Cullinan diamond necklace joins the Hope on display

Cullinan diamond necklaceA 1910 silver necklace with more than 200 diamonds, including 9 beautiful and rare blue diamonds was unveiled Monday at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. The Edwardian piece was donated by an anonymous California donor who scheduled it to coincide with the National Museum of Natural History’s 100th anniversary.

The necklace is a stunning example of classic Edwardian style, a period when bow and lace were popular motifs in jewelry design. The double bow is encrusted in diamonds, with two large blue diamonds inside each of the loops. The largest single diamond in the setting is a 2.6 carat blue diamond pendant hanging from the center of the bow, almost half the 5.32 carat total weight of the 9 blue diamonds in the piece.

Cullinan rough diamond, Thomas Cullinan holding it on the leftThe blue diamonds in the necklace have a link to the biggest rough diamond ever discovered. In 1905, workers at the Premier Diamond Mine in South Africa found a monster diamond with a total pre-cut weight of 3,106.75 carats. The owner of the mine, explorer Thomas Cullinan, had promised his wife that he would find and gift her the largest diamond in the world.

Star of Africa in the British Royal ScepterOnce he actually found it, though, he sold it uncut to the Transvaal government for 150,000 pounds. The Prime Minister of Transvaal gave it to King Edward VII as a birthday present in 1907, and the next year renowned diamond cutter Joseph Asscher cut the giant into nine stones. The largest, a 530.2 carat white diamond that would become known as the Star of Africa, is now set in the British Royal Scepter. The second largest, a 317.4 carat diamond known as the Cullinan II, is set front and center on the Imperial State Crown of Great Britain.

So Cullinan had a lot to make up for with the missus, needless to say.

In honor of his own knighthood in 1910, Cullinan commissioned the necklace for his wife, Annie, and the nine blue diamonds represented the nine pieces that were cut from the original stone. Parts of the huge diamond were placed — in various settings (scepters, rings, crowns, what have you) — in the jewelry trove of the British royal family.

The necklace was bequeathed to each first daughter in each generation. “In the early 1980s, the great-granddaughter, Anne Robinson, got in touch with Stephen Silver and sold him the heirloom. Then Silver sold the necklace to another owner, who is donating it to us,” Post said.

The 9 blue diamonds in the necklace are said to represent the 9 diamonds cut from the rough diamond that Mrs. Cullinan only got to see in the Tower of London with all the other tourists.

16 thoughts on “Cullinan diamond necklace joins the Hope on display

  1. I went through the Tower of London, and assumed the displays were exacting replicas, that the Star of Africa couldn’t possibly be viewed from a conveyor belt guarded by guys in red pantaloons. Are you telling me I saw the real thing?

    Oh and the necklace is gorgeous

  2. Well that sucks. What a horrible way to display that stuff. I couldn’t have studied the diamond even if I had known it was real…on accounta the conveyor belt. And believe me, I can contemplate a significant gem for as long as some people contemplate significant art.

    I don’t think the Star of Africa is all that attractively cut or mounted, really, but the history.


    1. I’ve found that a lot of famous, named, oversized gems are not as well-cut and set as more modest pieces. I think there are too many artistic compromises involved in maintaining the hugeness.

      I would gladly take that delicate Cullinan necklace over the lumpy, gaudy Royal sceptre any day of the week.

  3. Oh yeah me too. I think the Hope is one ugly piece of jewelry and the cut does not show off the color well at all.

    The necklace here, OTOH, is a really nice example of Edwardian jewelry. The bow motif gives it a kind of airy and light feel. In such a large piece that speaks to good craftsmanship. It would be something even without the killer diamonds.

  4. Pretty to look at but ugly to wear, imo. I do like silver jewelery much more than gold stuff, not that I’m wearing any. :shifty:

    Never quite understood the desire to have an overpriced rock, anyway, when in fact they are more hyped up to be rare than they really are by commercial industries.

    I suppose it’s a showy class thing as much as anything else, but people sure are suckers.

    … and a conveyor belt, really? That’s the dumbest thing I have ever heard. Musuems are meant for lolly-gagging.

    1. I think it’s a “ooh shiny!” issue more than anything else. People are attracted to pretty things and often wish to adorn themselves with them.

      Not that there isn’t an aspirational class angle and a “Diamonds are forever” advertising-industrial complex angle as well, of course, but I think the first principle is attraction to pretty colors and sparkles.

  5. Gemstones, especially diamonds, were prized well before modern marketing. As for their use in jewelry, it takes skill and an artistic eye to cut a gem, and to mount it, and to work with molten metals.

    I, personally consider lapidary and metallurgy art forms….but at the very least they are skilled crafts.

  6. I can’t get over the size of the original. Can you imagine how long it must have taken to cut it up, considering they didn’t have high-pressure water power or lasers? Man. :facepalm:

  7. The “guys in red pantaloons” are former, and often current, SAS and special forces, and would require no weapon to end you and every other tourist in the building in short order! The Star of Africa is VERY well-guarded.

  8. This Cullinan diamond necklace is truly a masterpiece. The 9 blue diamonds are set so beautifully along with the other 200 diamonds. It was interesting reading about the history behind this jewellery.

  9. HA! Diamonds are NOT rare, and certainly not precious, just look at how many jewelry stores are in a small town, and cities, selling them Now dplicate this in all Western countries.

    Diamond sellers know they’re scamming the populace, since they either don’t buy back diamonds, or if they do, it’s a a fraction of the original cost. They’re laughing at us, “peasants,” while they grow wealthy on our gullibility.

    And WHO are these diamon sellers?

    THey’re as common as sand on the beach.

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