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Stamps celebrate famous diamonds

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The discovery of diamonds in South Africa led to the Kimberley Diamond Rush and marked the beginning of the Mineral Revolution

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SOUTH Africa’s most famous diamonds, a number of them mined in the Northern Cape, have been included in a commemorative stamp collection by the South African Post Office.

A sheet of 10 airmail postcard rate stamps has been designed by Thea Clemons from photographs of the diamonds provided by various people and organisations.

Clemons said that the beauty of these stones mined in South Africa, that are now objects of great wealth, hidden envy and awe, can now be experienced by all South Africans and philatelists in the form of stamps.

“Rough diamonds may sometimes be mistaken for worthless pebbles. This is probably why rich diamond deposits were only discovered in 1867 in Hopetown, South Africa. A 15-year-old boy, Erasmus Jacobs, found a transparent rock on his father’s farm towards the end of 1866. Schalk van Niekerk, a visitor, suspected that the rock was a diamond. It had to pass several hands before it was authenticated as a diamond. A mad rush for diamonds ensued and this led to mass emigration, fame, mind-boggling individual prosperity and mining monopolies,” Clemons said.

The diamonds gracing the stamps are:

The Eureka – 1866

The yellow-brown Eureka Diamond was the first diamond discovered in South Africa. It originally weighed 21.25 carats (4.250 grams) and was later cut to a 10.73 carat (2.146g) cushion-shaped brilliant, which is currently on display at the Mine Museum in Kimberley.

The discovery of diamonds in South Africa led to the Kimberley Diamond Rush and marked the beginning of the Mineral Revolution. The Eureka Diamond was found near Hopetown on the Orange River by a 15-year-old boy Jacobs in 1866.

The Star of South Africa – 1896

During 1869, The Star of South Africa, an 83.5 carat rough diamond, was discovered in Hopetown by a Griqua herdsman. The white-colourless diamond was sold for 500 sheep, 10 head of cattle and a horse. It is now in London’s Natural History Museum.

The De Beers Diamond – 1888

Not long after the formation of De Beers Consolidated Mines Limited in March 1888, a huge light-yellow octahedral crystal was found in the De Beers Mine. The gem weighed 428.50 old carats (old carats being the pre-1913 non-metric carat) and measured 47.6mm through its longest axis and 38.1mm square.

Excluding The Victoria, also known as the Great White, the source of which remains doubtful, the De Beers was the largest diamond found at the four mines in Kimberly during the time period. Weighing 234.65 carats, the De Beers is the seventh largest faceted diamond in the world.

The Excelsior – 1893

The Excelsior Diamond is a gem-quality diamond and was the largest known diamond in the world from the time of its discovery in 1893 until 1905, when the larger Cullinan Diamond was found. The Excelsior was found on June 30, 1893 at the Jagersfontein Mine, 130 kilometres south-east of Kimberley. It had a blue-white tint and weighed 971 old carats or 995.2 metric carats (or 194g).

The Excelsior rates as the third largest rough diamond of gem quality ever found. It was ultimately cut into 10 stones weighing from 13 to 68 carats (2.6 to 13.6g).

The Jubilee – 1895

The Jubilee Diamond, originally known as the Reitz Diamond, is a colourless, cushion-shaped diamond weighing 245.35 carats (49.07g), making it the sixth largest diamond in the world.

The original stone, a rough octahedron weighing 650.80 carats (130.16g), was discovered in 1895 at the Jagersfontein Mine. A consortium of diamond merchants from London purchased it along with its even larger sister, the Excelsior, in 1896 and sent it to Amsterdam where it was polished.

It was originally named after Francis William Reitz, the then president of the Orange Free State, where the stone was discovered, before being renamed to honour the 60th anniversary of the coronation of Queen Victoria in 1897.

The Cullinan – 1905

The Cullinan Diamond is the world’s greatest diamond ever found. At 3 106.75 carats it remains the largest clean white diamond known to date.

The stone produced nine primary gems and 96 smaller stones.

Cullinan produced stones of various cuts and sizes, the largest of which is named Cullinan I or the Great Star of Africa, and at 530.4 carats (106.08g) it is the largest clear cut diamond in the world. The stone is mounted in the head of the Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross.

The second largest is Cullinan II or the Second Star of Africa, weighing 317.4 carats (63.48g), mounted in the Imperial State Crown. Both are part of the Crown jewels.

The white-colourless diamond was mined at the Premier Mine in Gauteng in 1905. Featured on the stamp is the uncut and unpolished stone, displaying one of the flat cleavage planes, which suggests that it was, at one stage, part of a much larger crystal.

The Golden Jubilee – 1986

At 545.65 carats polished, the Golden Jubilee is the largest cut diamond in the world. The Golden Jubilee Diamond was cut from a large brown diamond of 755.5 carats recovered at the Cullinan Mine, Gauteng, in 1986. The Cullinan mine was also the origin of the Cullinan Diamond (1905). Cullinan I had held the title of the largest cut and faceted diamond since 1908.

The diamond was purchased from De Beers by a group led by Henry Ho of Thailand in 1995.

The Centenary – 1986

Discovered in the Premier Mine in July of 1986, with the help of an X-ray imaging system, this massive stone weighed 599 carats (119.8g) uncut. It is the third-largest diamond to come out of the Premier Mine, Gauteng, and with a grade of D, it is internally and externally flawless.

The Centenary Diamond was formally unveiled in the rough at the Centennial Celebration of De Beers Consolidated Mines on May 11, 1988. It took 154 days for a team to hand-cut the Centenary Diamond into an egg-shaped gem weighing approximately 500 carats.

The Heart of Eternity – 2000

The Heart of Eternity diamond is one of the 10 most valuable blue diamonds ever sold. Its colour has been rated as “fancy vivid blue”

Mined at the Premier Mine, Gauteng, this is a rare blue diamond of 27.64 carats that broke records when it was sold for a hefty sum. It is one of the 10 most expensive blue diamonds ever sold.

The Blue Moon of Josephine – 2014

This exceptional 29.6 carat blue diamond was discovered at Petra Diamonds’ Cullinan Mine (previously Premier Mine) in January, 2014 and was noted as an outstanding blue with extraordinary saturation, tone and clarity. It subsequently sold in February 2014 for US$25 555 555 (US$862 780 per carat – possibly a world record per carat for a rough diamond) to Cora International NY through the South African company Golden Yellow Diamonds.

After cutting and polishing, the stone was unveiled as the ‘Blue Moon’, a 12 carat cushion-cut diamond of the highest quality – being ‘fancy vivid’ blue in colour and ‘internally flawless’ in clarity.

In November 2015, the stone was sold at a Sotheby’s auction in Geneva for US$48.5 million (over US$4 million per carat), representing a world-record price per carat for any diamond. This historic diamond was bought by Hong Kong collector Joseph Lau and was renamed the Blue Moon of Josephine in honour of his daughter.

The Millennium Star – 1990

This is the only diamond rated flawless both internally and externally. Although not mined in South Africa, it was polished in the country.

At 203.04 carats (40.608g) it is the world’s second largest known top-colour (grade D, ie colourless), internally and externally flawless, pear-shaped diamond.

The diamond was discovered in the Mbuji-Mayi district of Zaire in 1990. Uncut, it was 777 carats (155.4 g). It was purchased by De Beers during the height of the country’s Civil War that took place in the early to mid-nineties. It took over three years for workers of the Steinmetz Diamond group to produce the classic pear form. The actual cutting was done using lasers.

The Premier Rose – 1978

The rarity of this diamond mined in South Africa secures its place in the selection.

The Premier Rose Diamond (353.9 carats (70.78g) was one of the large rare gems produced by Premier Mines, Gauteng. This stone weighs 137.02 carats and is one of the largest D-colour flawless diamonds in the world.

In March 1978 the Premier yielded the remarkable diamond, a triangular-shaped cleavage of the finest colour, weighing 353.9 carats. The stone travelled right through the various stages of mining recovery only to emerge at the final one, the grease table in the recovery plant.

* Those wanting to buy some stamps, can buy from their local post office (they can order if they do not have stock), or contact customer services at [email protected]