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The Lesser Star of Africa Diamond

Updated on April 26, 2012
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Rebecca Graf is a seasoned writer with nearly a decade of experience and degrees in accounting, history, and creative writing.

To call a 317.40 carat diamond ‘lesser’ is almost laughable, but the Lesser Star of Africa is smaller than the Star of Africa. Both are part of the Cullinan Diamond collection and are nothing to sneeze at. The Lesser Star of Africa is also known as the Cullinan II diamond with the Star of Africa called Cullinan I. Sadly, this diamond seems to always come in second place. But today we’ll make it a star.


This diamond was 3106 carats when found! That is unbelievable. This diamond weighed over a pound when discovered. Experts took it and broke it into multiple pieces that could be used. Currently, it has been cut and polished and put into a cushion shape at a mere 317.40 carats. This white diamond is not something to be sneezed despite its name of Lesser Star of Africa. It is truly magnificent.

The cushion cut is a very old traditional cut that is either a square or a rectangle. It is cut to give maximum facets to bring out the brilliance of the diamond. It was quite fashionable in the late 1800s and early 1900s in most jewelry settings.


Where did such a diamond come from? South Africa, of course. Most of the diamonds in the world come from South Africa though many have come from India and North America as well. Yet, some of the most famous originated from South Africa.

The Lesser Star of Africa was discovered in 1905 by Frederick Wells in the Premier Mines. Just walking through the mine deep underground, he found a one and a third pound diamond. He did not dig for it or pan for it. The diamond came to be 3106 carats total. This was the largest diamond ever discovered that had the qualities of becoming a true gem and not just diamond dust.

The owner of the mine, Sir Thomas Cullinan, was honored with the large rock being given his name. Two years later it was given to King Edward VII for his birthday. Value? At that time, it was estimated to be worth 1.25 million dollars.

This large stone produced a total of 105 diamonds and many more unpolished pieces. The nine largest of the stones were shaped to become part of the British Crown Jewels and are still there today.


These diamonds are given the royal treatment. The Lesser Star of Africa, or the Cullinan II, is part of the Imperial State Crown worn by British monarchs along with the remaining Cullinan diamonds that were produced from the original 1.33 pound stone discovered in 1905. Various pieces of the British Crown Jewels possess a Cullinan diamond.

You won’t find these jewels worn on a daily basis. They are housed in the Tower of London where they are display until they are needed for official ceremonies such as the coronation of a new monarch.

Formation of Diamonds

Diamonds are not just any rock. They are specially formed rocks that require the right conditions to form into such pieces as the Lesser Star of Africa. They need heat and pressure.

Diamonds are found in the remains of volcanos. It takes the intense heat of a volcano and the pressure of the rock to encompass an item of carbon such as coal. With the right combination, several millennium have to pass with the heat and pressure constantly being applied for a diamond to form.

But to have such a perfect diamond? That requires purity. A pure diamond such as the Lesser Star of Africa can have no other chemicals present during formation. Any nitrogen present will give the diamond a blue hue. Other chemicals can turn the diamond pink, yellow, green, or even brown. Completely pure diamonds without one single flaw in it are rare especially of such large size. That alone makes the Lesser Star of Africa extremely valuable.


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    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York

      Man alive, that diamond was HUGE! This size of amn's hand! I really can't imagine a diamond weighing in at more than a pound. What a fascinating read! Thank you.