While Africa was healing from the wounds inflicted by slavery, colonization crept in, and most African countries that were subjected to European imperialist aggression and military invasions continue to count their losses to this day.
This was especially true because Europeans made a point of collecting any valuable item they could get their hands on before leaving Africa.
Though most African states have successfully recovered some of their “taken” valuables from colonial masters, the ‘Star of Africa,’ a diamond taken from South Africa during colonization, may never leave the British crown jewel collection.
The Cullinan diamonds, as they are formally known, are still the largest diamonds ever discovered and are used by the British Monarchy in their Crown Jewels selection.
On January 26, 1905, the stone was discovered near Pretoria, South Africa.
The Royal Collection Trust states that “in its uncut state, it weighed 3,106 metric carats and measured 10.1 x 6.35 x 5.9 cm.” This scale, combined with its extraordinary blue-white color and clarity, made it the world’s most celebrated diamond.”
According to history, the British defeated the Boer republics, Orange Free State and the South African Republic in battle, and went on to establish their leadership throughout modern-day South Africa. The Transvaal Government presented the Cullinan to King Edward VII in 1907. (a former province of South Africa bordering with Botswana and Zimbabwe to the North.)
Britain insists it was a symbolic gesture meant to mend the schism between Britain and South Africa after the Boer War. However, history records that the British were the ones who paid repatriation payments.
The stone was escorted by British police to Sandringham and formally presented to the King on his 66th birthday.
Due to the size and composition of the rare gem, it took eight months for three men to cut and polish nine large stones from the original diamond. Each of these stones was assigned a number ranging from I to IX, and they are still referred to in this manner today. There were also 97 small brilliants and some unpolished fragments created.
Today, the South African diamond plays an important role in British monarchy, lighting up the Imperial State Crown, which features a 317.4 carat Cullinan II diamond on the front.
Also, after the discovery of the Great Star of Africa in 1910, the Sovereign’s Sceptre, which was originally made for King Charles II’s coronation in 1661, was redesigned.” The Cullinan I diamond is removable from the Sceptre and can be worn as a brooch.
Asschers (the diamond cutter) kept the remaining numbered diamonds as payment for their services.
Cullinan VI and VIII were later privately brought by King Edward VII as a gift for Queen Alexandra, while the others were acquired by the South African Government and returned to the British. According to the Royal Collection Trust, the last piece of the “Star of Africa” was given to Queen Mary in 1910 in commemoration of the Union’s Inauguration.