incomparable is a stunning diamond that captivates its audience both by its shape and rare yellow color. It’s also the largest internally flawless diamond in the world!
Of course, this isn’t the only one that came from the original stone; over a dozen others are out there. But this diamond, which weighs 407.48 carats, is the only well-known one.
The Incomparable’s unique shape is called a “triolette” and is sometimes referred to as a “shield-shaped step-cut.” However you choose to call it, it certainly leaves a strong impression.
The Millenium Star
The Millenium Star comes from the same mine as the Incomparable – the Mbuji-Mayi. It was discovered in 1990, six years after the Incomparable – and is currently owned by the De Beers Group.
When it was discovered, the rough stone weighed a magical 777 carats but was later cut to form the current 203.04-carat diamond.
The Millenium Star is a D-color flawless diamond, both internally and externally.
It is the main piece of the De Beers’ Limited Edition Millennium Diamond Collection, which also hosts the Heart of Eternity.
Africa’s Famous Diamonds: The Premier Mine & Its Significance
As you can see, the Premier Mine, now owned by Petra Diamonds Ltd., is a pretty big deal in diamonds’ history. It produced several world-renowned stones and is where the diamond rush began – with the discovery of the Cullinan.
Even if South Africa isn’t the largest diamond producer of the continent, it certainly makes up for it by the sheer awe-inspiring stones that it does bring up!
Related Read: Why Is Africa So Poor When They Have Diamonds?