When you decide to visit a local jewelry shop, you probably do so without thinking about what kind of diamonds you will stumble upon in there. You just venture in there, hoping for the best – to find a suitable precious stone that will serve as an ideal present.
The same could be said for the professional diamond miners that put their lives on the line every day – they can only hope for the best. No one can predict when – or if – the new largest diamond will emerge from the depths of the Earth.
But, in the meantime, we can tackle a related question: What is the highest diamond carat?
As of this moment, the title of the highest diamond carat in the world is held by none other than the magnificent Cullinan.
Where was the Cullinan found? Who found it? What’s the story behind the name? Who bought the Cullinan, and how was it transported once found? Where is the Cullinan located now, and who was the mastermind that cut it into smaller pieces?
If you’re interested in answering these questions, we recommend that you stay until the end – because you’ll be fed a buffet of information regarding the topic at hand!
Why Are Carats Important For Diamonds?
Okay, we’ll start with a general observation. All objects will inevitably hold a certain value, which determines exactly how much they do, will, or would cost if they were sold on the free market.
And you know that diamonds aren’t exempt from this rule.
But, to put a realistically justified price tag on those precious stones, we need a “mechanism” to determine how much diamonds should cost.
Luckily, modern-day folks don’t need to worry about such things since our predecessors in the diamond-making industry did a fine job cracking that puzzle. They came with a simple solution of scaling the value of diamonds – primarily using their weight.
But, to be more precise, we can’t only use the exact weight of a diamond to determine its value; we need other parameters, as well. These include the quality of the stone’s cut, the color of the diamond, and its clarity – or, rather, lack of inclusions.
Discarding one of these four principles will mean the diamond in question is no longer eligible for trading, as it’s virtually impossible to put a price tag on it without considering every previous step.
For now, we will primarily focus on the first and most obvious characteristic of all diamonds – their weight. And just so we’re on the same page, we will use the term “carat” when talking about the exact weight of diamonds.
So, carats are used to evaluate the weight and later the price of all diamonds. Given that most other things found in local groceries are measured the same way – we shouldn’t be surprised that diamonds have been struck with the same fate!
Who measures diamonds, and does the initial weight of diamonds contribute when determining their final cost? Let’s dissect the previous question one step at a time, as it holds vital information necessary for explaining the main topic:
Regardless of their whereabouts, all diamonds can be put in one of two categories – natural or artificial. Natural or real diamonds are diamonds that were found in the wild. On the other hand, synthetic or “fake” diamonds are diamonds created (or grown) in special laboratories.
We can immediately point out that artificial diamonds can’t hold a candle to the natural ones in terms of value.
You can put two diamonds with the same number of carats side by side. But if only one of them is genuine – as in, natural – that alone gaps the estimated price difference between them.
Second, as soon as someone successfully mines a diamond, the person in charge is obligated to record all of the necessary pieces of information about that diamond. Those include the time, date, location, and weight of that diamond.
As that gem begins its voyage through the diamond industry, it collects other bits and pieces of information regarding the restructuring and reshaping of its form. But more on that later, though.
And finally, we need to talk about the differences in the initial and final weight of diamonds.
Related Read: Can You Measure Diamond Weight In Grams?
All diamonds, regardless of where and when they were found, will undergo a regular treatment that consists of cutting, polishing, and possibly embedding into jewelry.
And due to the cutting and polishing process, diamonds will inevitably lose some of their weight – resulting in a smaller amount of carats.
Don’t let that worry you, though; diamonds need to be worked on if we wish to observe them in their most beautiful state!
The vital thing to remember from this topic is that all diamonds need to go through this journey to become those shiny and sparkling precious stones we know and love.
So, the difference in the initial number of carats and the number of carats in the final product will be evident. But, oddly enough, that doesn’t affect the value of those diamonds. In fact, in nearly all cases, diamonds will have a higher value once they’ve been cut and polished!
So, how is this relevant for the main topic? Let’s not waste any more time – and dive right in!
The Cullinan Diamond
Imagine one day you wake up for work early in the morning, drink a cup of coffee, chat with your spouse a bit, and leave for work without a single care in the world.
And then, all of a sudden, you find yourself holding the most significant and heaviest diamonds ever discovered in your own two hands!
We can only imagine the thrill and happiness of the man that was blessed with such fate. That isn’t a movie story or an imaginary scenario, though: On January 25, 1905, a 3106-carat diamond was discovered at the Premier Mine in Pretoria, South Africa.
Yes, you read that right; 3106 carats!
Now, you need to keep in mind that every trip to the diamond mines doesn’t involve thinking of finding an exceptionally large precious stone. The average day consists of routine inspections and digging.
So, you can imagine the shock!
When we convert that diamond’s 3106-carat weight to pounds, we get an estimated 1.33-pound diamond. To this date, humankind hasn’t been successful in finding a single precious stone that comes even close to the weight of the Cullinan.
On the one hand, we should cherish the fact that Mother Nature allowed us to observe such an enormous precious stone. But, on the other hand, this discovery gave humanity hope of finding other pieces that might rival the Cullinan in size and weight.
The latter statement wouldn’t be a problem in most other professions.
To strive for greatness, hoping to achieve something magnificent, is commendable. But, to find diamonds of that magnitude, people needed to dig deep into the ground, which can – and did – result in some catastrophic accidents.
And yet, a diamond that could match the Cullinan remains hidden to this day – if there even is one, that is.
Back to the topic:
The diamond was found by the mine’s superintendent, Frederick Wells, who was just strolling 18 feet below the Earth’s surface. As he was about to end the routine inspection, he tilted his main flashlight towards a spot that illuminated an odd amount of light.
To his instantaneous shock, he realized that, right there, embedded in the wall, was a diamond that seemed extremely large – as in, larger than anything they’ve ever found before.
Frederick’s first instinct was to start digging, using all of his knowledge and experience to avoid making a single mistake during the process. And when he plucked the diamond from the wall – finally – he noticed the unusual size of the diamond.
And how couldn’t he? The precious stone weighed an astonishing 1.33 pounds!
Later that day, his discovery was presented to Sir Thomas Cullinan, the owner of the mine that delivered the famed Cullinan.
Don’t worry; the mine’s superintendent, Frederick, was awarded appropriately for discovering the diamond. Unfortunately, the fame and glory only rained on the owner of the mine, who was given the honor of naming the diamond “Cullinan.”
The Cullinan’s Voyage
Sir Thomas Cullinan wasted no time in finding the most suitable buyer for the famed Cullinan, as he contacted the Transvaal provincial government that gave him an offer he couldn’t refuse.
He sold the Cullinan to the previously mentioned government, which later presented the famed stone to Britain’s King Edward VII for his birthday.
Of course, several serious matters had to be addressed before the diamond could be presented to the king – one of which was how the diamond should be transported.
In the early 20th century, robberies and thefts occurred in all corners of the world, even more so when there were rumors that some precious diamond was being transported across the land.
So, to avoid any unnecessary risks, the government and Sir Thomas made a plan to ship the Cullinan in a low-profile ship that wasn’t even guarded – the diamond even traveled in a plain wooden box!
But how was that possible?
The brilliance of that idea is in the fact that all information led toward another ship – one that was boarded by government representatives, agents, military force, and several politicians – traveling from Africa to London.
Of course, the diamond wasn’t put on that ship. The “high-profile” ship was meant to serve as a decoy for the low-profile one that transported the Cullinan. The plan was executed successfully – and the diamond arrived in London.
The Cutting Of The Cullinan
Once the diamond was presented to the King of Britain, Edward VII immediately entrusted the Cullinan to Joseph Asscher.
As some of you might know, he was the head of the Asscher Diamond Company of Amsterdam and one of the most famed diamond-cutting experts in the world.
Joseph’s only request to the King of Britain was that he’d be given six months of preparation to study the diamond entirely.
Can you imagine the stress of Joseph Asscher that forced him to decide that it was necessary to study that diamond thoroughly for at least six months?
Fortunately for Joseph, he had previous knowledge in cutting extremely large diamonds: The famous Excelsior Diamond was cut by his hand – and that diamond weighed an astonishing 971 carats!
Of course, it pales compared to the Cullinan that weighs three times more than that! When the time came for Joseph to strike the diamond for the first time, the steel blade broke – leaving no visible effect on the diamond.
Can you imagine the diamond cutter’s shock at that moment?
However, the diamond shattered just like he planned it to on the other strike. One story tells that Joseph immediately fainted from nervous exhaustion – but we will leave that up for debate.
As time passed, the Cullinan was later cut into nine other large stones – and about 100 smaller ones. There isn’t an estimated value for all of them combined, but many believe they are worth several million dollars “at least.”
All of the fame has culminated in the “Star of Africa I” or “Cullinan I” – weighing in at 530 carats, it holds the undisputed title of the largest-cut colorless diamond of the world. The runner-up is the “Star of Africa II,” or “Cullinan II,” which weighs an impressive 317 carats.
Learn More: Asscher Cut Diamonds: Everything You Need To Know
The Cullinan’s Location
All three Cullinan diamonds are set for display in the Tower of London:
- The Cullinan I is embedded in the British Sovereign’s Royal Scepter
- The Cullinan II is mounted in the Imperial State Crown
- The Cullinan III was mounted in the brooch for Queen Mary in 1911 and was later inherited by the Queen in 1953
To Sum Up
Some aspects and hidden parts of this astonishing story will forever be untold. But, on the other hand, we can enjoy the known “fun facts” behind this tale – and answer the question of what is the highest diamond carat in the process.
From January 25, 1905, and to this day, we have the Cullinan holding the title for the highest diamond carat in the world.
From the joy of the man that found the Cullinan, Frederick, to the glory of the man that named the stone, Sir Thomas – and all the way to the man who allegedly fainted once he successfully shattered the Cullinan, Joseph Asscher, we can, more or less, keep track of the gem’s journey from start to finish.
And what a journey it was!
We’re glad that we had the opportunity to share some of these crucial moments with you today!