South Africans demand UK return Star of Africa, largest diamond ever found
South Africans are calling for Britain to return the world’s largest clear-cut diamond, known as the Star of Africa or Cullinan Diamond, as many South Africans see UK’s acquisition of the jewel as illegitimate.
As King Charles III prepares for his coronation on Saturday, demands for the return of the Great Star of Africa and other diamonds – along with calls for repatriations – have intensified. The diamond is set in the royal scepter that will be held at the coronation.
Officially known as Cullinan I, the diamond, which weighs 530 carats, is cut from a larger gem that was mined in South Africa in 1905 and handed over to the British royal family by South Africa’s colonial authorities which was then under British rule.
The call for the return of the Great Star of Africa is part of a wider movement to repatriate artifacts and artwork that were taken during colonial times. Many countries, including Nigeria, Benin, and Ethiopia, have called for the return of their looted treasures.
In 2020, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that France would return 26 artifacts to Benin, including a royal throne taken by French troops in 1892.
More than 8,000 people have signed a petition asking for the Great Star of Africa to be returned and displayed in a South African museum.
“The diamond needs to come to South Africa. It needs to be a sign of our pride, our heritage and our culture,” said Mothusi Kamanga, a lawyer and activist in Johannesburg who has promoted the online petition.
A member of the South African parliament, Vuyolwethu Zungula, urged his country to “demand reparations for all the harm done by Britain” and also “demand the return of all the gold, diamonds stolen by Britain.”
“I think generally the African people are starting to realize that to decolonize is not just to let people have certain freedoms, but it’s also to take back what has been expropriated from us,” Kamanga added.
According to the Royal Asscher Diamond Company, 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, who also named the second largest cut stone the Smaller Star of Africa.
The larger diamond was set in the Sovereign’s Scepter with Cross and the second cut stone was mounted in the Imperial Crown. Queen Elizabeth II had been seen in many portraits wearing these diamonds. Along with the sceptre, it is kept with the other crown jewels in the Tower of London.