Big Star of Africa: UK demands return of 500-carat diamond to South Africa

South Africa is growing for the British royal family to return the world’s largest clean diamond following the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

Known as the Great Star of Africa or Cullinan I, the diamond is cut from a larger gem mined in South Africa in 1905 and given to the British royal family by the South African colonial authorities. Today, it is mounted on a royal scepter that belongs to the Queen.

Demands for the return of the Great Star of Africa and other diamonds — along with calls for their repatriation — have increased since the Queen’s death. Many South Africans consider Britain’s acquisition of jewelery illegal.

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The Queen’s death has opened up a conversation about colonialism and how it relates to its legacy. South African media has been disputing ownership of the gem, along with demands for reparations.
“The Cullinan Diamond must be returned to South Africa immediately,” activist Thanduxolo Sabelo told local media, adding: “Our country’s and other countries’ minerals continue to benefit Britain at the expense of our people.”
More than 6,000 people have signed a petition to return the Great Star of Africa and display it in a museum in South Africa.
A member of the South African parliament, Vuyolwethu Zungula, he asked his country “To demand reparation for all damages done by Great Britain” and also “to demand the return of all the gold, diamonds stolen by Great Britain.”
When South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has published a tweet In praise of the Queen, some South Africans hijacked the message to complain about the return of the Big Star diamond.
One he wrote“Did you ask him when he would bring the diamond from South Africa?”, again another published Reacting to the rise of King Charles III with his “First call brings back the South African diamond!”

A royal gift or a “stolen” diamond?

Queen Elizabeth II wearing the Crown of the Imperial State and carrying the Orb and Scepter after her coronation. Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

According to the Royal Collection Trust, which oversees the royal collection of the British royal family, the Cullinan diamond was given to King Edward VII (the British king at the time) in 1907, two years after it was discovered in a private mine in South Africa. The old province of Transvaal.

“In 1908 it was sent to Asscher in Amsterdam to be dissected,” he added.

Weighing about 3,106 carats in its natural form, the original diamond was “about the size of a human heart,” according to Royal Asscher.

Retaining the British monarchy’s claim to the precious stone, Royal Asscher explains that the gem was purchased by the Transvaal government of South Africa (under the British in English) and given to King Edward VII as a birthday present.

Professor of African politics at the University of South Africa, Everisto Benyera, refutes this narrative. He told CNN that “colonial transactions are illegitimate and immoral.”

“Our narrative is that the entire government of the Transvaal and the Union of South Africa and the mining unions at the same time were outlaws,” Benyera said, arguing: “Receiving a stolen diamond does not exonerate the recipient. The Big Star is a blood diamond… Private company ( mining), the Transvaal government and the British Empire were part of a wider colonial network.’

According to Royal Asscher, the Cullinan diamond was cut into nine large stones and 96 smaller pieces. The largest of the stones was named the Great Star of Africa by King Edward VII, and the second largest stone cut by him was also named the Little Star of Africa.

The larger diamond was set in the Scepter of the Crossed Sovereign and the second cut stone was mounted in the Imperial Crown. Queen Elizabeth II has been seen in many portraits wearing these diamonds.

“The late Queen of England has been showing these (diamonds) for over half a century,” Leigh-Ann Mathys, national spokeswoman for South Africa’s opposition political party Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), told CNN.

Mathys accused the British colonial powers of stealing the land and taking over the mines that belonged to the natives.

“Our call is for the repatriation of all colonial loot, as the theft of the Great Star of Africa is part of that,” he said.

“We’re not calling for it to be returned because this means there was a valid agreement under which the diamond was loaned to the British royal family. It’s only in their possession because of the colonial insistence that stifled the indigenous people of this country and elsewhere,” Mathys told CNN.

African countries have constantly fought to recover cultural artifacts stolen by colonial troops. Last month, a London museum agreed to return 72 objects looted from Benin Kingdom, in southern Nigeria, during a British military operation in 1897.