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