From the 3,000-carat Cullinan Diamond in South Africa, to Tanzania’s rare Queen of Kilimanjaro tanzanite stone –Africa is known to be home to some of the of the largest and most radiant precious gems ever found. Africa.com takes a closer look at some of the continent’s biggest and best finds.
1. THE CULLINAN:
The Cullinan diamond is the big daddy of all the diamonds in the world. The precious gem is the largest rough diamond ever found, weighing over 3,ooo carats. Found at a mine in South Africa in 1905, the gem was divided into smaller stones. The largest, Cullinan I, is popularly known as the Great Star of Africa. It’s currently the second largest polished diamond in the world and is placed in the Sceptre with the Cross, part of the British Crown Jewels. Cullinan II, also known as the Lesser Star of Africa – and weighs more than 300 carats – is also part of the British Crown Jewels.
2. QUEEN OF KILIMANJARO:
First discovered in northern Tanzania in 1967, Tanzanite is considered one of the rarest gems in the world, found only on the foothills of Africa’s highest mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro. At 242 carats, the Queen of Kilimanjaro is not the largest tanzanite ever found, but it is certainly one of the most famous. Set in a tiara and encircled by over 900 brilliant cut diamonds and more than 800 brilliant cut green tsavorite garnets, it’s part of the private collection of Michael Scott, the first CEO of Apple Computers.
3. MILLENNIUM SAPPHIRE:
Discovered in Madagascar in 1995, the Millennium Sapphire is nearly 90,000 carats and is said to be roughly the size of a rugby ball. Rather than cut it up into smaller pieces, the owners initiated the Millennium Sapphire project. The faces of prominent historical figures (like Beethoven, Michaelangelo, Shakespeare and Albert Einstein) were carved into the gem “to pay tribute to humanity’s greatest examples of ingenuity and accomplishment.” Italian artist Alessio Boschi was chosen to design and oversee the carving process.
4. EUREKA DIAMOND:
Currently on display at the Mine Museum in Kimberley, the Eureka Diamond is the first diamond ever found in South Africa. Weighing just over 20 carats, the diamond was found near a place called Hopetown in 1867 and prompted a “diamond rush” in that region. That same year it was put on display to the world at the Paris Exhibition.
5. LESOTHO PROMISE:
Discovered in the Letseng diamond mine in Lesotho in 2006, the Lesotho Promise is one of the newer gems to be found on the continent. Weighing just over 600 carats, the diamond was sold to a dealer for over $12 million and was cut into 26 smaller stones.
6. PREMIER ROSE:
Found in the late 70s in De Beers’ Premier Mine in South Africa, the Premier Rose is reportedly valued at over 10 million dollars. It was originally purchased by Mouw Diamond Cutting Company (the wife of the owner was named Rose, hence the name given to the diamond). Three stones were cut from the original. Known as the Premier Rose family, there’s the Big Rose (137.02 carats), Little Rose (31.48 carats) and Baby rose (2.11 carats).
While Namibia is not the first place in which the Jeremejevite crystal was found, Namibia is said to have the highest quality of the blue-colored gem. Described as a gemological rarity, the mineral was first discovered in Siberia, then in Swakopmund in 1973.
8. KIMBERLEY DIAMOND:
Discovered in the Kimberley Mine in the early 1920s, the Kimberley Diamond was later cut into a very distinctive Emerald Cut shape. Now part of a private jewelry collection, the champagne-colored diamond it was once part of the Russian Crown Jewels. Over 55 carats in weight, it is reportedly worth at least $500,000.
9. BLUE GARNET:
While the garnet is found in many different colors, the blue garnet is the rarest of them all. Discovered in Bekily, Madagascar in the late 1990s, one carat of the rare gem reportedly costs over $2,000.
10. TIFFANY DIAMOND:
The Tiffany Diamond is one of the largest yellow diamonds in the world. Discovered at the Kimberley mine in South Africa in 1878, it was bought by New York jeweler Charles Tiffany. Originally 287.42 carats, it was cut down to by more than half its size. The diamond is featured on the neck of Aubrey Hepburn in promotional photographs for “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”