Dec 4th, 2012
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 971¾ carat. It was ultimately cut into ten stones weighing from 13 to 68 carat.
The rough stone measured 970 carat in weight and was categorized as Color G. The stone was shaped was like a half a loaf of bread; it was unique and inspired the name Excelsior, which means “higher”.
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 De Beers 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 pieces were:
Excelsior I 69.68 carat pear shape
Excelsior II 47.03 carat pear shape
Excelsior III 46.90 carat marquise shape
Excelsior IV 40.23 carat pear shape
Excelsior V 34.91 carat marquise
Excelsior VI 28.61 carat marquise
Excelsior VII 26.30 carat pear shape
Excelsior VIII 24.31 carat pear shape
Excelsior IX 16.78 carat pear shape
Excelsior X 13.86 carat pear shape
Excelsior XI 9.82 carat 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.