She has Burmese Rubies and Brazilian Aquamarines; Cambridge Emeralds and Kent Amethysts; George VI Sapphires and Jordanian Turquoise. Since her accession to the throne in 1952, nearly 70 years ago, Queen Elizabeth has inherited, received, and commissioned a veritable treasure chest of magnificent jewels. But few, if any, of the gems in the Windsor vaults can quite compare to the Cullinan Diamonds.
Unearthed in a South Africa mine in 1905 and weighing 3,106 carats, the Cullinan—named after Thomas Cullinan, the chairman of the mining company—still holds the title of largest diamond ever found (if you’re keeping score, the second largest, the 1,758-carat Sewelo, was discovered in Botswana in 2019 and now belongs to Louis Vuitton).
According to jewelry lore, the uncut rock was so unfathomably enormous—and marked by such exceptional clarity and a unique blue and white tint—that the mine’s manager initially dismissed it for a crystal and threw it out the window.
Obviously, a second look would turn out to be highly judicious, though it took some time for the rough stone to be transformed into the nine dazzling diamonds (and about a hundred smaller brilliants) that are now among the royal family’s most valuable jewels.