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"The Excelsior." 970 Carats. Source: Streeter's Precious Stones and Gems (1898)
|Weight||971 3⁄4 carats (194.4 g) rough; 13 to 68 carats (2.6 to 14 g) assorted cut|
|Color||G (near colorless)|
|Cut||assorted (ten stones total, largest is a pear shape)|
|Country of origin||South Africa|
|Mine of origin||Jagersfontein Mine|
|Date discovered||June 30th, 1895|
|Estimated value||assorted, largest stone sold for $2,642,000 in 1996|
The Excelsior Diamond was found on June 30, 1893 at the Jagersfontein Mine by a worker while loading a truck. The man was able to hide the diamond from the supervisors but delivered it to the manager of the mine himself. Until 1905, when the larger Cullinan diamond was found, the Excelsior was the largest known diamond in the world. It had a blue-white tint and weighed 971 3⁄4 carats (194.4 g). It was ultimately cut into ten stones weighing from 13 to 68 carats. (2.6 to 13.6 g). Immediately after its discovery the news spread around the world.
The Excelsior I, the largest gem cut from the crystal, was eventually bought by jeweler Robert Mouawad.
The Excelsior Diamond was found June 30, 1893 at the Jagersfontein mine in South Africa by a miner named Kaffir (p. 186). He found it while shoveling gravel into a truck. He felt at risk due to the value and prestige of the large stone. He was seemingly frightened of his overseer and was very secretive about his truly monumental find. Kaffir hid it from his overseer, but eventually turned it over to the manager of the mine. He was rewarded with money and a horse and released from his contract. The first unfortunate event that occurred involved the ownership. On the day it was discovered, the contract expired between the mining company and the syndicate of London diamond buyers. Unfortunately, this meant the diamond was owned by people that didn't value its potential worth as a single significant stone. If it had been discovered within a brief period of time beforehand the diamond might have taken its place next to other famous diamonds such as The Cullinan or Hope Diamonds.
The rough stone
The rough stone measured 970 carats in weight and was categorized as Color G. The stone was shaped like a half a loaf of bread; it was unique and inspired the name Excelsior, which means “higher”. It measured two and ½ inches by two inches by one inch thick. The Excelsior was a colored a stunning white with a tint of blue. It did contain a number of black carbon inclusions, which is typical of diamonds from the Jagersfontein mine. The crystalline structure resembled a fractured icicle (p. 277). From the time of its discovery on June 30, 1893, it was the largest diamond known to exist, until the discovery of the Cullinan Diamond in 1905.
The cutting of the excelsior
Finally, after the diamond sat in the vault waiting for a buyer for many years, the owners made the tragic decision to cut the stone into several smaller stones. This decision meant that The Excelsior would never be a single large spectacular faceted stone. At the time, the manager of the DeBeers diamond syndicate said the dividing of the stone into many small pieces was "the greatest tragedy of modern times in the history of famous diamonds". Diamond experts hoped that it would be cut to yield a single large diamond, but it was divided into ten smaller stones. By contrast, the owners of the Cullinan Diamond cut that stone in such a way that the largest faceted diamond in the world came from it. The fate of the Excelsior kept it out of the Smithsonian or other historical museums. It was cut without regard to its historical significance, divided into small, easily sold assorted stones. The Asscher Firm, a world-renowned cutter of large diamonds, cut it in London, the name of the cutter was Abraham Asscher. The pieces were:
|Excelsior I||69.68 carats||pear shape|
|Excelsior II||47.03 carats||pear shape|
|Excelsior III||46.90 carats||marquise shape|
|Excelsior IV||40.23 carats||pear shape|
|Excelsior V||34.91 carats||marquise|
|Excelsior VI||28.61 carats||marquise|
|Excelsior VII||26.30 carats||pear shape|
|Excelsior VIII||24.31 carats||pear shape|
|Excelsior IX||16.78 carats||pear shape|
|Excelsior X||13.86 carats||pear shape|
|Excelsior XI||9.82 carats||pear shape|
These diamonds were parceled out and sold to several different buyers. The Excelsior I, which came up for sale in 1991 and 1996, was purchased by Robert Mouawad for $2,642,000. The remaining stones were used in various grand jewelry pieces such as extravagant tiaras and fabulous bracelets and other fine jewelry creations. Many diamond buyers purchase diamonds and repurpose them in other pieces of jewelry.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press
- Crider, H.D. “The Story of the Diamond”.American Midland Naturalist Vol. 9.4 (1924): 176- 191. Print.
- Bruton, Eric (1970). Diamonds. Radnor, PA: Chilton Book Company. p. 35.
- Reinke, Denny. "Famous Diamonds: The Excelsior Diamond". Retrieved 3 November 2011.
- Kunz, George Frederick. "The Two Largest Diamonds" The Century Magazine. Macmillan & Co. Ltd. London 1909. 277-286. Print
- SellDiamondReview.com http://selldiamondsreview.com/who-will-buy-loose-diamonds/