The Cullinan Brooch, 1908-10

Joseph Asscher & Co.

The Cullinan Brooch, 1908-10

1908-10

Diamonds, silver

7 x 2.8 cm

Given to Queen Mary by the government of South Africa, 1910


The brooch consists of the third and fourth largest stones cut from the largest diamond ever found, the celebrated Cullinan. This stone, which weighed 3,106 carats in its uncut state, was discovered at the Premier Mine near Pretoria in 1905 and named after the chairman of the mining company, Thomas Cullinan. In 1907, still uncut, it was given by the government of the Transvaal to Edward VII for his sixty-sixth birthday. In January 1908 it was sent to Asscher of Amsterdam and on 10 February the stone was split into two pieces. Over the next eight months these pieces were further split and polished, eventually producing nine numbered stones. Cullinan I and II, the two largest colourless and flawless cut diamonds in the world, known as the First and Second Stars of Africa, were reserved for King Edward and in 1909 they were temporarily mounted as a somewhat oversized pendant brooch. After Edward VII's death in 1910, Cullinan I and II were set respectively in the head of the Sovereign's Sceptre and on the band of the Imperial State Crown, although they were still detachable and were occasionally worn as a brooch by Queen Mary.

Asscher meanwhile had retained the stones numbered III-V and VII-IX (King Edward having purchased VI in a separate transaction), together with the ninety-six smaller stones and fragments, as the fee for cutting and polishing the Cullinan. All of these, including the numbered stones, collectively known as the 'chippings', were acquired by the South African government and were given to Queen Mary in 1910. Queen Mary had Cullinan III and IV - a pear-shaped drop of 94.4 carats and a square-cut stone of 63.6 carats - set temporarily in her new crown for the coronation of 1911, but generally she wore the stones hooked together as a brooch (now known as the Cullinan Brooch) in their fine lattice-work setting. She also used them occasionally as a pendant to Queen Victoria's collet necklace in place of the Lahore Diamond and at least once wore this arrangement with Cullinan I and II as a brooch.

Her Majesty The Queen, who inherited the Cullinan Brooch from Queen Mary, wore it while touring Asscher's premises during the State Visit to Holland in 1958, and it was on this occasion that the brooch was famously referred to as 'Granny's Chips'.

RCIN 100005


Catalogue entry from Royal Treasures, A Golden Jubilee Celebration, London 2002